On 27th October 2009, students from the University of Arkansas Rome Center (UARC) joined students from RomaTre University, and the University of Waterloo in Rome for an International Design Workshop. The workshop consisted of approximately 50 students, 9 of whom were from the UARC, and architects from 6 design firms located in Rome. The participating firms were GAP Architetti Associati, INSULA, 2tr Architettura, LIRAAT, and NEXT ARCHITETTI. The students were put into groups of 8-12 students. Each group was paired with a design firm to work with for the duration of the workshop. Pairing students with a design firm allowed students to work in a context similar to the teamwork which takes place daily in a firm.
The site is located in Rome’s historical center next to the parliament building, and the program called for a four story building with 350 parking spaces, and a restaurant on the top floor that is open to the public. The site and program for the workshop encouraged students to create a contemporary architecture in a historical context. The site was the same as that used for one of Rome’s most important modern design competitions which took place in 1967.
Students, professors and firms participating in the workshop had the opportunity to hear 2 lectures. The first lecture was by Sandro Anselmi, a participant in the original 1967 competition. Anselmi discussed his approach to the project and the importance of number, geometry, proportion, and historical context in his proposal. The second lecture was by Francesco Cellini, the Dean of Architecture at Roma Tre University, and it was entitled Design and Context. In his lecture, Cellini presented several examples of his own work from various competitions he had entered. Through these projects, students could clearly see how a design can be modern, yet respect and honor the history of a site.
Students faced several challenges throughout the week. Some of these challenges included language barriers, difference in work style, cultural differences, and a short period in which to design. Most students felt the week was long and very stressful, but at the end of the workshop they were pleased with the product, felt they learned a lot, and were challenged as designers.
The workshop concluded on October 31st, 2009 with presentations of each groups' design proposal and a brief jury review. The jury included members of the faculty from the UARC, Roma Tre University, and the University of Waterloo. University of Arkansas students presented their work again the following week to the Dean, Jeff Shannon, from the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas.
By Megan Francis