+ Architectural Design


Focusing on the analysis of the Roman urban stratification (Palimpsest), the students attending the University of Arkansas Rome Center develop a series of critical works within complex urban conditions and scales of urban space.  Sites are selected to address the issues of design within the layered cultural and historical context of Rome and to address the question of significance within the process of contemporary design.

The course engages the study of urban ideas, documentation, analysis and synthesis through observation and drawing, with specific reference to place- based learning and experience. Topics discussed include typology, mapping, neighborhoods, streets, urban spaces and fundamental issues of urban dwelling and design that shape the contemporary Roman city.

Through the development of adequate skills in drawing, sketching, and watercolor, special emphasis is placed upon the craft of making as a method of recording and analysis.

By studying urban and architectural spaces at different scales, the students are encouraged to use their analytical work as a tool to understand the existing relationships between urban and architectural forms, and as a means to address the public realm of architecture and its role in expressing epistemological values within a given society.

With the intent of addressing the value of civic engagement, the UA Rome Center promotes and participates in a series of public events, workshops, seminars and lectures which involve local communities, public administrations, universities and citizens in interacting with our students and faculty. Past and present collaborative efforts with Roman Universities and with Regional and State authorities, offer our students a hands-on experience on the local identity and on the urban and architectural problems which are part of the present cultural scenario. A component of the Rome Studio is engaged in these public cooperative efforts within the local community.





The program is built upon three premises:


1. To help the student learn to critically see

2. To develop an understanding of the organizing order of the city of Rome as a unique precedent for comprehending the formation of an urban environment

3. To foster personal growth through the focused experience of a (foreign) place


By seeing, the intent is to structure exercises that ask the student to observe closely in a manner, which is analytical, critical and graphic (drawing). Through the study and analysis of urban form and the first hand experience of the city, the student will better understand and be able to develop strategies for the making of public spaces and architecture in cities.

The first two premises are dependent upon the third: the holistic experience of the place, and

active engagement in the life and analysis of the City.



The objectives can therefore be described thus:


1. To understand the order and organization of urban spaces

The city (of Rome) will be at the center of our studies, the urban conditions of each site will be addressed, studied and analyzed, and they will be central to the discussion and to the work;

The work and the projects will emphasize Rome’s space and space making procedures, with the intent of highlighting the deep relationship between site, history, and project.


2. To understand the role of architecture in the Roman urban environment

Through a series of analytical processes, the urban conditions which generate and/or inform the architectural form will be explored, represented and highlighted. Similarly, the architectural projects which expressed a public and urban program within the city’s context will be identified and studied;

A series of design proposals, based upon the critical interpretation of the analyzed sites will suggest potential urban or architectural transformations of the given sites as well as possible changes, future adaptations and/or improvement. These design proposals will be generated through the application of a critical use of precedent and analysis, rather than by the generation of autonomous rules.


3. To identify and critically articulate the generating ideas of an architectural process

The generating rules of design, or canons, as a complex system of signs expressed by a culture within an historic period will be described, discussed and explored with the intention of emphasizing the role of design process/es (and its rules) within the architectural work.

The use of precedent will then be framed within the current dialogue in architecture. The course will encourage critical thinking in selecting and using precedent in design procedures.


4. To recognize the values of cultural diversity and civic engagement in the academy and the profession

Through the active participation in workshops and seminars organized in collaboration with the local institutions and the development of urban proposals as well as developmental guidelines for urban areas and natural environments, the students are encouraged to comprehend the role of the architectural profession as a service to the community. 

The immersion within a new cultural environment, and the collaboration and exchange with the local communities aims at recognizing cultural diversity as a value for reciprocal understanding.