Fall 2016

Global Edge

CED has a robust tradition of international study travel, which comes in varying forms, and shares a common goal of learning from and with local collaborators.

Study travel has long been a central element of environmental design education. For example, the Grand Tour of Europe has long been considered an essential element of architectural education, with study trips to cities in Asia and the global south becoming increasingly vital in this era of globalization. And international design and planning studios in particular have become mainstays at schools of environmental design.

One of the challenges of international studios however is that students and even faculty can lack long-term experience and knowledge of their study destination. As a result, studios may parachute into a place, spend a couple of weeks, develop speculative design or policy proposals, and depart. While this may be the only model that is feasible from a resource perspective, and while it may have tremendous value for participants, this trend can fail to adequately prepare faculty and students for fieldwork as well as downplay local knowledge and collaboration that is vital to design and planning practice.


CED has a robust tradition of international study travel, which comes in varying forms, and shares a common goal of learning from and with local collaborators. First year Master of Architecture studios, for example, go abroad to investigate important building precedents , but do not attempt to solve local design problems. In Architecture and City & Regional Planning, faculty have built more advanced international studio courses around their research and collaborations with local university, public sector, and nonprofit partners. Examples include City & Regional Planning studios in Africa and Latin America, and Architecture studios in China and Japan. In Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, faculty have typically led workshop courses that also build on faculty research, in places such as Thailand, Egypt, and Ecuador, carrying out specific investigations in conjunction with local experts, university partners and their students, and public agencies. Many of these studios iterate over several years, deepening relationships and understanding.

College-wide, participation in international competitions and funded interdisciplinary programs has allowed faculty and students from across the college to work together and with various local partners in a way that is firmly grounded and research-based. For instance, CED was a partner in the Vertical Cities Asia Competition that ran for five years, and involved students from across the college in intensive research and design speculation on a project site located in a different major Asian city each year — Chengdu, Seoul, Hanoi, Mumbai, and Singapore — with support from local university and agency partners on the ground in each city. Even more broadly interdisciplinary, the Global Urban Humanities Initiative supports multi-semester “research studios,” team-taught by both CED and Arts & Humanities faculty members, and drawing students from CED as well as departments such as Art Practice, Rhetoric, and Theater, Dance & Performance Studies. One recent studio focused on “art villages” in the Pearl River Delta, and another on Mexico City’s materiality. Both of these efforts involved summer faculty research; a fall semester film and discussion series or seminar involving an academic partner from a university on site; a spring studio with study travel in partnership with local students and faculty; and a final exhibit and publication (either produced in-house or by a major publishing house).

Such experiences are transformative — both for students and faculty. For faculty, they either enrich ongoing research, or form a springboard for new research efforts. For students, they offer experiences with radically different forms of urbanism, attitudes toward nature, architecture and landscape architecture design practice, and exposure to alternative ways of organizing everyday urban life and infrastructure. Students of today — and tomorrow — will need to negotiate multiple worlds and contexts for practice — and we are committed to insuring that a CED education gives them a “global edge” by providing opportunities for international study travel and studios that are immersive and respectful of distant places, people, and contexts.