Design Students Are Desert Bound in "Road Trip" Courses

A small group of University of Cincinnati design students have drawn up a seemingly strange list of supplies for their spring courses:  A sleeping bag, access to a lightweight tent, seven changes of clothing and lightweight rain gear…plus the usual checklist for designers today, from laptop to sketchbook.

With both traditional and non-traditional supplies in hand, the 10 architecture and interior design students, plus two architecture professors – David Saile and Dennis Alan Mann – will spend the 10 weeks of spring quarter, from March 30-June 6, caravanning throughout the American Southwest, studying it as a crucible of cultural histories and architecture over the past two millennia.

Encompassing city and canyon, the architectural “road trip” – officially titled “Architectures and Spaces of the Southwest – will include a three-day, hands-on workshop on building solar-powered homes of recycled materials as well as study of current development trends that focus on retirement, recreation and casinos. 

The quarter will also include visits to the studios of working architects; workshops with archaeology, ecology, building technology, culture, community development and history faculty and experts in New Mexico and Arizona; visits to living museums, traditional Native American settlements, archaeological ruins as well as visits to prototypical urban structures and environments.  Camping stays are also planned for the study of desert, mountain and plateau landscapes, and environment and traditional architecture in such sites as Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly.

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All the while, the students -- from UC's

College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning

-- will be fulfilling the requirements for four courses – design practicum, design theory, history and an independent study.  “For research, I’ll bring along a mobile library.  We’ll have access to the libraries at various universities in New Mexico and Arizona so students can research their papers and presentations.  With all of this, the students must incorporate what they learn from all of the professionals and environments we’ll be coming into contact with,” explained Saile, adding that the group would most likely caravan in two vans and a car.

For their design practicum, all students must design an interpretive center that tells the story of the Southwest.  Student independent study projects range from looking at the role of water in architectural design and exploring the history of the kiva (a subterranean ceremonial center found in traditional Pueblo settlements) to the marketing of the Southwest as a region.

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Third-year interior design student Autumn Godwin, 21, of Celina, Ohio, is participating in the Southwest study quarter because she wants experience with a wide variety of architecture and interior design along with hands-on experience.  "I like the idea of moving around, having ‘class’ at different sites.  I’m excited about it.  We’re usually in the same design or class studio every day,” she said, adding that she’d follow up the Southwest experience with a summer travel quarter spent in Copenhagen.

This is the third-ever UC “Architectures and Spaces of the Southwest” travel study quarter.  The travel/study option was first offered in 1998 and again in the year 2000.  Saile and Mann plan to offer it again in two years’ time.

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