Travelling studios take architecture students to nine countries

By Maria Cook

February 20, 2024



Travel is an opportunity to see buildings, explore cities, and to experience landscapes beyond the comforting familiarity of design studio. This year, about 100 Carleton University architecture students are visiting nine countries: Peru, Ghana, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Albania, Colombia, and New Mexico, USA. Short, intense, and highly local, these experiences underline the global nature of architectural culture. 


“Study trips abroad have been central to the school for decades and part of our commitment to extend community engagement globally,” says Anne Bordeleau, director of the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism (ASAU).


“For students, these represent opportunities to reflect on questions that transcend geographies while experiencing cities, architectures, and landscapes in the different regions visited,” she says. “For the instructors and the school, we are mindfully approaching these pedagogical excursions as thresholds into longer-term collaborations wherein, as we state in our position statement, we can learn and build trust with communities both near and far.”


The school offers the Directed Studies Abroad program for undergraduates and the Option Studio for graduate students. Faculty and instructors are leading groups of students on eight trips ranging from seven to 24 days.


The programs respond to social and urban conditions which need imaginative and critical architectural thinking. The places chosen each year reflect faculty and student wishes for engagement. Students will encounter places and people and be challenged to respond with design projects. Design development typically continues back in Ottawa.


Themes include adaptive re-use, Indigenous knowledge, and intangible heritage. Students will study ground-up interventions, living historical cities, and eco-tourism. They will learn from local communities and take close readings of local practices and conditions.


Taking part are students in the Bachelor of Architectural Studies program in all three streams, Design, Urbanism, and Conservation and Sustainability, and Master of Architecture students in the two and three-year programs.


Many students received funding through the Directed Studies Abroad bursary program, established by alumni in 2006 and supported by donations. The school is grateful to all donors who help make it possible for students to participate regardless of financial barriers.


Here is a snapshot of the 2024 trips:

Peru — Cusco, Potato Park, and Machu Pichu

Dates: Feb 2 to 25
Leader: Assistant Professor K. Jake Chakasim
Students: Master of Architecture students — Marco Vukovic, Dylan Rachpaul, Gabriela Rodriguez Perez, Luca Corazza, Keagan Fowler, Lauren Sharpe, Ksheel Shetty, Sebastian Diaz, Micaela Stokes, Reem Khanafer, Sam Smith-Lane, Juan Ramirez

This Peru Option Studio is a continuation of ASAU’s effort to promote understanding of territory, ecology, and culture of global Indigenous peoples through the lens of architecture and Indigenous planning. It asks: How do we as designers represent people who are different from ourselves?’ and What are the challenges and/or opportunities that arise out of these design experiences, interventions, or representations?


The itinerary includes Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Tipon, Maras Moray, and Rainbow Mountain. The group will meet with residents of Potato Park in the Andes and take the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu.


The studio focuses not only on centering the knowledge of Indigenous peoples but also the social determinists of health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities. The design project is at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa.

The King of the Akyem Abuakwa people invited the students as part of UNHABITAT's Sustainable Cities project to study the Atewa Forest.


Dates: February 6 to 16
Leaders: Assistant Professor Menna Agha and Visiting Critic Ruth-Anne Richardson
Students: Master of Architecture students — Muhammad Syed Raza, Stephen Travers, Syeda Khadeeja, Spideh Sahebsara, Sara Djebri, Joshua Smith, Naila Laksari, Adonis Lau, Lia Di Guilio, Olga Budilovskaia

The Atewa Range Forest Reserve in Ghana, one of the highest priority ecosystems in West Africa, is under threat by mining, logging, and hunting. The students have been invited by the region’s traditional leadership to consider eco-tourism as an alternative economic activity.


Students will examine the intersection of architecture, ecology, culture, and social justice in the context of this sacred ecosystem. The course will emphasize Afro-rooted visualization methods, including fabric printing, to engage with and design for the forest as a site of pilgrimage. Students will learn lessons from and about African and abolitionist perspectives, Ghanaian architectural history, and the Kyebi community’s relationship with the Atewa Forest, with a critical examination of the UN-HABITAT Sustainable Cities project.


Based in Kyebi, the students will also go to Accra, Kumasi, and Cape Coast.

Architecture students in Rome in 2023


Dates: February 15 to 25
Leader Adjunct Professor Lyette Fortin
Students: Third-year BAS — Ella Biegler, Aiko Derry, Kate Giles, Audrey Johnston, Milena Perini, Anya Pomomarenko, Lauren Tailor, Mikaly Tretiak, Eva Trump

Undergraduate Conservation & Sustainability students will visit monuments such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum and churches such as St. Clement Basilica, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, and Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Trips to museums include the National Museum of the Palazzo di Venezia, National Roman Museum – The Baths of Diocletian, and Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars.


Focused on conservation, the group will go to the ICCROM International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property and see examples of adaptive reuse in Rome. These include the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs, the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, and Sant’Angelo Castle, plus urban intervention at the Via della Conciliazione.

New Mexico, USA

Dates: February 16 to 24
Leader: Associate Professor Benjamin Gianni
Students: Third-year BAS students — Theo Altenliu, Borna Hosseini Bay, Emma Belliveau, Emalyn DAliesio, Jack Dawson, Will Girard, Marandy Gonzalez, Ronin Green, Joey Huang, Jhil Mistry, Dana Mkarem, Grace Schickedanz, Yosef Bitar

This road trip takes students through New Mexico and into Colorado and Arizona, where they will discover the great natural wonders, landscapes, and architecture, art, and culture of the American Southwest.


In Sante Fe, New Mexico, they will explore the historic Plaza, Governor’s Palace, Canyon Road Arts District, and the Railroad Arts District. Museum visits include the New Mexico History Museum, Georgia O’Keefe Museum, New Mexico Museum of Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, among others.


The group will spend time in Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Monument Valley as well as hike through the Canyon de Chelly. Places along the way include Bandolier, Española, Abiquiu, Cortez, Durango, Pojoaque, and Taos.

Students on the 2024 trip to Albania


Dates: February 18 to 24
Leader: Assistant Professor Suzanne Harris-Brandts
Students: Fourth-year BAS students — Amani Hamzeh, Christina Rodrigo, Denise Cenina, Natasha Currie, Noah Perkins, Shela Lamug, and Steven Sum

Undergraduate urbanism students will see the dramatic urban transformations underway and learn about the country’s layered history. In the seaside city of Durrës, they will visit a Roman Amphitheatre and abandoned Communist-era bunkers along the beachfront. Heading to the mountains, they will visit the ancient settlement of Krujë.


In Mamurras, they will tour a new development created to support those displaced during a 2019 earthquake. Back in the capital city, Tirana, students will meet with residents, architects, scholars, and urban activists, learning about their lives, work, and changing city while walking through neighbourhoods, including the self-built neighbourhood of 05 Maji.


Shifting their attention away from the many large-scale masterplans imposed on the city, student will reflect on what designers might learn from practices of bottom-up, user-directed, and incremental urbanism. 


Dates: February 15 to 27
Leader: Instructor Thomas Leung
Students: Third-year BAS students — Eman Alhussainy, Karyn Colenutt, Vanessa Aro, Carter Colenutt, Jenna Deck, Hugo Jacques, Keya Purohit, Gabriela Russi De La Pena, Dylan Sinn, Oshan Tan, Anita You, Godfrey Tse, Nadia Navarro Nieto, Arik Abraham, Michele Chung, Mahee Kaneria

Students will visit Lisbon and Barcelona with stops in Porto and Montserrat. Their term project is a Community Theatre Art Hive with social housing, set on an urban plaza of a Barcelona block.


The Lisbon itinerary includes visits to Lisbon Oriente Station by Santiago Calatrava, the Expo’98 Portuguese National Pavilion by Álvaro Siza Vieira, and the Gulbenkian Foundation Extension and Gardens by Kengo Kuma. 


In Barcelona, they will visit works by Antoni Gaudi, including Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, and Casa Batlló. Students will also see the Barcelona Pavilion designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, and the Picasso Museum.

Architecture students in Marrakech in 2024


Leader: Adjunct Professor Honorata Pienkowska
Students: Third-year BAS students Agam Preet Singh, Angelica Bradley, Aria McDonald, Ava Appleby, Gianlucca Petti, Jas Singh Chaney, Kate de Graaf, Marissa Bauer, Minhajuddin Kareemuddin, Mya Thomas, Rachel Ferrington, Raschelle Aranha, Salma Hakim, Samantha Hayes, Sophia David, Yousef Al-Dujaili          
Dates: February 16 to 25

Undergraduate students will travel to Lisbon, Cascais, and Marrakech. The studio will focus on the origins of the Iberian Peninsula’s celebrated and unique traditions and the influences on their development, including those of the Maghrebine Berbers (Moors) from North Africa, across the Strait of Gibraltar. In Lisbon, students will visit sights such as Castelo de São Jorge, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, the Alfama and Mouraria districts, the National Tile Museum, and more. In Marrakech, they will explore Majorelle Gardens, Bahia Palace, the Medina, Saadian Tombs, the Ben Youssef Madrasa, El Badi Palace, and the Berber Museum, among other highlights.

Architecture students in Colombia in 2023


Dates: February 6 to 20
Leader: Visiting Critic Jelisa Blumberg
Students: Master of Architecture students — Junaid Ahamed, Celeste Correia, Jeremy Francis, Olive Lazarus, Ann-Catherine Lemonde, Benjamin Merritt, Emily Nalangan, Shane Patience, Alex Saucier, Amber Tong, Amanda Wu

Master of Architecture students will visit Cartagena’s historic district, Santa Marta, and the La Boquilla area of Cartagena. They will begin with annotations of readings, foraging of modeling materials and cataloguing sentimental spatial practices to frame a set of collective principles and a theoretical framework. This framework will be used to speculate on small scale structures in the Caribbean region of Colombia and will later inform work done in Ottawa.