Florence program immerses M. Arch II students into academics, culture
Florence program immerses M. Arch II students into academics, cultureSeptember 27, 2002Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
All of his life, Filippo Caprioglio has been surrounded by the beauty of Italian structure and design. Growing up in the city of Mestre, earning an architecture degree from the nearby I.U.A.V. University of Venice, and working as a partner in a local firm, he knows a lot about the region’s tradition in architecture.
But enrolling in Syracuse University’s Master’s Architecture II program in Florence opened his eyes to new approaches and methods to theory and research to which he had never been exposed.
“SU had a program with an incredible combination of teaching and experience by well-known professors in the top of their field,” said Caprioglio. “It challenged my mind to look at Italian and European architecture in many different ways.”
M. Arch. II (Master of Architecture) is a 30-credit, two-semester post-professional degree program in architecture and urban design, with an emphasis on Italian architectural history and theory. Distinguished Syracuse University architecture faculty, along with visiting critics and historians, teach courses designed for professionals that wish to use their profession to investigate a culture so rich with architectural history and is the precedent for contemporary work.
Historically, Florence-a city known for its picturesque Tuscan style buildings and interiors-has struggled to translate the city’s architecture to a functioning contemporary form. Much of the traditional urban structure requires significant improvements, modifications or additions to make the city it more socially, economically and environmentally compatible with 21st-century European culture. Students in the M. Arch. II program tackle some of these issues and propose solutions, while learning of the region’s history of design.
Students spend much of the week in the studio working on local design projects and also in the classroom studying architectural theory. But much of the learning comes from direct architectural investigation in the city, and through program field trips throughout all of Italy.
Upon completion of the M. Arch. II program in Florence, Caprioglio and another participant, Michael Ambrose, presented a proposal to then School of Architecture Dean Bruce Abbey to teach within the program and continue their research begun the previous year.
This was successful and they instructed students in the pre-architecture program, a series of courses for liberal arts students considering pursuing a professional degree in architecture. Following their Florence appointment, the two were invited to bring this international experience back to the Syracuse University community through one-year teaching appointments. This is the kind of international educational exchange that program directors hope to see more of in the future.
Ted Brown, associate architecture professor and chair of the Graduate Program, who has taught in and served as director of M. Arch. II, says that as the program continues, one of the goals is to help assist more students to come back to Syracuse to engage in the life of the home campus as graduate teaching assistants or guest lecturers.
“For many professionals, the M. Arch. II program is an opportunity to immerse themselves in the academic environment of their profession and in another culture,” said Brown. “Some then return to the positions they held with broader theoretical and design knowledge; some use the experience to enter areas of academic research and teaching; and others use it as an opportunity to shift gears, change jobs, geographic locations, or type of professional involvement.”
In 1980, under the late Dean Werner Seligmann, professor Randall Korman began the School of Architecture at SU’s Florence Center-which opened in 1959. The M. Arch. II program began six years later as an intensive graduate program for architecture and design professionals to study the history, theory and current thoughts of Italian architecture and to develop projects that investigate European urban design problems. For the last several years it has been under the direction of current interim School of Architecture Dean Art McDonald, with graduate chair and professor Joel Bostick serving as Architecture Program coordinator in Italy.
Students come mostly from the United States, but also from Asia, Italy, South America, and other regions that vary from year to year. Program coordinators seek to enroll a breadth of ethnic and gender representation among the nine to 13 students that annually enroll. Brown notes that as more fellowships and scholarships become available, the program can attract a broader range of students.
The Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA) works with the School of Architecture to coordinate overseas arrangements, help promote the opportunity to students, and provide students with the assistance they need while traveling internationally. “The reputation of the program alone accounts for a lot of the recruiting,” said Sue Shane, assistant director in DIPA. “We provide students with assistance after their acceptance to help them prepare for a year abroad.”
Over 330 students typically study at the Florence Center each semester.
Today, M. Arch II students benefit from the expanding facilities of the Florence program campus.
This past April, the lower level of Donatello Studio, a single, block-long structure built at the end of the 19th century specifically to provide housing and studio space for Florentine artists, was acquired, renovated and converted for use as studios for the architecture program. It is located at the edge of the historic center on Piazzale Donatello and just two blocks away from Piazza Savonarola where the University’s main facilities are located. The University has been occupying space in the Donatello block for sometime, using it for the studio arts program. This April a cluster of spaces on the ground floor of Donatello 25 came available and DIPA moved quickly to acquire them.
“Basically, the difference in the two facilities reflects the difference between a late 19th century and a late 20th century sense of space,” said Korman, who oversaw the expansion process. “The studios are free of columns, the ceilings are 15 feet high and the quality of light and spaciousness is wonderful.”
The new spaces include a seminar room, a copying and computer room, a large review space and a garden. Faculty and staff offices are more spacious and the new space has room to build workstations for each student, to include adequate pin-up space and areas for display of drawings, maps and photographs.
“At present, the new space accommodates about two-fifths of the program,” continued Korman. “Hopefully, within the next two years all of the architecture program will be relocated at Donatello 25. For students of architecture who come to Florence with great expectations about what they will experience, these new facilities deliver on those expectations.”