"It was all done in the service of learning about different places and learning about the ways people do things here as opposed to the way we do them at home," said Schott. "You can look out the train window, you can look out the bus window, you can ride a bicycle – and we’ve done that, too. But it seems to me that you absorb the most information when you’re walking because of the pace and because your view is unobstructed. You hear the things that are going on around you, you smell the things going on around you – you’re really engaged when you’re walking."
And the group didn’t engage with the culture just in Genova – they traveled extensively both within Italy and beyond. The cohort made regular trips from the villa to the port in Genova where they observed local residents working and relaxing near the sea. On a single day in Naples, Italy, the class tallied a record 14.7 miles, winding from the coast to the castle and back again. In their free time, students traveled independently across Europe, visiting cities including Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; Budapest, Hungary; and Barcelona, Spain.
In each city, the students explored iconic structures up close. By walking to, around and through those spaces, the group gained a unique perspective that can be lost in translation when studying remotely.
“There are only so many things that a classroom teacher can do to introduce and analyze a building through slides," said Schott. "There are simply parts of it that they can’t show you. But in this case, when we walked to the Villa Rotonda in Vicenza (Italy), the students were able to explore every nook and cranny and they were able to understand the implications of the building because they looked out at what you saw from the building.”
In addition to seeing buildings up close, the group would find high spaces in each city they visited, whether it was the Campanile (a bell tower) in Venice, or a rock formation in Trieste. These bird's-eye views allowed the group to look down at entire cityscapes and develop a better understanding of the mechanics of urban spaces.
Anderson says that her walking, both near specific buildings and to vantage points above, has already influenced her design process. She plans to focus her career on creating schools and hospitals and says that her experience abroad has given her a new understanding of how to incorporate culture and comfort into her projects.
“I hope to bring certain aspects of the culture to make every person that could be in a particular school or hospital feel really comfortable,” says Anderson. “I want my design to be something where everyone feels comfortable and make sure that everyone is included at any point. Visiting all of these places makes me realize even more how different people are, how different cultures are, and what pieces from each culture you can bring to make everyone feel comfortable.”
As with every study abroad experience, this group is sure to bring back dozens of sketches, souvenirs, new friendships and a global perspective that only a trip around the world can provide. However, this unique class may bring back something extra – an understanding of the way we move through the world and, if they’re lucky, a new pair of shoes.
Interested in learning more about architecture at Clemson? Use the links below to explore our School of Architecture and its Fluid Campus program, which allows students to study in Genova, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; and Charleston, South Carolina.
All background images courtesy of Clemson University architecture students studying in Genova Italy with Professor Schott in the spring semester of 2017. From top to bottom, the locations and photographers are: Grass, Austria photographed by Nicholas Day; San Torini, Greece photographed by Danielle Noonan; Paris, France photographed by Danielle Noonan; Paris, France photographed by Danielle Noonan; Athens, Greece photographed by Danielle Noonan; Paris, France photographed by Danielle Noonan; Lake Bled, Slovenia photographed by Phillip Hood; and San Torini, Greece photographed by Danielle Noonan.