Weitzman News

Posted March 4, 2015
  • Santiago, Chile
  • Los Angeles, CA

Expanding our global reach

Travel Studios 2015

PennDesign students had the opportunity to get off campus and explore various international destinations during Travel Week studios. From places as far as Tokyo, Japan to the Western Ghats in India, students were led through the studios to gain unique insight into different cultures, hands-on experience, and lessons in inquiry.


Landscape Architecture

Western Ghats, India: Anu Mathur

To most people the Western Ghats is a range of hills on the west coast of India covered with monsoon forests, a repository of minerals, a UNESCO world heritage site and a biodiversity hotspot. In this studio, however, the Western Ghats is a splice: a joint of two things that does not call attention to itself so much as to the new ‘singularity’ that it creates.

Students traveled west from Bangalore (along with faculty and students from Shristi) to the edge of the Deccan Plateau and traverse a line from the peaks of the Ghats to sea level, from the rain forest to the coast. Students documented their experience through the lens of their choice – video, photography, sketches and other recordings.

Santiago, Chile: David Gouverneur

This studio deals with the intricacies of ecological, social, infrastructural, economic and morphological aspects of a unique city: Valparaíso, the main port of Chile. Since 2000 a large section of the city was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, recognizing the architectural and cultural importance of a built legacy that is testimony of the period in which the city was a landmark of the interoceanic navigation routes between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Crownpoint, New Mexico: Laurie Olin & Tony Atkin

The Navajo Reservation overlaps the four corners of the American states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Navajo people have the largest native population in the area (approx. 300,000 people) and by far the largest reservation in the U.S. (27,425 sq. miles – about the size of the State of West Virginia).

Over the past century and a half, Navajo life has been interwoven, often forcibly, with the economic modes and processes of contemporary American society, often with negative results. In terms of housing, economic necessity has moved people from using traditional nomadic building archetypes to a generic, government provided mass‐manufactured housing type. This has led to an increasing disconnect from traditional beliefs, customs, community, and language. Coupled with high poverty rates and drug/alcohol addiction, this disconnect has only been exacerbated.

This research studio poses several initial questions that will be examined over the course of the semester:

  • What can be the new paradigm for sustainable growth and development on the Navajo reservation?
  • How can contemporary design methodologies, construction technologies, and materials be considered in such a remote place for a disadvantaged community, while protecting and respecting cultural norms and traditional practices?
  • How does a designer facilitate cultural reinvention and revitalization through development and housing proposals, while letting them be guided and driven by the Navajo themselves?



City Planning

Innovation District, Sao Paulo: Evan Rose
Working in partnership with the Cidades Center at the University of São Paulo and the City’s Planning Department, this studio researched successful innovation districts and explore one (or more) innovation district models at a site (or sites) in São Paulo. Our interdisciplinary team will focus on the opportunities of the site (and the São Paulo context), and develop a comprehensive planning and design plan that will include policy, development and investment analysis, infrastructure, building prototypes (both new and rehab, as appropriate), urban design guidelines, public realm framework, investment, and phasing.  

NY-NJ Crossrail: Bob Yaro & Marilyn Jordan Taylor
The studio focuses on proposed investments in the rail corridor stretching from Newark Airport to JFK Airport and the network of existing, expanded and new urban centers that would be served by these improvements. The studio will investigate the potential to create improved transit links to the region's three airports as well as the potential to create a "metropolitan" rail service that would permit passengers to travel across the entire NY metropolitan region with direct "one seat" rides and convenient transfers.




Super Bock, Spain: Homa Farjadi

Miguel Fisac is a Spanish architect whose work is mostly celebrated as a designer with engineering innovation. Reinforced vaulted brickwork, long span hollow concrete beams as in his

Center for Hydrographic Studies in Madrid may suggest an osteo structural – design, many of his building for the industry would have elemental precedents. Yet in these industrially scaled constructions of long span hollow pre-stressed concrete set on blank concrete walls a special category of space is found which goes beyond simple analogies of skin + bones. It prompts questions around its industrial structure, forms of material mass, aleatory perception of dimension or scale as well as phenomenal reception of light and cavity enabling an industrial program and technology of prefabricated construction to create conceptual form.

The studio is planning to travel to Madrid and possibly to Barcelona to visit the work of Fisac and other Spanish architects to better understand local conditions that have operated in the production of projects.

Near Figuration: Object and Holes - Los Angeles, CA: Tom Wiscombe

This studio will continue work on the problem of near-figuration, which is a form of resolution of the polarizing discourse of form versus shape of the last ten years. Near figuration is defined as the appearance of distinct, legible objects from illegible or fluid conditions, that is, as the simultaneity of things which have both graphic and formal features. This semester, we will extend that problem to include involuted figures, which can simultaneously create exterior depth effects but also interior spatial figuration. One of the fundamental things architecture does is characterize the threshold between exterior and interior. In this, it must take an ontological position with regards to the state of existence of “outside” and “inside”, and the degree to which they might be illusions. LaTour captures that indeterminacy so well when he says “there is no outside…the outside is just another inside.” In this studio, we will define this threshold as elastic but not blurred.

Yokohama, Japan: Nanako Umemoto

The occasion of the Yokohama Port Terminal competition in 1995 was a watershed for the discipline in many respects. A new generation of architects and theorists across the globe seized it as a platform to explore emerging modalities in design, design technology, and delivery which would in the ensuing decades become the medium through which and against which much of contemporary practice plays out. To understand this shift is to recognize that Yokohama elicited changes not simply in one architectural register but across almost all of the disciplinary and sub-disciplinary categories that involve the conception and practice of design.

This studio will reengage Yokohama with neither nostalgia nor negativity. With the passage of twenty years the ‘shake out’ has occurred. Following Kipnis’ exhortation that we regard the best of the last twenty years not as a history of failure (as Tafuri regarded modernism) but (given realistically what architecture is capable of affecting) a history of success. Indeed it may be argued that some of the best work being done today freely combines models of continuity with those of the discrete; the problem lies not in the models but in the obligation to justify them in purely ideological or representational terms and thus perpetuating the specious argument that continuity and discreteness are mutually opposed categories.

Alexander McQueen Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan: Ali Rahim

We will design a flagship Headquarter for Alexander McQueen to underline it's innovation, new techniques in production, provocative forms of presentation and cutting edge couture. We will study Alexander McQueen's contribution to the developments in the design and manufacturing of garments. With a keen interest in fabrication and new materials we will develop a building that combines the latest form, materials and technologies available to Haute Couture. We will utilize these innovations in the development of a headquarter particular to Alexander McQueen that serves Japan and the region.

The program includes a flagship store, a workshop with fitting rooms, a runway, offices and conference rooms, as well as a museum for past collections. All the research and development for Haute Couture and ready-to-wear will happen at this facility, including fashion shows, displays and other modes of presentation as well as the testing of technology, new material and textile developments for the winter and summer seasons.