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Friday, May 14, 2010

Back when I was in school....

I received my Bachelor of Architecture degree 20 years ago from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. The year before that, 1989 I received my Bachelor of Science in Architecture as CUA had a five-year (4 + 1) architectural program (not too many of those left today).

One of the highlights CUA's architectural program was the foreign studies program. Each year a small group of students would compete for the limited slots available for a Summer abroad in the great architectural centers of Europe. If you were in the five-year program, you were eligible to go in your fourth year (final undergrad year). A jury was held in Architectural studio to determine who would get to go. I believe that my graduating class had about 60 students, but only 15 slots were available. CUA also had a graduate program for folks with a prior degree in a field other than architecture. Five of the slots available were reserved for the graduate program. I was fortunate enough to secure one of the ten spots for undergrads.

The year that we went on foreign studies, our dean came along for the trip as one of the instructors. He introduced  a new destination that year: Tunisia. We started the summer in Rome and traveled all over Italy for about 6 weeks. We then journeyed to Tunisia where we spent 2 weeks, before finishing the summer with 3 weeks in Paris.

This was not just a fun trip. We were graded, had projects and received credit for the semester. The project in Tunisia was somewhat unique. We were tasked with measuring and documenting several indigenous mosques on the isle of Djerba. This work was done with the simplest of tools: tape measure, pencil and paper. There was not AutoCAD or Revit on this trip. I was recently reminded of this experience and given to opportunity to revisit all the wonderful memories as compiled in a beautifully crafted memoir prepared by our instructor (the aforementioned dean) Professor Stanley Hallet. Stanley began hunting down the emails and contact information of the students who participated and with our help, compiled a wonderful collection of photographs and stories. All of this has been compiled in a beautiful book commemorating the experience.

If you have any interest in indigenous architecture, Tunisia, hand drawing or the like, you might want to check it out. Stanley has done a marvelous job compiling our experiences in both words and pictures and you can find a copy of his book here. I am not sure what I enjoy most: the breathtaking images of stark white mosques against the deep blue sky, or seeing myself 20 years younger, thin and with hair...

2 comments:

David Koch said...

Great images and drawings. It must have been a fantastic experience. It reminds me of a second-year project we did, based on a competition for new housing on Thira in Greece, that was to be compatible with the indigenous architecture, which has a similar look. Unfortunately, we never left the studio in State College, PA. A year later (1980), I did get to spend Spring term in Europe (best college experience), but never made it to Greece.

Paul F. Aubin said...

I never made it the Greece either. This trip took us all over Italy, to Tunisa and Paris. I also spent my week off in Vienna and Germany. I woudl love to get to Greece some day!