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New Design Studio in Rome

Villa Giulia
Students descend the stairs to overlook the courtyard at Villa Giulia on one of their many visits to the villas of the Roman Renaissance; photograph by Oonagh Davis, B.Arch. '20

AAP Rome Program Launches Foundations in Architecture


Story by Edith Fikes for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University


“The making of a truly urban architecture, the forming of civic space, the function of urban fabric, the impact of context, and the persistence of history—Rome embodies these conditions like no other city on earth."

Students in the Bachelor of Architecture program at Cornell University have studied in Rome as a core part of their curriculum since 1987, and what they gain from the experience is an indispensable component of the architectural design pedagogy of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP). This fall, Cornell in Rome welcomes the first group of students enrolled in the new Foundations in Architecture, a study option that is open to undergraduates from any program at any university.

"For decades, Cornell-educated designers have had the privilege of spending a semester in Rome," says Kent Kleinman, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP, reflecting on the value of the Cornell in Rome program to the college. "Virtually every architecture student has the lessons of Rome in their design repertoire when they graduate: the making of a truly urban architecture, the forming of civic space, the function of urban fabric, the impact of context, and the persistence of history. Rome embodies these conditions like no other city on earth."


Although some program participants have completed coursework in architecture or related fields, a design background is not required to apply.


At the core of the new program is the design studio—through a graduated series of exercises, students are introduced to methods of analysis, representation, and abstraction as they study the concepts of urban and architectural space and form. The studio is complemented by select electives, and approximately 18 days of travel through cities and regions within Italy where students encounter important historical and contemporary sites and buildings. The field trips and elective classes are taken alongside AAP students in architecture, while the studio and Architectural Field Studies and Architectural Portfolio Development classes are only available to the visiting students.

Many students who express an interest in Foundations in Architecture aim to add an immersive study-abroad semester in Rome to their college experience and do so with future opportunities such as competitive internship placements or graduate-level degree programs in architecture or urban design in mind. At the end of the semester, foundations students leave Rome with a portfolio that demonstrates the guided research, design work, and other creative projects they produce while in the program.

Richard Meier talks architecture with students
Richard Meier, B.Arch. '56, answers student questions during a visit to the fall 2017 architectural design studios in Rome; photograph by Oonagh Davis, B.Arch. '20

"When applying to study abroad, I just knew I needed to be in Rome," says Isabella Teran, a current foundations student pursuing a B.A. in architecture from Brown University. "I consider this program a transition point that will balance the social concerns I've explored for the past two years at Brown with the aesthetic principles taught at Cornell. When I return to Brown in the spring, I plan to study architecture in a way that makes me happy—where I can focus on design aesthetics when necessary and continue to keep social issues and my community as priorities."

Although some program participants have completed coursework in architecture or related fields, a design background is not required to apply. The Foundations in Architecture track encourages interdisciplinary study across architectural design and the many interests that students bring with them as they attend classes, travel, and live alongside AAP students.

"Any student with a passion for architecture can do no better than spend a semester at Cornell in Rome, and I am delighted that we can open our program to select students from both within Cornell and beyond who wish to join us to experience first-hand the intensity of our studio-based pedagogy, with Rome as our classroom," says Kleinman.


Image on homepage shows students and faculty visiting Basilica​​ di​​ Santa​​ Maria​​ Maggiore during a fall 2017 tour of the work of Michelangelo; photograph by Oonagh Davis, B.Arch. '20