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UH Students Going Abroad to Learn About International Architecture

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August 2, 2011-Houston-

The University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture is taking its students on a world tour. This summer, 14 fifth-year undergraduates visited Buenos Aires, Argentina. Next year, another group will venture to Barcelona, Spain. The goal of these expeditions is to broaden students’ perspectives on architecture and urban planning

The college’s new summer “Pan American Studio” allows fifth-year undergraduate architecture students to conduct field research in major cities that are primarily located in Latin America. Students observe these cities, document recurrent house types and learn more about the professionals who designed and built these structures. They also will visit major universities in these cities, meet with fellow architecture students and collaborate with them on projects. This summer, students worked with faculty and students in the architecture program at Universidad de Buenos Aires.Project from student Lauren Roberts

Once the students return to Houston, they develop new projects and deliver presentations detailing their findings and offering new architectural perspectives that can be applied in the United States.

“The goal of this summer program is to take students to areas of Latin America to study how housing differs from city to city,” said architecture professor Rafael Longoria, who is leading the studio. “For the studio’s inaugural year, our students investigated the key architects of Buenos Aires. We also looked at key neighborhoods within the city, as well as the housing, which is primarily apartment buildings.”

Studio students recently presented research and projects to peers and professors in the College of Architecture’s gallery. They also showcased projects that were influenced by the architecture they viewed in Buenos Aires.

Student Lauren Roberts was particularly inspired by the traditional decorative brick patterns that define Buenos Aires’ older high rise housing units. Motivated by the artistic approach of Argentina’s architects, she developed a contemporary design for a prospective high rise structure that captures the city’s classic look.

“It was very helpful to see the impact of architecture on a completely different culture,” Roberts said. “Too often, architects can become grounded in the designs they like. Learning about new architecture and new styles opens your mind. It shows you that your way isn’t the only way of designing a new structure.”

Her classmate Ryley Poblete focused a project on corner apartments within a Buenos Aires neighborhood. His designs focused on incorporating effective lighting using screen systems and lightwells. He also integrated patios into these residences as Argentine families often engage in outdoor activities.
                “I’ve travelled a lot, but this trip really helped me as an architect,” he said. “Professor Longoria explained the architectural conditions of South America and how they have changed through history. He helped us wrap our heads around what’s there and make comparisons to what’s here in the U.S.”

The next stop for the “Pan American Studio” is Barcelona, Spain. While Spain is not a Pan American country, its architecture and urban planning processes provided the model followed by many Latin American cities, said Longoria.

“Travel is very important for architects of all levels,” he said. “It helps to view architecture in other cultures and other environments and prepares both professionals and students for international opportunities. It also inspires new ideas that can be implemented right here in the U.S. There are some great cities to study, and they will make great classrooms for our students.”

(NOTE TO MEDIA: Students are available for interviews and to present their projects.)