Senior Architecture and Interior Design Majors Find Creative Expression in Florence

During International Education Week, the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) will showcase the creative projects of seniors Zach Barber, Ben Brannan and several others who studied abroad in Florence during the past spring semester in a special weeklong exhibit. The exhibit is located in the second floor gallery of the new CAED building and a special gallery opening will be held Monday night beginning at 5:30 pm.

Each year, the hard work and creativity of CAED students in the KSU Florence program is recognized through a competition entitled “Most Inspiring Students’ Projects.”  To honor International Education Week, the College scheduled a weeklong exhibit showcasing the architecture and interior design projects awarded in the competition. Students being recognized include Zach Barber, Steven Begg, Ben Brannan, Bintou Carly Coulibaly, Jansen Meals, Hannah Petit, Jordan Satterfield, Trevor Swanson and Samantha Bonnett.

In this year’s competition, architecture students were challenged with a community-driven project that involved a redesign of the Piazza Brunelleschi, a space currently used as a parking lot, and adding on to the Humanities Library of the University of Florence and interior design students were challenged with an adaptation of a historic Florentine Palace, Palazzo Spini Feroni, into a Museum for the Visual Arts.

According to senior architecture major Zach Barber, “I focused on three different types of people who occupy the space; students who go to the university, the general public and tourists visiting the city.” Barber’s main focus was to create a space where everyone could co-mingle with a series of auditoriums and a gallery that captures views of the Duomo, a famous architectural landmark in Florence.

Senior Ben Brannan took a much different approach to the project. His main focus was to create a landmark that defies the context of Florence. His project, which he titled “The Urban Abnormality,” has a very radical and contextual approach through redefining historic and modern coexistence. “I wanted to create a very community-engaging building where people could watch concerts and lectures,” said Brannan.

Although students drew some inspiration from the new Kent State Florence building, Palazzo Vettori, “It wasn’t necessarily the new Florence building that inspired us,” said Brannan. “It was inspiration by our professors, faculty and other classes we were taking.”

Students also spoke of how their creativity was fostered during their travels overseas.

“When we traveled, we did try to seek out projects that could inspire us,” said Barber. “When I went to Copenhagen on a weekend trip I sought out a piazza that worked very well and was very multifunctional.”

The competition tested the students not only academically but also with how they view the world. “I have a new found cultural appreciation. I got to see a lot and I’m very thankful for that. It really opened my eyes to see how different cultures interact socially,” said Brannan.

One of the precepts of International Education Week – which Kent State celebrates this week – is to build awareness of the academic, professional and personal rewards of a study abroad experience and to encourage U.S. students to participate in an education abroad program during their academic career. Through its academic center, which it established in Florence, Italy, 40 years ago, Kent State University has offered its students a “fast track” to study overseas – without stepping outside the Kent State campus system.

The College of Architecture & Environmental Design (CAED) has actively embraced the advantages, which Florence’s unique place in history and culture provides. Each year, more College of Architecture & Environmental Design (CAED) students flock to Kent State Florence than any other college – some 67 this past spring alone. Although CAED students are not required to study abroad, many do. And those that do agree that their time in Florence was essential in their education – many having chosen Kent State because of the availability of its Florence program.

According to the Education Abroad Coordinator for the College of Architecture & Environmental Design David Thal, Kent State Florence has much to offer CAED students. Between the talented faculty and the mix of studio courses located in the historic city center and field trip courses including Sienna, Venice, Milan and Rome which take students out of the classroom and into the city, students are provided with a mix of resources, which better equips them to succeed academically.

CAED’s view of the Florence program as integral to its curriculum and an ideal setting for its students is obvious on the college’s website, which states: “(In Florence) students experience the historical evolution of European art, architecture and urbanism, as well as the contemporary ‘design scene’ and the on-going modernization of European cities. The center of the city is itself a museum filled with the meticulously preserved architecture dating from the medieval and Renaissance periods to the present.”

But Florence attracts more than just CAED students. “With all it has to offer historically, culturally and academically, Florence attracts Kent State students from many disciplines,” explains Amber Cruxton, Assistant Director of Education Abroad for the Office of Global Education, which coordinates the Florence program. “We see strong representation from our fashion, business and communication students, as well as many from Arts and Sciences. About 500 students study abroad in Florence every year.”

The unveiling ceremony is scheduled for Monday, November 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and the exhibit will run through November 18. At the gallery opening, the nine featured students will share their experiences of living and studying abroad.

This is just one of the events scheduled for International Education Week, which runs from November 14 to November 18. Its objective is to promote educational programs in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized. For a complete list of events, click here.

POSTED: Monday, November 14, 2016 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 - 2:52pm