Senior Architecture and Interior Design Majors Find Creative Expression in Florence
During International Education Week, which runs from Nov. 14-18, Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design will showcase the creative projects of seniors Zach Barber, Ben Brannan and several others who studied abroad in Florence, Italy, during the past spring semester. The special weeklong exhibit is located in the second floor gallery of the new Center for Architecture and Environmental Design, and a special gallery opening will be held Nov. 14 beginning at 5:30 pm.
Each year, the hard work and creativity of the college’s students in the Kent State Florence program is recognized through a competition titled “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 Barber, Brannan, Steven Begg, Samantha Bonnett, Bintou Carly Coulibaly, Jansen Meals, Hannah Petit, Jordan Satterfield, and Trevor Swanson.
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 onto the Humanities Library of the University of Florence, while interior design students were challenged with an adaptation of a historic Florentine palace, Palazzo Spini-Feroni, into a Museum for the Visual Arts.
“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 said.
Barber’s main focus was to create a space where everyone could comingle with a series of auditoriums and a gallery that captures views of the Duomo, a famous architectural landmark in Florence.
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,” Brannan said.
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,” Brannan said. “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,” Barber said. “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,” Brannan said. “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.”
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 40 years ago, Kent State has offered its students a “fast track” to study overseas – without stepping outside the Kent State campus system.
Kent State’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design has actively embraced the advantages, which Florence’s unique place in history and culture provides. Each year, more College of Architecture and Environmental Design students flock to Kent State Florence than any other college – 67 students this past spring alone. Although the college’s students are not required to study abroad, many do and say that their time in Florence was essential. Also, many say they chose to attend Kent State because of the availability of its Florence program.
According to David Thal, education abroad coordinator for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Kent State Florence has much to offer its 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.
The college’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 ongoing 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 students from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.
“With all it has to offer historically, culturally and academically, Florence attracts Kent State students from many disciplines,” explained Amber Cruxton, assistant director of education abroad for Kent State’s 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 the College of Arts and Sciences. About 500 students study abroad in Florence every year.”
The unveiling ceremony for the exhibit is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14, from 5:30-7 p.m., and the exhibit will run through Nov. 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. Its objective is to promote educational programs in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized.