Study Abroad 2018

Summer 2018 Study Abroad Program

By Alex Bocknek


The School of Architecture (ARH) is gearing up for the Summer 2018 edition of its annual Study Abroad Program. ARH Graduate Director Mark Mueckenheim runs the program, which takes students on a tour of renowned contemporary buildings and architectural firms across Europe (last year students visited London, Berlin and Copenhagen) over the course of several weeks.

“The biggest benefit to few years back, Wang abandoned her career as a software engineer to pursue a Master of Architecture at Academy of Art University. Shortly after beginning her studies she joined the Study Abroad Program. “I didn’t have a lot of architectural background. I think that’s part of why this trip was very valuable to me.

When you see pictures, it’s flat, it’s 2-D media. When you visit it you can see the real material the building is made out of, the movement of the people, the light conditions. Sometimes, you can even smell something,” Wang said. “It sort of completed my impressions of the building and the architects. I learned that architects do not have to necessarily be as practical as I had thought before. It was sort of eye opening.”

Daniel Toledano, an students is that you’re not just studying textbooks. You’re going into spaces and you are getting a real experience. Usually students only study buildings in their books or online and maybe visit a few selected buildings in their city,” said Mueckenheim.

“Researching buildings is what we do intensely, but it doesn’t replace the one-to-one perspective of seeing something in person. You get to experience the context of the architecture and how people behave in a building, how they use it. Do they navigate the building how the architect intended? What’s the lasting architectural concept?

There are all kinds of things people do with the spaces they occupy. Architects design buildings, then release them to the public and people engage and change them.” M. Arch student Ying Wang echoed the importance of architecture students getting out in the field. A online student who attended the trip, had equally high praise for the program.

For him, the study abroad trip was his first experience meeting instructors in person. “I acquired a lot of knowledge in a very short amount of time. We see how many different architects have applied their skill to do something meaningful. Every student gets the equivalent of five or 10 years of work,” Toledano said. “It’s like we were working for several firms and got to experience a taste of the unique design philosophies. It was one of the top two programs or classes I had been in.”

Outside of merely seeing buildings in person, there are many reasons for the budding architects to be visiting Europe specifically over, say, similar urban locales in America. “The trip itself is so dense in terms of the amount of good architecture the students get to see, it’s an experience that will last years after you’ve had it,” said Mueckenheim. “We also visit absolute top level architecture, the best buildings in the world. We have two or three buildings of that caliber in San Francisco, maybe 50 total in the U.S. because it is so vast. In Europe, we see around 100 buildings during the trip. Europe is very special in that it has that type of urban and cultural density. We also get access to buildings that you cannot normally access as a typical tourist.”

Additionally, the way the two regions approach their architecture differs greatly and thus expanding the understanding of architecture students. A quick visit to any number of the firms on the itinerary (Bjarke Ingels Group, Herzog and De Meuron, David Chipperfield) will reveal that. “In America, a lot of buildings are built with the intention to sell,” said ARH Assistant Graduate Director Yim Lim Gloria Jew. “In the European framework, Europeans tend to own the buildings they’ve built, so that there is a strong architectural culture and connection in Europe.”

While there are many reasons to travel to Europe, for an architectural student one supersedes all the rest. “The experience is like a library in your head. The building becomes the classroom. You don’t just see space. You feel space. Even people that can’t see can feel the height of a ceiling. Looking in books is good, but nothing replaces the real thing.”

The 2018 study abroad trip will focus on outstanding contemporary buildings in Milan and the Venice Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. The trip is a six-credit elective and is open to students in the Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Interior Architecture & Design. Interested students should contact the School of Architecture at