Visiting architect Rene Tan, right, leads a mid-semester critique.
photos by steve sartori
Dean Bruce Abbey guides the school, which is one of the University's centers of excellence.
Florence gives students the chance to experience firsthand what they've seen in textbooks, says fifth-year student Angela Morkrid '99. "It's a more relaxed year, but you're still learning and drawing. You absorb images that you'll always remember and may use later in designs."|
Eighty percent of SU's architecture undergraduates and 90 percent of the graduate students now participate in the Florence program, which boasts its own campus and a reputation as one of the finest overseas offerings of any American university. "Schools like Cornell, Princeton, and Carnegie Mellon send students to our program, and the opportunity to teach there helps us recruit and retain the best faculty," Korman says. "The program elevated the school as a whole."
CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
When Bruce Abbey, a graduate of Cornell and Princeton who had been chair of the Department of Architecture and associate dean at the University of Virginia, took over for Seligmann in 1990, the School of Architecture sat on a rock-solid foundation. The University as a whole, unsettled by demographic changes, was conducting a major self-evaluation. "The administration asked us to evaluate our program in terms of its quality, centrality, and demand," Abbey says. "We were subsequently designated a center of excellence on campus, because our students ranked with the very best of those admitted by the University. Our application numbers were highdespite demographicsand our hands-on approach to teaching made us a model for a University whose vision it was to become the leading student-centered research university."
Although SU architecture professors have a strong record of practicing and publishing, teaching remains their first order of business. The faculty boasts more contact hours with students than any other program in the University. In the middle of the night, it's not unusual to find these professors in the design studio, critiquing and encouraging their bleary-eyed students.|
Ed McGraw '84, a partner at Ashley McGraw Architects in Syracuse, remembers his first brush with dedicated faculty members. "My undergraduate background was in creative writing and business, and I was such a neophyte that I didn't know what a portfolio was," McGraw says. "Even before I applied to the graduate architecture program, I had three or four discussions, each several hours long, with Professor Bruno Pfister. He essentially introduced me to the profession, encouraged me to take an art class, and helped me build a portfolio. Every professor I encountered in the school had this genuine passion for architecture. And they don't ask you to do anything they wouldn't do."
Another major asset is the architecture graduate program, currently ranked 15th nationwide by U.S. News & World Report.The M.Arch II degree is a second professional degree designed for architects who wish to spend a year in the Florence program, studying such areas as urban design and history. "These students can study with the finest European scholarsworld-renowned historians and theoreticians," explains Professor Art McDonald, chair of the graduate program.
In high school, Benjamin Pell '97 was known as a kid who didn't work to his potential. At the School of Architecture, he shed that image to survive. It takes 161 credits to earn a bachelor's degree in architecture and entails "at least five intense years of work and innumerable all-nighters," Pell says. "Architecture students are known as the hardest workers on campus. They're also considered a little insane."
Pell acknowledges the long tradition of architecture schools being a grueling and intense experience. "For at least one week out of every three or four, you're in the design studio all night, finishing a big project," he says. "Your design becomes your only priority. Sleeping, eating, and other classes go by the wayside. At most, you sleep for a few hours from dawn until your 9 a.m. class, but you feel guilty if you even do that."
"Charretting" is the name of the high-pressure game these students play before projects are due. The term is derived from the French word charrette, which is a cart that once carried students' designs to architects' offices to be critiqued. Legend has it that students would run alongside the cart making last-minute changes to their projects.|
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