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Kean University

Buongiorno, Roma: Kean Architecture Students Take on Rome

For many people, Rome is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation destination. For third-year undergraduate students in the School of Public Architecture at Michael Graves College, Rome is their classroom for the spring semester.

A cohort of 16 students is the first to experience the architecture school’s Rome Study Abroad Program, which is a required part of the curriculum. They are spending the entire spring semester in Rome for the same cost as attending Kean’s Union campus as a residential student.

“The Rome program provides a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn firsthand about great architecture from the past 2,000 years – seeing it, drawing and measuring the buildings and analyzing the principles behind it,” said Michael Graves College Dean David Mohney, FAIA. “They are taking in the buildings through many of their senses, touch of materials and the sound of spaces. Michael Graves would have been pleased to see our students so immersed in the great buildings and spaces of Rome.”

Graves, the world-renowned architect and designer who played a key role in the development of his namesake college, deemed it essential for all architecture students to spend at least a full semester in Rome. He spent two years in Rome from 1960 to 1962, and the School adopted his philosophy as a cornerstone of the architecture program.

“Rome is an open time capsule that offers continuing lessons to architects,” said Assistant Professor Craig Konyk. “Documenting those remains of greatness have inspired acclaimed works of architecture in all periods of time. Our students are following in a grand tradition of architectural education.”

The students’ semester began with Professor Nina Rappaport, learning about Renaissance and Baroque architecture and visiting well-known sites such as the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Square and the Piazza del Campidoglio, as well as lesser known sites such as the Keats-Shelley House. The students have dedicated studio space in the Rome Center in Campo Dei Fiori, where they will design three specific projects for sites in Rome.

The students are inspecting ancient sites with an architect’s eye.

“Being in Rome is an unparalleled experience and has enlightened and challenged me,” said Keithland Levy, a junior architecture major. “Ancient architects, artists and builders were able to construct monumental buildings and art forms, carved from various stones, using simple, but effective tools. Through this program, I am building my hand representation, communication and graphical skills, which are essential in the field of architecture.”

Only a few weeks into the semester, architecture student Charles Raimondo says the pace of the program is brisk, and the process is rewarding.

“Studying architecture in Rome will make me a better architect by understanding how the ancients used all kinds of proportional systems to attain harmony and beauty,” he said. “I can take that knowledge and transform it into my own architectural language that would incorporate these ancient ideas but with my own twist.”

The Rome Study Abroad Program is generating a lot of excitement at Michael Graves College, and other similar international learning programs may soon be developed.

Follow the architecture students’ Rome adventure on Instagram at @keanarch and @keandesignarchitecture.