Robert A.M. Stern Rome Seminar

Course Description

Rome: Continuity & Change is an intensive seminar that takes place in and around the city of Rome. It is designed to provide a broad overview of the city’s major architectural sites, topography, and systems of urban organization. Examples from antiquity to the present day are studied as part of the context of an ever-changing city with its sequence of layered accretions. The seminar examines historical continuity and change as well as the ways in which and the reasons why some elements and approaches were maintained over time and others abandoned.

Hand drawing is used as a primary tool of discovery during explorations of buildings, landscapes, gardens, and urban infrastructures, both within and outside the city. Over the course of three weeks in Rome, students walk and draw the breadth of the city and its environs. Issues of design, form, construction, composition and geometry are explored through close analysis of significant sites from all time periods. Stressing the practice of daily drawing, largely in sketchbook format using diverse media, the seminar asks students to examine buildings and urban spaces to grasp their spatial, temporal and social formation. Along with itineraries lead by the instructors, the course is enriched by the frequent participation of prominent archeologists, artists, urbanists, and art historians of Rome who tour the students through significant monuments, gardens, collections, and urban spaces. Students and faculty gather for drawing salone in smaller groups to informally discuss, share sketches and insights throughout the session.

The seminar will be offered in two distinct sessions. Both will posit the city of Rome as the primary subject and drawing as the means for its revelation. While the two itineraries will be largely similar, the first session will be organized with a greater focus on the city within the walls while the second session will look at Rome from without and is likely to feature more excursions to sites outside of the city.

The seminar culminates with an independent study over the course of multiple days during which each student creates a sustained drawing of a subject of their choosing. Selecting both a site and a means of representation for this final project, students are challenged to study a given building or urban space and synthesize a unique impression of its physical, historical and social content. With each drawing created in-situ over several sessions, they all reflect the immediate experience of the selected site and are imbued with each student’s acquired experience of the city and its culture. The final drawings will be exhibited and reviewed in Rome with the Rome-based broader architectural community in Rome at the conclusion of the seminar.

Course Logistics

This seminar is open only to eligible M.Arch. I second-year students and M.Arch. II first-year students. The first session in Rome runs from May 18 – June 7, 2022. The second session, in Rome and with travel outside of Rome runs from June 14 – July 4, 2022. Enrollment in each session will be limited to 24 students. Students are required to be present for all class sessions in Rome for the entire duration of the course without exception. In Rome, the class meets at different sites throughout the city every day of the week including weekends with few exceptions. Students are required to be punctual and responsible, maintain a sketchbook of drawings (or series of sketchbooks), as well as to satisfactorily complete the final drawing assignment in situ.

Students will share apartments in Rome, which will be procured by the School for the duration of the course. The School will also reimburse students for their airfare to and from Rome up to a specified amount.

All Semesters

Summer 2024
Rome: Continuity and Change
Bryan Fuermann, Bimal Mendis, George Knight, Joyce Hsiang
Summer 2023
Rome: Continuity and Change
Joyce Hsiang, George Knight, Bimal Mendis, Bryan Fuermann