China may open doors to Eli architects

Architecture students could soon escape their New Haven studios and move with their sketchbooks to Asia, pending a decision by administrators tentatively considering the addition of undergraduate architecture courses to the Yale-in-Peking curriculum.

Architecture School Dean Robert Stern said officials are exploring the ways architecture majors might be able to study abroad as part of the Yale-in-Peking program and are gauging student interest in such a program. Current students had mixed opinions about the possibility, but many were in favor of the proposal.

“We are looking into it as part of the larger Yale College initiative to have study abroad programs in China,” Stern said.

Architecture Director of Undergraduate Studies Sophia Gruzdys said she polled architecture students to gauge potential interest in studying China, and if not, which other countries they would prefer.

Gruzdys said that while students expressed interest in studying in a wide range of countries, especially Italy and Spain, China seemed like the most viable option because of its popularity among students and because Yale has already established a partnership with Peking University.

“There was definitely interest,” Gruzdys said. “The students would seem to be interested in that part of the world.”

Studying alongside foreign students and exploring the architectural landscape of Peking would be some of the program’s primary goals, Gruzdys said.

“What we’re very interested in is Yale’s agenda of working with the student body in China,” she said.

Ideally, students would study abroad in the spring of their junior year, Gruzdys said, although it might be beneficial for first-semester seniors to do research in China. Potential courses might include architectural analysis or studio groups, she said, potentially focusing on the architectural, landscape and garden cultures of Peking or exploring issues of urban development in the city.

Architecture students are already encouraged to study abroad through programs in Copenhagen or Florence, Gruzdys said, and three to four do so every year.

Many architecture students were in favor of expanding study abroad options within the major, although not all said they would want to go themselves.

Architecture major Seema Kairam ’07 said she helped conduct a recent department-wide survey of sophomores and juniors to determine student interest in studying abroad. Kairam said she thought China would be an intriguing location for a study abroad program.

“Traditionally, people go to western Europe in terms of studying architecture, but as architecture in China has started progressing very rapidly and so many things are happening there, I would have definitely considered it had it been available a few years ago,” Kairam said.

Elizabeth Resor ’08 said that since Yale encourages students to study primarily in the Denmark and Italy programs, she imagined there would be interest in a China program among majors, especially since there are few such programs available to architecture students.

Stern said he hoped the program would begin as soon as next year, but Gruzdys said that there is still a great deal of planning to do, and the program would probably not start immediately.

She said the relatively small number of architecture majors — the program is capped at around 25 majors in each year — and available faculty might limit the program’s scope, and the administration is also considering alternative options, such as an arts-intensive semester in China every few years or a summer program instead.

This year, 33 Yale students studied abroad through Yale-in-Peking, 22 in the fall and 11 in the spring.

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