Boston as a Lab

New curriculum emphasizes location

ON A WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON LAST FALL, a group of first-year architecture students stood in the middle of Summer Street in Downtown Crossing, pencils and paper in hand, sketching their surroundings while trying to find the horizon line in the distance. As the students worked, Robert Trumbour, assistant professor in the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management, offered suggestions on how to properly view the space they occupied, while also offering insight into the architectural features of the historic area.

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Wentworth students have long known the close proximity of famous Boston sites to campus, but thanks to a focus on hands-on, project-based learning at the school, they are able to use the city for real-world learning.

“There is really a focus on locations, and we’re looking more at experiential learning, as opposed to abstraction,” Trumbour explained. “We think by showing actual examples up close, we’re providing a more well-rounded learning experience.”

Last fall, the aforementioned class—Studio 1—enrolled 195 first-year students split into 13 different sections. Around a dozen students per group traveled with their professors to various Boston sites via the Orange and Green MBTA lines. Once a week, students and faculty met in Blount Auditorium to share their findings from the field. Classes continued this spring and included visits to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, among other destinations.
“The site visits have really helped me understand certain concepts better,” said Allison Reynolds, ’18. “Having real-world examples really connects you to what you’re studying.”

For Glenn Wiggins, dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management, the class allows students to explore “one of the greatest urban spaces in the United States” and take a hands-on approach to studying projects.
“Compare this experience with that of students from schools that may be as close as 100 miles. At best, once a semester they board a bus, travel to Boston, spend an afternoon studying, and travel back,” said Wiggins. “The rest of the semester they study pictures, videos, drawings, and so forth. It’s not the same as living in the laboratory, and it directly impacts the character of a student’s education.”

Greg Abazorius

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