Wintersession Travel 2014


For five weeks between the fall and spring semesters, RISD offers students (Sophomore through to Graduate Students) rich global learning opportunities through Wintersession (WS) travel courses. The central purpose of this program is to enrich the educational experience of RISD students and faculty by providing a period for intense exploration of a particular discipline or an off-campus interest.

WS travel courses are designed to give art and design students the opportunity to embed themselves within a new cultural context, to learn from artists and designers in that country and region, and develop their practice within an environment outside of RISD’s Providence campus.

During recent WS travel courses a group of students, from a range of disciplines, worked with Khipra Nichols, Professor of Industrial Design, and Kathleen Grevers,Critic of Apparel Design, to research traditional and new technologies and design techniques for Shoe Design in Northern Italy (Milan, Turin, and Florence). During this course, students had access to leading design houses, museums, and expertise in Italy, which informed their own design processes and work.

Other RISD students had the chance to travel to Germany with Professor of Architecture,  Jonathan Knowles, and Critic, Laura Briggs, to collaborate with students and faculty at the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt in exploring the idea of the “performative house,” i.e.maximum flexibility of space with minimum consumption of energy

Wintersession 2014: Travel Course Offering

During Wintersession 2014, RISD students (Sophomores up to Graduate students) will have the opportunity to participate in off-campus global learning opportunities that include, but are not limited to: “Exploring the Art and Science of Biodiversity,” in Guyana; “Creating an Archive,” in India, and “Show Design Perception, History, and Prototyping,” in Northern Italy, among a number of other courses across the globe.

Each course is led by a member of RISD faculty and has an additional course fee for travel expenses, which are listed below. Please note: Final courses and fees will be posted by October 12, 2013 & registration for WS  2014 will open on October 15 and runs through October 30.

poster ws 2013 csearle

La Flor, Costa Rica

Instructor: Colgate Searle, Professor of Landscape Architecture


Since 2007, RISD has had an active collaboration with Earth University, the world’s foremost school of sustainable agriculture. This 2014 WS studio will be the culmination of a year of research and design study on the development of a prototype classroom – off the grid, hi-tech/low-tech – for rural schools in the dry tropical region of Costa Rica.

In the field, RISD students and faculty, along with members of the Earth University community, will finalize a selected design from RISD’s Innovation Studio. They will build the learning environment at the La Flor Campus of Earth University.  The goal of the course is to design and build a classroom prototype that exhibits sustainable building practices in the dry tropics.

Studio Credits: 6

Information sessions:
Thursday, October 3, BEB Room 120, 5:30-6:30pm
Monday, October 7, BEB Room 120, 12:00-1:00pm
Tuesday, October 8, BEB Room 120, 5:30-6:30pm
Friday, October 11, BEB Room 124, 12:00-1:00pm

Exploring the Art & Science of Biodiversity in Guyana
Nicole Merola, Department Head of Literary Arts and Sciences and Lucy Spelman, Lecturer in History, Philosophy and Social Sciences at RISD

In this course, RISD students will explore the artistic, cultural, economic, and scientific role of biodiversity in today’s society. Using Guyana, a biodiverse English-speaking Caribbean nation located along the northeastern coastline of South America as an example, students will approach the topic of biodiversity from multiple perspectives, including the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and visual arts. More specifically, this course offers RISD students the opportunity to visit a biological hotspot and consider its role in society; participate in conservation science field research; interact cross-culturally; and develop their communication skills. Taught collaboratively, this course emphasizes the importance of connecting ideas, information, and methodologies across the arts, humanities, and sciences, with an emphasis on biology.

Some of the questions we will consider during this course include:

  1. What concepts, theories, and methods inform our research and debates about biodiversity, conservation, and human impacts on the natural world?
  2. How and by whom are biodiversity field studies conducted? How are the results applied to conservation?
  3. How do we decide what species and/or ecosystems merit conservation?
  4. What kinds of science, stories, and metaphors shape our understanding of socio-ecological networks and how they change over time?
  5. How do we represent biodiversity to ourselves and to others by means of particular images and narratives, and to what effect?
  6. Do the arts and humanities approach biodiversity differently than the sciences? If so, what are the differences and how might we bring the arts, humanities, and sciences together in order to think about biodiversity?
  7. What does the term “sustainable development” mean in the Guyanese context? In what ways might Guyanese efforts at “sustainable development” differ from efforts in other countries?

This course is open to sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students. However, due to constraints on group size on flights and at the Karanambu Trust House, this course is limited to 12 students.

Course Credits: 6 credits (3 LAEL and 3 LAS)

Northern Visions Sri Lanka
Instructor: Elizabeth Dean Hermann, Aleksandra Azbel (TA)

Sri Lanka wintersession 2013This travel course will explore the rich architectural, landscape and artisan traditions of the island nation of Sri Lanka. Located just 22 miles across the Palk Strait from the southeastern coast of India, the island has a long and rich history of settlement dating back to at least the 6th C BCE. People from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Portugal, the Netherlands and England have arrived, conquered and stayed, leaving an elaborate tapestry of artistic traditions, religions and customs. We will visit the Buddhist stupas and lakes of Anuradhapura, ancient capital of the Kingdom of Sri Lanka, dating to the late 4th C BCE, and the Buddhist temples of Kandy, last capital of independent Sri Lanka founded in the 14th C and nestled in the central highlands. There we will explore the 19th-early 20th C hillside homes and verdant tea plantations of the British colonizers and the ancient stone rainwater harvesting tanks and cascading irrigation systems. We will visit the Portuguese Fort and Dutch city of Galle on the southern coast and study works of the great Sri Lankan modern architect Geoffrey Bawa and his disciples in the capital Colombo and across the southern parts of the island. En route we will visit village textile cooperatives and artisan cottage industries to see how these traditions are being kept alive and how they are part of larger strategies aimed at social and economic empowerment. Sri Lanka wintersession course poster_low resThe goal of the course is to create an annotated visual documentation of ancient through contemporary architectural, landscape and artisan practices in Sri Lanka. These will include siting strategies, material and structural studies, climate control and resource management systems, spatial layouts and use patterns, and artisan processes. The entire Wintersession period will be spent in Sri Lanka with regular work sessions for compilation of data and observations built into the trip. This is a 3 credit course with an additional 3 credits available to students either as an ISP or for Liberal Arts credit (provisions for either must be made by the student with the appropriate faculty/department prior to departure for Sri Lanka). Note: This course is part of a multi-year RISD involvement with Sri Lanka through DESINE-Lab@RISD. The larger effort focuses on the northern region of the island and the reconstruction and refugee resettlement process following the country’s three-decade civil war. While the material produced in the course is a critical component of the larger effort and there will be DESINE-Lab members running workshops in conflict-impacted areas in the weeks prior to Wintersession, this travel course will NOT be going to the north of the country.

Course Credits: 3 studio credits, 3 credits available for ISP

India: Creating an Archive
: Michael Buhler-Rose, Critic of Photography, RISD

Untitled1 copyThis course will take place partially on the RISD campus and partially in Vrndavana, India. Students will learn the art of creating photographic archive to document place. They will also spend time going through the theoretical and political ramifications of photographing another culture other than their own. Special attention will be given to the western eye on the east.

Studio Credits: Confirm with Registrar

Information Sessions for the Course:
Monday, September 30th, 12 pm and 6:30pm, RISD Design Center, room 315
Monday, October 14th, 12 pm and 6:30pm, RISD Design Center, room 315

Shoe Design in Italy

Instructors: Khipra Nichols, Professor of Industrial Design and Kathleen Grevers, Critic of Apparel at RISD

shoe copy

Students of each discipline will travel to galleries, studios and factories in Turin, Milan,
and Florence, learning traditional and hi-tech design processes that apply to Shoe Design. The goal of the course is for students to practice techniques of shoe design as a product that exists midway between the realms of Apparel and Industrial Design. They will also experience the intersection of creative perspectives and approaches from each discipline. The rich design culture of Italy, and Da Vinci’s seven principles of creativity, will serve as inspiration and guide. Each student will actively explore their observations and nurture their evolving design process through journaling and interactive dialogue. Students work will be professionally photographed, and the course will conclude at RISD with a final Exhibition/Crit.
Note: The course will spend the first and last weeks of RISD, with 3 weeks spent throughout Northern Italy.

Studio Credits: 6 credits

WS Italy Shoe Design Information Sessions
October 2nd ~ 10:30am
October 22nd ~ 5:30pm
ID Building 6th floor


Instructor: Anna Strickland, Senior Critic in RISD’s Photography Department

Over a period of five weeks, students will come to know well the magnificent city of Paris with its abundant museums, significant architecture, atmospheric parks and intimate cafes.  Paris and its environs will be the catalyst for inspiring students of all levels of photography to begin or to continue to develop technical skills and to explore personal visions. In discussions on the work of past and contemporary photographers, in group critiques which investigate Alearning how to see and how to create “good” photographs, and in individual meetings, students are encouraged to respond in unique ways to photographic problems.  Using black and white film and the 35mm camera as the primary tools for employing the visual language of art, students will process film and print in the well‑appointed and maintained facility of the Photography Studies in France.  The PSF building is located in the 11th arrondisement of Paris near the Bastille. In addition, field trips outside the city will introduce students to the countryside, as well as afford further photographic opportunities. Independent study in photography in Paris is sure to impact on the creative life of a student at any level of photography in immeasurable ways!

Credits: 6

Information sessions:
Wednesdays at 5PM in Rm. 308 Design Center October 2, 9, and 16.

Mindful Making in Japan: Contemplative Practice, Creativity & Clay

Instructor: Kelli Rae Adams

Japan offers a unique laboratory to study both by observation and hands-on experience the influence of culture, geography, and geology on the growth and development of material art. The focus will be ceramics.

The six-week experience is essentially divided into two distinctly different but related parts, each of which provides a structured learning environment with very particular outcomes: The first part of the course will essentially concentrate on the development of a personal sketchbook / journal through a temple stay and visits to contemporary and historical sites of production and studios in central Japan. Important architectural sites, both old and new, from Okayama to Kyoto and Nara will be visited. An interim review of the sketchbooks will concentrate on the interpretation of the accumulated drawings from each student into a spatial object or objects to be fired in the Kilns of the Kuramaki Studio in central Nara Prefecture. Although this process will be the focus of the latter part of the Wintersession there will be ample opportunity for further visits in the historically significant region surrounding the studio.The course will culminate with a documented exhibition of the “Clay in Japan”, in Japan.Permission of instructor required.Estimated travel cost: This course has significant fees for travel and academic expenses which will be listed as soon as they are available. The entire fee must be paid at the time of registration which will be held between October 10 and October 31, 2013.

Studio credits: 3

Information session: Monday, October 14, 2013 at 7:30pm in Metcalf, Room 314.

MEXICO: Renewable Resources for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Silvia Acosta

In Mexico the sun is unrelenting. For most regions there are two seasons: dry and wet. The rains arrive like an explosion. In some regions there are strong winds. With sun and water there is earth, elements with which the native people have spent time trying to synchronize. This culture values “community” in its towns, public institutions and civic spaces. Working and socializing together is a key component of society and has a basis in the strong ties formed within the family.

The architecture of “wall” has a distinct presence. Buildings tend to face inward, and so does life turns inward. The patio, a void, the soul of the house, is enclosed but opened to the sky. The thickness of the walls, their clean lines and vivid colors create basic volumes filled with light and shadow. Water, sky and plant life collaborate and nurture serenity and inner-outdoor life. A cultivated plot of soil, the garden not only has fruit trees and edible plants—squashes, beans, peppers and corn—but also spices for seasoning and medicinal plants.

For several decades now the concepts of ecology and sustainability have invaded all areas of our life. In the field of architecture significant changes and developments are evolving and we need to look closely at guidelines for building responsibly. This studio offers an opportunity to engage the objectives of economy, alternative material applications, and construction strategies exploring ways to achieve beauty and function in a self-sufficient architecture.

Design Studio Proposal + Drawing Exploration

The studio investigation aims to find synergies among natural resources and the employment of local materials in the development of an architectural proposal for the growing perimeter of San Miguel de Allende. The full five weeks of Wintersession will take place in Mexico.

The product of individual explorations will take form by way of drawing—measured as well as free hand. This does not preclude the possible inclusion of models and other two and three-dimensional instruments. Sometimes from memory of the day’s experiences, from observations made on site, or from working out spatial ideas, drawing captures and possesses the sensations of particular places/times in some form later retrievable. In this sense, drawing embodies loose fragments of a mind’s journey and lived place/time crossings. Participants will use drawing, modeling, and observation to understand the conditions of the place. Based upon the conclusions drawn, a design proposal will be developed.

Instructor permission is required to register for this course to ensure that applying students meet the pre-requisites in addition to being able to successfully undertake a 6-credit design studio while traveling abroad. Undergraduate students will be considered at the discretion of the instructor for a 3-credit option should there be additional space in the course.

4 Responses to Wintersession Travel 2014

  1. Adrienne says:

    There is no trip to Japan this year?

  2. Jun says:

    It shows that the registration for WS 2014 will open on October 15 and runs through October 30. Will I be able to register via webadvisor? Should I have an interview before registering? How does this work? I’m a third year undergrad in architecture.

    • risdoip says:

      Students should attend the info session for the course. There they will receive an add/drop form. The add/drop form should be taken to the registrar’s office where the student will pay for the course in full. If you can’t make it to the info session or have missed it for some reason, you should contact the professor or the registrar for more information.

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