Rome is, in part, a special case: an Eternal City with great significance for the history of the world. But it is also an every-city, facing much the same challenges and opportunities as any other city. The high degree of scrutiny and preservation it has been given means that it gives us an especially well-documented example of how cities grow, weather, decay, and rejuvenate.

We will study Rome using three ways of seeing:

Layers – What is the physical material that makes up the city? How do different layers overlap in space?

Systems – How did those layers get there? How have flows of people and material kept the city alive?

Voices – What is the city trying to say? How does it transmit messages to people?

By studying in Rome, you follow in a long tradition of Western design study and practice. Renaissance figures like Palladio and Raphael grounded their own creative work in painstaking measurement and drawing of classical precedents.


We begin by immersive walks through the city and its environs. Working with local faculty, we gain an insider’s perspective on the past, present, and future of the area. We then settle down to understand these sites for ourselves through in-depth sketching on site. We then bring those sketches back to the studio to synthesize and finish our findings.

We work by hand for a few reasons. It enables us to work quickly to translate our impressions onto paper. It also gives us a valuable professional skill that helps us communicate our thoughts and expertise quickly and efficiently. See some of our final work here.


By the end of our time in Rome, all students will be able to:

-see the making of cities as part of broader social and environmental contexts

-understand the historical trajectories of significant traditions of form-making in buildings, landscapes, and cities

-use descriptive drawing as a tool for efficiently gathering and conveying an understanding of form

-actively synthesize experience and study through the use of sketches and measured drawings

-add hand-drawing work to their portfolio and professional accomplishments