In this virtual age, where access to virtual data is immense, it is very important to safeguard the study tours. Its accentuation in architecture can be precisely explained as:

 “You take delight, not in the city’s seven or seventy wonders, but the answer it gives to the question of yours”- Marco Polo in Invisible Cities by Calvino Italo

Imagine being in a box, with just 2 holes for eyes. You are kept in various enticing surroundings, but you can only see it in a limited frame, and cannot touch it, cannot feel it, cannot smell it, because you are too far. You cannot hear the people there, just look at them. And maybe ask questions, but all those answers are not your interpretations, also, you have no guarantee that the answers you are getting are accurate. This is what the exposure to only lectures and assignments and photographs does to the students. Eventually, it renders them negligent towards the actual context that matters.

Thus, Traveling is undoubtedly an inevitable part of learning architecture. Learning architecture is a process of rebirth of an individual’s perspectives and personalities. It brings us to ponder selflessly, independent of the personal inclinations, and to absorb the culture and experiences as it is, then to consider and apply it in our work. 

Architects define the transition in people’s lifestyles. It is a responsible job, to be able to achieve the ideal, subtle, and inclusive transition of the culture and the people into built spaces. It needs to be carefully experienced and lived. To be seen, touched, smelled, and felt, simultaneously. All this cannot be achieved in lectures and books. Pictures and words do not give the true sense of context and culture; instead, if not cross-referenced with reality, the glamour can paralyze senses. The exposure from travel and tours comes in as a savior here. When organized by an institution as a study tour, it allows the students to gain that experience, at the right age, so that it becomes a part of the very process of rebirth.

In this virtual age, where access to virtual data is immense, it is very important to safeguard the study tours. Its accentuation in architecture can be precisely explained as:

1. Promotes Disciplined observation

Some might say that if travel is important, why should colleges be obligated to conduct them? Why not a personal initiative from the students? Very well, But the truth is without a formal organization; those tours wouldn’t be educational. Institutionalized tours add discipline to the process of learning and growing. The crucial observations can easily be missed, if not guided properly. But with the study tours, the subconscious mind remains on its toes.

When a tour is planned with the motive of architectural learning, the students find fun in the small curves of the orders, and the interaction through the mezzanine and in its live sketching and documentations.

This is why the COA guidelines for education also acknowledges it as an important part of the curriculum in its section 5, which states that study tours shall be a part of the program and conducted every year, explaining that it helps to consolidate course contents by acquainting students not only with the professional practice but also the culture and context of the region.

2. Helps raise the right questions, with discussions with peers and faculties

While traveling, our mind wanders in all sorts of interesting thoughts, and craves to ask questions, find answers, and put forward opinions. Study tours offer this opportunity to feel free to pour their minds out, whenever they want. 

The company of like-minded peers, and experienced faculties, provides the freedom to put forward their ideas and interpretations without any hesitation, which becomes a catalyst for fruitful discussions, which eventually leads to the intense process of asking the right questions.

10 Reasons why Study tours in Architecture colleges matters- sheet1
Right question, Group Discussons; Source: ©google

3. Validates and improves the thought process.

The above two points lead to this third aspect. The mental and physical environment that a study tour offers helps the student to analyze where they stand, to scrutinize, and validate their way of approaching things. Different perspectives when bounced back and forth alter some things and freeze other things in the minds, which leads to a confident interpretation of the spaces, and elements. 

The more confident the interpretation, the more beneficial it is for one’s learning.

4.  Introduces to the importance of “context”

Every day, scrolling down the Instagram stories, we see a different combination of materials and spaces. All those look great on that 5.5-inch screen. But it is only when we visit various places, we realize that each place has its own culture, preferences, function, and materials.

Remembering one of his adventures, and astonishment at how different two places and their enclosures can be, Ar. Christoph Benninger said,” First, I came to know that the truth of architecture is ‘place’. Each place has its unique cultural history and symbols. Each place has its own milieu and ambiance. Second, I realized that architecture is poetry; architecture speaks of intangible moments of ecstasy, resonating our deepest feelings.”

Study tours bring students in contact with many different contexts, which leads them to realize the difference it brings in the architecture and culture of the place.

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Jodhpur traditional home; Source: ©Pinterest(wearetravelgirls.com)
10 Reasons why Study tours in Architecture colleges matters- sheet3
Kerela traditional home; Source: ©Pinterest (tripadvisor.in)

5. Helps to understand the user’s perspective, by witnessing it 

How beautiful it is to comb the streets, observing life in the built spaces. To realize how architecture interacts with them…

Once the context syncs in, being in any new place, urges them to observe life, and react to it. This process introduces the students to the obligations and constraints that the citizens face. This process achieves empathy in them. The low height walls used as sitting, people constantly look for shade in a lawn, the difficulty of a child to come down the stairs, and steps becoming a space to hangout.

All these little observations conclusively aid them to be able to design sensitively.

Helps to understand the user’s perspective, by witnessing it  - Sheet1
users perspective; Source: ©500px.com
Helps to understand the user’s perspective, by witnessing it  - Sheet2
users perspective; Source: ©fabforgottennobility.com

6. Exposure to Different scales of spaces.

Scale cannot be understood unless you stand within a building

A study tour provokes the vital shift from blindly following the standards to cross-checking it in reality, analyzing the margins to manipulate it as per the context.

Tour exposes the students to various typologies of spaces and allows them to read into this unsaid unwritten language of scale and proportions, understand its impact on the spaces and the user, and translate it into their understanding of design.

7. Helps to discover themselves as an architect

“People don’t know what they want unless you show it to them”- Steve Jobs

Tours show them different types of architecture. It forces them out of their comfort zone and inspires them to absorb and take risks. It calls for an inner reflection. It helps the students to recognize what relates to them the most. It brings them closer to their interests, concerns, and fascinations, which eventually help them realize their strengths and weaknesses as a designer. 

8. Memories and anecdotes become unforgettable lessons

This can best be elaborated by quoting Ar. Sanjay Mohe, from one of his interviews. While explaining the potential of experiences and memories, he gave an example,” when we design schools, I refer to a memory of our visit to Rameswaram. In one of the temple pavilions, on a hot afternoon, there was a strong breeze and we could observe a group of 25 students in the pavilion with a teacher wearing a white dhoti and a shirt and students totally immersed in learning. The students were not even aware that we were watching them. This memory and the images from this memory come to me whenever I am asked to design a school. You do not just collect images but feelings over a period of time and you build on that”

The unplanned events and observations turn into sacred memories, which stay with them. It adds emotion to the design process and thus makes it worth it.

9. Brings closer to history and historical context 

Standing under a dome, observing its form, leads to assumptions of small and significant sequences and imaginable complications, like the first stone, the transfer of load, the reflection of light, etc. Assumption paired with concepts of history creates a flashback of the construction, which leads to curious minds. Different anticipations and guesses build the experience and widen the understanding and depth of the profession they are in.

The mysterious ancient engineering, takes them back in time, visualizing the context and circumstances, thus, stumbling in love with it. The physical presence and observation, make them absorb the wholesome architecture that binds culture, function, and status in harmony.

Brings closer to history and historical context 
sketch of dome; source: ©etsy.com

10. Introduces to role models and new people to get inspired from.

Travelling is an adventure, which takes the students through different climates, surroundings, and most importantly, different people. On a tour, they come across many people, each with a different perspective of life, and spaces. Being around them and interacting with them brings enlightenment, and introduces new values into their system, which stick with them for a lifetime.

As Christopher Benninger proudly says, “Travelling knits enriching friendships, and introduces one to gurus, who expose the true personae within oneself; and new possibilities of who you can be. One learns innate truths and concepts that will be carried through a lifetime. These insights are what we call inspiration.”

Author

Mubaraka Surury Saifee is a passionate architect and writer with a keen ability to appreciate the humble gestures of architecture. She believes that there always exists more than single way of looking at things. She sees architecture and writing combined as a medium to reach people and produce some food for thought, to bring positive changes in the society.

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