(Photo by Sean Markey.)

First-year architecture majors craft small objects full of big ideas

The Norwich Record | Summer 2019

By the time they graduate, architecture majors design structures on a grand scale. But as freshmen, they start small. Kicking off the first two weeks of classes with a period of collective creativity known as CATALYST, School of Architecture + Art faculty members Cara Armstrong and Arthur Schaller challenge first-year majors with a series of small projects. One involved choosing a subject from a list of 50 historic figures, reading about their work, and creating a small shrine in an empty Altoids peppermint tin.

Diverse by design, the luminaries range from influential architects (Le Corbusier) to mathematicians and philosophers (René Descartes), urban planning critics (Jane Jacobs), artists (Leonardo da Vinci), and choreographers (Martha Graham, as seen above). The idea is to expose students to new perspectives. “There’s multiple ways of looking at architecture and thinking about architecture,” says Armstrong, herself a multifaceted architect, educator, writer, and illustrator. “Architecture really draws from everything. There’s no right answer.” On a practical level, constructing shrines lets students practice key skills. “It’s an introductory blitz to many of the tools that are used” in architecture, says Schaller. “Drawing, modeling, thinking, diagramming—everything all at once. And then we keep repeating.”


Architecture + Art at Norwich

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