Lebanese American University


Architecture & Interior Design students expand their horizons in exploratory visits to New York and Nordic countries

115 architecture students experience how the design of buildings and spaces influence the urban experience of a city’s residents through four separate traveling studios.

Four distinct travelling studios saw 115 LAU students visit, discuss and evaluate the work of internationally renowned architects and experience how the design of buildings and spaces influence the urban experience of a city’s residents.

“Travelling is important. You can perceive things through research and media, but the experience is totally different when you actually see it,” says LAU visiting professor Erhard Schütz, who took 27 students on a 10-day trip to New York City.

“We took advantage of the LAU Academic Center in New York to incorporate a three-day workshop into the trip,” says Schütz, for whom the travelling studio was a step toward offering LAU students the opportunity of spending a semester studying in New York. To learn about different approaches to the study of architecture the group visited academic institutes like Parsons The New School for Design, Pratt Institute, Cooper Union and Cornell University, as well as places of interest throughout the city. Schütz also held a hands-on workshop with fellow faculty member and architect Aseel Honein.

In New York at the same time was Karim Fakhry, full time architect and part time LAU faculty member. Divided into small groups, 34 students accompanied Fakhry, along with his colleague Richard Saab on a special trip around New York. “They were then asked to produce a film about a certain space,” says Fakhry. who went on to explain his choice of assignment, “It’s a new way of designing, by exploring space through the camera. To be able to transmit special concepts through film, you have to be able to understand, analyze and observe.”

Fakhry had himself made short films as a student and was very pleased with the results. “The students were themselves surprised at how well they developed during the studio. Some films were educational, others more experimental, but each built on one of the themes we visited during the trip.”

The theme-based schedule included a day that focused on memory, during which Fakhry and the students visited the September 11th memorial. “In Lebanon we are very detached from the whole notion of memory. We have no memorials, we escape everything that reminds us of the past, so this visit was very interesting for the students.”

The other two trips focused on Scandinavia. The ‘Nordic Lights’ travelling studio was headed by Interior Design faculty Sophie Khayat and Yasmina Chami. “We first visited Finland, where our tour of three cities concentrated on the work of renowned architect Alvar Aalto. After which we travelled to Sweden by ferry and Denmark by train building a bridge from his 20th to the 21st century works,” explains Khayat.

The program, she adds, was enriching in many ways. “Spending time in welfare states and discovering what it means socially, economically and politically was a discovery for the students.”

One evening, Khayat’s group met with the other group of students who had, with faculty member David Aouad, travelled to Copenhagen for their 10-day studio abroad. “Our studio was simply named ‘Biking in Copenhagen’ as we didn’t use any other mode of transport throughout the trip,” explained Aouad, who developed the concept after spending some time cycling with the students during his travelling studio to Helsinki the previous year.

“The travelling studio is not only about landmarks but about discovering cultures and this is best experienced by living the way the locals do,” explained Aouad. “Cycling is used as a mode of transport in Denmark, unlike in Lebanon where it is a leisure activity. It was inspiring for the students to discover and experience the urban environment of another culture.”


LAU Architecture students took New York City by storm, visiting monuments, art schools and other places of interest.


The traveling studio in New York was a step toward offering students the chance to spend a semester there.


The ‘Nordic Lights’ travelling studio took students to Finland, Sweden and Denmark.


The theme-based schedule included a day that focused on memory, introducing students to the concept of architecture as a shrine to a common history.


The traveling studio ‘Biking in Copenhagen’ was designed to teach culture as the locals live it. Bicycles are a serious form of transportation in Denmark, just as they are considered a leisure activity in Lebanon.


Going beyond architecture, the program was able to show students what welfare states are like socially, politically and economically.


One of the studios toured three cities in Finland to concentrate on the work of renowned architect Alvar Aalto.


Students in New York were asked to produce short films. Some were educational, others more experimental, but each touched on a theme from the trip.


In total, the four traveling studios gave 115 LAU students the opportunity to visit, discuss and evaluate the work of internationally renowned architects, and experience for themselves how the design of buildings and spaces influence the urban experience of a city’s residents.


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