Students headed to Venice to explore international issues in urbanism

Faculty-led workshops take students into streets of Venice for on-the-ground study

Aerial view of the old town island of Venice and its surrounding lagoons. Canal Grande in the center of the photo. Taken from a balloon.

Aerial view of the old town island of Venice and its surrounding lagoons. 

Nearly two dozen students head to Venice next week for a two-week study abroad program that will take them into the streets of Italy's city of canals. With more than 75 site visits planned, students will investigate issues in urbanism of international significance, including historic preservation and adaptive reuse, tourism and economic development, and the dynamics of public space and urban ecologies.

The experience will conclude on August 18 with a workshop at the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale that considers the role of industrial cities in the Great Lakes Region of the U.S. in generating new forms of civic agency. 

Unstately: Bottom-up and Middle-out Practices

Workshop at the U.S. Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale | August 18

Read more about the workshop at the U.S. Pavilion

Examining the role of the inhabitant, as designer, as researcher and as activist, "Unstately" will discuss practices that contribute to place through the unstately acts of citizenship involved in bottom-up and middle-out approaches. Engaging students with nonprofit leaders in Venice, will provoke conversation new forms of citizen agency, across multiple scales and for issues economic, social and ecological. The school's documentary film "See It Through Buffalo," currently being screened in Venice as part of the Time Space Existence exhibition, will serve as a discussion prompt.  

"Unstately" is organized by UB architecture faculty members Greg Delaney, Joyce Hwang, Julia Jamrozik, Erkin Özay and Nicholas Rajkovich, urban planning faculty member Kerry Traynor, and urban planning PhD student Camden Miller. 

In particular the workshop considers the role of industrial cities in the Great Lakes region, which have been forced to devise new ways to address legacy economic, social, and environmental issues. Drawing on experience from living and working in the region, this workshop will explore three emerging dimensions of citizenship:

  • Prompted by the influx of refugees, “Rust Belt cosmopolitanism” has emerged as a framework for weak market cities to reach out to the world through minor institutional networks
  • The provision of infrastructure from public spaces to public art by nonprofits, citizen groups and individuals faced with depleted public amenities and government-led initiatives
  • “Citizen science” spurred by the lack of action on government on such issues as climate change

Exploring the city

August 6-13, 2018 | Organized by Greg Delaney

Read more about the Exploring the city tour

Clinical assistant professor of architecture Greg Delaney will lead the first week of the program, leading students on a whirlwind tour of the city and its urban fabric. Featuring more than 50 site visits to Venetian landmarks, the tour includes exhibits at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale and two days of open travel for students to explore surrounding areas on their own.

Students will of course experience first-hand the school's documentary film "See It Through Buffalo," being screened in Venice at the Time Space Existence exhibition. Delaney served as director of the film, produced with Buffalo's Paget Films and with support from faculty and students across the school. 

Learn more about "See It Through Buffalo"

"See It Through Buffalo" is the School of Architectue and Planning's documentary film on the relationship between the school and the urban landscapes of Buffalo. It is being screened in Venice, Italy, as part of the Time Space Existence exhibition in the context of the Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibition runs through Nov. 25, 2018.

Sustainable tourism in Venice

August 14-15, 2018 | Organized by Kerry Traynor, Camden Miller

Read more about the sustainable tourism scavenger hunt

Tourism in Venice.

Tourists outnumber residents three to one in Venice. Image from the cover of “If Venice Dies,” by Salvator Settis. (New Vessel Press)

Urban planning professor Kerry Traynor and Camden Miller, a PhD student in urban and regional planning at UB, will lead a "48-hour challenge" to consider the impact of tourism on the historic city, where tourists outnumber residents three to one. Exploring neighborhoods and commercial districts, students will assess gentrification, quality of living conditions, and the physical, cultural and social layers of the city's urban fabric. 

The two-day challenge includes a "scavenger hunt" of the city to assess the availability and costs of essential goods and services for residents, as part of their exploration of tourism's impact on native Venetians. 

Accompanying students on one day will be Marco Casagrande, author of "Heritage, Tourism, and Demography in the Island City of Venice: Depopulation and Heritagisation" in Urban Island Studies in 2016. Students will also conduct an intensive site study of Ospedale al Mare, which has been proposed for adaptive reuse as a tourism destination.

Mapping the city

August 16, 2018 | Organized by Nicholas Rajkovich, Joyce Hwang

Read more about this manual mapping exercise

Lazaretto Nuovo, Venice, Italy.

Lazaretto Nuovo, a small island in the Venetian lagoon, is an abandoned 15th century quarantine island. Photo courtesy of Lazzaretto Nuovo

Using only hand-held tools, students will create their own maps and design interpretations of the following landmarks and spaces in and around Venice.

This workshop is being directed by Nicholas Rajkovich, UB assistant professor of architecture, and Joyce Hwang, associate professor and associate chair of architecture at UB.

Formal and informal public space

August 17, 2018 | Organized by Julia Jamrozik

Read more about this drawing/mapping study of Via Giuseppe Garibaldi

Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.

An aerial view of Via Giuseppe Garibaldi in Venice; the public way is a former canal that was drained in 1808. 

Julia Jamrozik, an assistant professor of architecture at UB, will lead a drawing/mapping study of Via Giuseppe Garibaldi as a public space that brings together people from various walks of life and has various conditions and adjacencies. The street was formerly a canal, which was drained in 1808. 

Students will diagram and map the public space and the way that people use it through different diagramming and drawing conventions as a way of understanding what makes people stay, and what makes people move and in what ways.

The second part of the workshop will introduce students to the nonprofit design agency Microclima and its "Il Giardino dei Bambini Non Accompagnati," a public space project located by the Serra dei Giardini. Engaging in discussion with artist Alessanda Messali, students will refine their drawings on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and discuss formal versus informal interventions in public space as opportunities to create moments of generosity for members of the public.

On Openness and Hospitality

August 17, 2018 | Organized by Erkin Özay

Read more about this exercise of Venice as a provisional context

Fondaco dei Turchi, 1870s – Photo by: Carlo Naya (Wikimedia commons -

Fondaco dei Turchi, 1870s – Photo by: Carlo Naya (Wikimedia commons -

Architectural theorists such as Massimo Cacciari and Vittorio Gregotti framed Venice as the city of conflict and ambiguity, rejecting the anachronistic view projected by many observers. As a mayor and architect, respectively, they sought to embrace and reveal the incompleteness of the city, and emphasize Venice’s ability to enable representations of the larger world within it.

Led by Erkin Özay, UB assisant professor of architecture, this workshop will take place in specific sites that challenge unified narratives of Venice as a provisional context: the Fontego dei Turchi, Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, Saffa Housing, and Sacca San Girolamo. Through short readings, discussions, and sketching exercises, the students will have an opportunity to critically reflect on their experiences and understanding of Venice.