The money will enable Weiss, a partner in the New York architectural firm of Weiss + Reed Architects, to take a dozen undergraduate NJIT architecture students on a two-week, all-expense-paid trip to Sweden and Finland. The trip, scheduled for this coming March, will allow students to study notable examples of architecture—especially the works of 20th century architects Gunnar Asplund of Sweden and Alvar Aalto of Finland.
“The purpose of studying these buildings is to expose students to great works of architecture in a culture with a rich tradition of construction and materiality,” says Weiss. “From this trip, students will learn how materials, their composition and assembly are integral to the conception and development of buildings. Students will measure and draw details of the buildings to allow them to feel the way materials are assembled.”
Weiss will choose the undergraduate participants for the spring 2003 studio from interested fourth and fifth year NJIT architectural students. The studio project will require each student to design a chapel for Liberty State Park to memorialize the victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. “The nondenominational chapel is to be a place for public prayer for family, friends and others who want to remember the victims,” says Weiss.
Teachers at the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT have a history of using studio classes to introduce students to significant community projects. A studio class is one practical course taken during one semester in which a student studies and researches a problem, designs a solution and executes a model structure. The class typically allows students to tackle challenges they may encounter later as practicing architects. Most studio projects focus on public problems, which in turn allow students, in addition to the university, to give back something to the community. There is no fee for the service and students work under the guidance of their professors, who are notable architects.
It has not been unusual for NJIT architecture projects to evolve into community springboards, enabling towns to improve public spaces aesthetically and functionally. For example, several years ago, NJIT students designed a renovation for the Montclair Art Museum. Their project eventually became the first step toward a large-scale renovation that did take place. More recently students returned to Montclair and suggested new locations for a municipal building. Weiss hopes the Liberty State Park will also have a similar positive outcome.
Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm created by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund (1885-1940) will be one stop. Asplund created a small peaked open pavilion beneath tall, mature pine trees as a memorial in 1915. The building in Asplund’s own words was “compressed until it modestly subordinated itself, insinuated itself, into the woods. ” His partner in the projects was modern Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz (1885-1975).
Weiss and his class will also travel from Helsinki to Noormarkku, Finland to see Villa Mairea, a home designed by famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, (1898-1976). Villa Mairea is noted for its abundance of motifs, rhythms, textures and materials and its flowing space that has been compared with the limitless space of nature.
Julian Weiss has taught architectural design for the 30 years, first at Penn State University, then in undergraduate and graduate programs at Columbia University and presently in the undergraduate and graduate programs at NJIT. He received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Penn State University and his master’s degree in architecture and urban design from Columbia University. His most recent projects have included residences in New York City, Princeton, and Martha’s Vineyard.
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