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Spring Travel Courses

All currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply.

2023 Spring Travel Course Offerings

Łukasz Stanek | lustanek@umich.edu

Exhibition Workshop: The Gift of Architecture

Location(s): Germany, Switzerland

Workshop participants will travel to Germany and Switzerland to develop the exhibition concept for the forthcoming show The Gift of Architecture at the Museum of Architecture in Munich, co-curated by Łukasz Stanek. This exhibition focuses on buildings gifted since WWII on four continents, and studies how the dynamics of gift-giving impacted their design, construction, and everyday uses. The course will be divided into three parts. During the reading sessions (online), students will discuss the case studies of the exhibition. During a one-week workshop in Munich, students will work with their peers from the Technical University in Munich and develop the exhibition strategy, the concept of the narrative, and the exhibition catalogue. The workshop will end with a three-day trip to Switzerland (Zurich, Basel), including visits to an architectural office which designed gifted buildings. This workshop will build upon but be intendent from the WS ’23 elective The Gift of Architecture.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Adam Miller & Leah Wulfman | adambmil@umich.edu, lwulfman@umich.edu

Improper Japan

Location(s): Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Osaka 

The class will travel to Japan for several weeks to investigate what it means when a minor aesthetic term becomes a dominant aesthetic marker in a culture. We will investigate and expand the space between cuteness (kawaii), and its counterpart scariness (kowai) by collecting toys and props on our bullet train trip from Tokyo, to Yokohama, Kyoto, and Osaka. By collecting these various props, students will come to design a bath, wash, tea or udon house which complicates ‘proper’ narratives of space, time, identity, and purity. Class will take place from May 6 to May 22, for 17 days in Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Osaka) with the remainder of the coursework completed remotely.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Jonathan Rule | jonrule@umich.edu

Community by Design

Location(s): United Kingdom

Community by Design will focus on the development of post war social housing in London. After the second World War, cities across Europe began to address the welfare of their population with housing being an important component. In London, the Borough of Camden became an experimental field for low-rise high-density development under the guide of city architect Sydney Cook. Cook’s Camden provides an example of over thirty cutting edge social housing projects developed in the 60’s 70’s. This spring travel course will take students to see and document some of these projects, explore historical archives at RIBA and curate and immersive experience through the medium of extended realities. The course will also engage the University of Portsmouth who will provide additional resources for the work carried out as well as access to their Center for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality. The trip will also include a few days in Scotland to visit world renowned works from Charles Mackintosh and others.

Course Brief
Video Description

Stratton Coffman | stratt@umich.edu

Get in Touch

Location(s): Los Angeles, California & Mexico City, Mexico

Get in Touch is a traveling performance-based course that engages touch as a medium for speculation. We will visit multiple sites in Los Angeles and Mexico City where heterogeneous materials assemble and where we are invited to touch architectural stuff in surprising, unsettling ways. So much labor, money, and intelligence is expended in the discipline to dictate how things touch and what things are permitted to touch. Construction practices and building codes codify the coming-together of materials into standard assemblies, while legalities and other codes of behavior script how we touch the built world. Certain modes of touching are avoided, because of the risk entailed or discomfort produced. But are there other possibilities in unscripted, or differently scripted, touching? Drawing on performance art practices and theory, participants will compile dossiers of odd material touching, devise new joining methods, and stage and document touch-ups and acts of touching.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Alina Nazmeeva | nazmeeva@umich.edu

MINE / CRAFT: Landscapes of Data

Location(s): Chile: Santiago, San Pedro De Atacama, Atacama Desert

This travel course invites the students to research and map the links and frictions between the indigenous cosmologies of the Atacama desert and the virtual world(s) of the internet. Over the course of 7 weeks we will study the sites of mining, or extraction, of raw materials and data and crafting, of knowledge, narratives and landscapes. We will observe the internet infrastructures that overlap and fold over the desert ecosystems, indigenous territories, cosmologies, and ways of life.   During our trip to Santiago and Atacama desert, we will learn from local populations and indigenous peoples, explore the desert ecosystem, the mountains and ayllus. We will visit data centers, lithium mining sites and observatories and conduct interviews with the communities protesting them. We will spend several days hiking in the desert.   As an outcome of the studio, you are invited to produce a cosmological or actor-network diagram,or a map, that traces social, technological, and political frictions, the entangled and overlaid histories and cosmologies of the Atacama desert. You are welcome to deconstruct, prototype, and design cosmologies that embrace complexity and plurality of ecological, technical and social systems, virtual and physical worlds, living, inanimate and animated beings.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Matthew Claudel | Matthew.Claudel@gmail.com

Transforming the Built Environment

Location(s): The Netherlands: Amsterdam

How can architects, designers and planners fundamentally transform the built environment? In this studio, we will design physical things, but emphasize the user experiences and invisible systems that make those things sticky, scalable and transformative. Each of us will choose an urban system (such as energy, waste, agriculture, housing) and analyze the “operating system” behind it. In Amsterdam we will experience new and alternative operating systems, discovering how they give rise to very different hardware (buildings, technologies) and software (user experiences). Returning to the US, we will collaboratively design a city block in Detroit. A game-based challenge framework will require us to negotiate, layer, and interconnect each of our projects, producing not only design schema but also a strategic plan for bringing it to life. This studio will augment your architecture, urban planning and urban design capacity with a new design vocabulary: UX and strategic design.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Anna Mascorella | amasco@umich.edu

Fascist Rome: Manipulating History

Location(s): Italy: Rome

This travel course gives students the opportunity to be embedded in Rome for four weeks. The course examines the history of Rome’s urban transformations from antiquity to the present through the lens of the Fascist regime’s redesign of the city (1920s-30s). Moving backwards and forwards across time, we will explore how the regime’s interventions manipulated the historical layers of Rome’s built environment, from the city center to the peripheries. We will also consider the legacies of these interventions. Issues of demolition and reuse, restoration and appropriation, nationalism and imperialism, and displacement and migration will guide our study of the regime’s manipulation of the city’s urban form. Grounded in the careful analysis of Rome’s built environment via on-site lectures, site visits, and walking tours, photography will be the main method through which we will chart our explorations of the city. The final project will be a virtual exhibition of these images.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Laura Marie Peterson | laurapet@umich.edu

Desert Studio: A Roadtrip Through Land Use, Art, Architecture and Infrastructure in the Changing Southwest

Location(s): USA: Southwest United States

Architecture produces environments and simultaneously environments produce architecture. Desert Studio is an exploration of the cultural and power dynamics that form ideas around material, memory and place and in turn how memory, material and place inform environments. Across time and through objects and spaces big and small, Desert Studio is a wild ride into the historical intertwinings of politics, land use, and representation of the southwestern United States. Adopting the model of the road trip, Desert Studio asks participants to contemplate the relationships between the changing landscapes and perceptions around them visited en route. Road-tripping across the desert, participants will kick off their journey in Las Vegas, Nevada, and finish the trip in El Paso, Texas 18 days later. Pit Stops include desert landscapes, utopian architectures, mining and military sites, art installations and some of the oldest indigenous architecture sites in the United States.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Salam Rida | srida@umich.edu

Hot Topic

Location(s): Greece: Athens

The evolving challenge of developing sustainable solutions for our future is associated with climate change, social inequality, and adaptation to rapid global economic changes. Global and local sustainability design solutions require strengthening the multidisciplinary approach between architecture, our environment, and policy. Through this study abroad course students will work towards  integrating analytic and systemic thinking into critical problem-solving that develops a holistic understanding of complex situations  new approaches to reach collaborative solutions based on ecological, economical, and socio-cultural sustainability at the municipal level enhance creative problem-solving capabilities that utilizes the methods of the design process in defining the problem, generating ideas and obtaining solutions.  In the end this studio will examine how Athen’s local government is combating climate change and unpack how cities are primed to be the governing bodies in our global society that can advance sustainable design strategies.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

John Wagner | johndwag@umich.edu

Casas, Construction y Comunidad: Autonomous Housing Construction in Mexico

Location(s): Mexico: Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Querearo and Guanajao

This travel course invites students to Mexico to investigate the possibilities of affordable housing through methods and practices of autonomous, self-built construction of housing.  This course invites students to study the potentials of this affordable housing model by investigating the situated context of San Miguel, MX, a city that is suffering from housing crisis, as wealthy remote working foreigners descend on the historic city, exacerbating the gentrification of the area, and as internationally financed speculative housing creates vast ghost towns of vacant neighborhoods in it's periphery.  Students will explore different communities auto-constructed by their residents and underwritten by Infonavit, the Mexican Federal Institute for Workers' Housing, and learn from the organization on how their public program is helping facilitate wealth creation and raising millions of families out of poverty. We will study the vibrant design and construction culture of Mexico, and learn from topics of indigenous and traditional building methods such as adobe, to novel applications of industrialized materials and methods of construction.

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording

Neal Robinson | rbneal@umich.edu

[Into the] WOOD(s)

Location(s): 3 Lines:  1: Vancouver to San Francisco. 2: Ann Arbor to Chicago (up and over - the long way around) 3: Savannah to Tulsa via Okefenokee Swamp

[Into the] WOOD(s) proposes an up close, experiential read of wood ecologies as material and phantom fuel for both historical and projected building strategies.  The studio will pair arboreal species with place and practice and has the expressed intention of tracing each species's production, cultivation, and dissemination via its dissected and re-membered utilities. We will look at the thing (tree) and the shadow of the thing (not tree) while standing in shade (treed).   Via air, airboat, automobile, rail, zip-line, and on foot, our shared experiences will cover over 4,000 miles in 2 (maybe 3) stages. We will meet managers, makers, farmers, and caretakers of each meta-ecology and sit down with Native American historians, prominent gastronomes, pit-masters, distillers, forest rangers, plant bosses, architects, shade tree mechanics, storytellers, snakes, and very large saws. Exemplary regional architects and craftspersons' parallel work will complement and distract our trail. Post-travel, we will produce a series of high-quality, speciated documents as the beginnings of a new, wood(en) library.

Course Brief
Info Session Recording

Torri Smith | smtorri@umich.edu

A Tale of Two Zoos: Decolonizing the Defunct Zoo through the Reimagining of the Functional “Zoo”

Location(s): USA: Detroit + Royal Oak (Michigan), Denver (Colorado) and San Diego (California)

‘A Tale of Two Zoos’ Studio will be investigating the relationships between the defunct and functioning zoo. This Public Design Corp project-based studio will be centering itself around the analysis, co-creation and reimagining of the future of the zoo. Animals kept in captivity have continuously faced a multitude of hardships including living within conditions that ‘badly affect their quality of life and expected lifespans’ (The Conversation). How can we as designers and architects begin to question and challenge the standards of collective care and maintenance surrounding the ‘modern day zoo’? This studio will also be taking a critical look at the zoos inherent extractive colonial agenda, and the recurring narrative of ‘human dominance over nature through the collection of specimens of knowledgeable societies and conquering of animals (and people). This studio will be centered locally in both Detroit + Royal Oak in partnership with the Detroit Zoo; with travel to (2) additional nationally recognized zoos. This studio will run from Monday, May 15th to Monday, June 5th (approximately 3 weeks).

Course Brief
Video Description
Info Session Recording


The spring travel courses are available to all U-M undergraduate architecture students as well as all graduate students during the spring or summer half term. These international travel courses are an essential part of Taubman College's course offerings, granting students the prospect of visiting other countries while gaining access to facilities, groups and individuals that might otherwise be closed to them. The college has established partnerships and faculty exchanges with other architecture programs around the world in order to promote a global cross-cultural exchange. Courses are selected, organized, and directed by individual faculty members who have an interest in a particular country, region, or city. This diversity of interests leads courses not just to the traditional locations of Europe but to the villages and global cities of the developing world-and provides each group of students with exciting and unique educational, research, and service opportunities. More than a quarter of the students enroll in travel abroad courses during their study. 

"Prior to entering the University of Michigan the only cities I had visited in my 22 years of life were San Diego and Cancun. After entering the University of Michigan in just 2 years I had visited Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Essen, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Paris, Caen, and Barcelona. I have been so fortunate."

Jonathan Hanna, B.S. ’15 and MUD ’16

"Traveling to Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Manila exposed me to an unimaginable collection of intense interactions between the human, architecture, and the city. We can read, discuss, and study images of these urban conditions remotely, but it is not until you step foot into these spaces that you really internalize the amazingly diverse ways in which human life operates within built space."

Henry Peters B.S.’ 18

"Being able to experience the architecture in Italy that I've studied in history is invaluable. I was able to learn from the masters through observing and touching the real thing."

Aimee Wolf B.S.’ 16, M.Arch. ’18

To get a more of a visual impression of what these courses are like, view images from our travel courses on social media. Please check out #taubmantravel on Instagram.

Past Travel Course Offerings


  • Living Structures: Urban, Rural, and Natural Environments on the Pacific Coast - Peter De Yi
  • Mexico City - Yojairo Lomeli



  • Chile with Liz Gálvez
  • Italy with Brittany Utting and Daniel Jacobs
  • Mexico and Cuba with Laida Aguirre
  • Netherlands, Germany, and Russia with Peter Yi
  • United States with Jeffrey Halstead


  • Australia and New Zealand with Neal Robinson
  • Georgia, Armenia, and Ukraine with Ashley Bigham
  • Germany and USA (Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago) with Maria Arquero de Alarcon and Claudia Wigger
  • Germany, Switzerland, and France with Viola Ago
  • Japan with Peter Halquist
  • Mexico City with Yojairo Lomeli
  • Morocco, Algeria, and France with Brittany Utting
  • Portugal, Spain, Morocco, France, and Italy with Dawn Gilpin
  • Venice, Milan, Vienna, Prague and Berlin with Laida Aguirre
  • Paris, Geneva, and Venice with Sandra Manninger and Matias del Campo
  • Sri Lanka with Jono Sturt and Laura Anne Wong
  • New Mexico with Sarah Rovang
  • USA: Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and California with Jeff Halstead


  • Mexico and Cuba with Dawn Gilpin and Yojairo Lomeli  |  Travel Blog
  • Japan with Peter Halquist |  Travel Blog
  • Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria with Erik Herrmann |  Travel Blog
  • New Zealand and Australia with Neal Robinson |  Travel Blog
  • Rio de Janeiro and Detroit with Anya Sirota and Anne Choike

View pictures from these courses on Flickr:

Taubman Travel - 2017


  • Italy with Neal Robinson
  • Japan with Tsz Yan Ng
  • Eastern Europe with Ashley Bigham  |  Travel Blog
  • Spain with Ana Morcillo Pallarés
  • Hong Kong, Philippines, and Vietnam with Cyrus Peñarroyo  |  Travel Blog

View pictures from these courses on Flickr:

Taubman Travel - 2016


  • Brazil with Mitch McEwen
  • Turkey with Kathy Velikov
  • Singapore and Hong Kong with Claudia Wigger
  • France with Clément Blanchet
  • Mumbai with Mary-Ann Ray  |  Travel Blog
  • Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark with Peter MacKeith  |  Travel Blog
  • Thailand with François Roche

View pictures from these courses on Flickr

Taubman Travel - 2015

U-M International Center

Visit the UM International Center website for information on additional travel opportunities available to students of Taubman College.

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