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Rensselaer Design Professors, Students Tour Germany’s Most Innovative Buildings — and Processes

By KMS109
Mar 28, '24 12:31 PM EST

Architect-educator Lonn Combs says collaboration skills among students in architecture and engineering is a key to success. That’s why a group tour for 12 RPI engineering and architecture students to Germany this May won’t just look into innovative buildings and structures as they stand complete—it will also reveal the ways their designers used collaboration, tools, and integrated disciplines to achieve breakthrough, often spectacular results.

Along with award-winning architect Lonn Combs, AIA, FAAR, who is fluent in German from his time spent working there, the noted engineering faculty member Julia Carroll and visiting structures professor James Richardson, PE, PhD have curated this international exchange of ideas to benefit aspiring students in the engineering and architecture programs at globally acclaimed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York.

RPI’s Bedford Traveling Workshop, guiding the students—six in architecture, and six in engineering—through a 10-day tour of masterworks in three German cities, bringing them up close to the world-famous processes behind them, uncovering how they succeeded. They include:

o   Frankfurt’s Städel Museum and MyZeil shopping mall.
o   Stuttgart’s Buga Wood Pavilion, Killesbergturm (Killesberg Tower), and Stuttgart Station.
o   Zürich’s Swiss National Museum, the Zürich Law Library, and Le Corbusier Pavilion.

The traveling program is part of the RPI’s Bedford Architecture/Engineering initiatives, which “aim to create meaningful cross-disciplinary experiences that address the increasing complexity and rising expectations for building performance and design.”

Dr. Richardson, who is RPI’s Bedford Visiting Professor, helped lead the same annual traveling workshop last year with Combs, traveling to Belgium and the Netherlands. He is also an accomplished structural engineer and expert in the fields of structural and material computational mechanics, and currently principal of One Hermitage, an engineering firm in New York City. Dr. Julia Carroll is a senior lecturer in RPI’s department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, specializing in structural engineering. She previously worked as a bridge engineer and is known for high-level work in topology optimization, structural health monitoring, sustainability, and engineering education.

“One of the best ways to inspire creative thought and collaboration is by encouraging dialogues among architecture and engineering students with profound, memorable first-hand experiences,” says Combs, a winner of the Rome Prize in Architecture from the American Academy in Rome and a specialist in innovative, highly sustainable architecture. “This traveling workshop reinforces the knowledge building and global perspectives that students need to advance their own work so we are building with the best possible means and methods in future generations.”

RPI’s international Bedford Traveling Workshop includes seminars, visits to acclaimed architectural projects and construction sites with the architects and engineers behind the works. Collaborative design sessions are also held, aimed at fostering interdisciplinary perspectives. Past workshops have also included tours to Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) and to Hong Kong and China (Shanghai and Shenzhen).