April 21, 2020 Students Bridge the Gap in Gensler-Supported Studio

During spring 2020, Interior Architecture and Architecture students in Assistant Professor Rana Abudayyeh’s studio worked alongside professionals from Gensler to bridge the gap between traditional academia and applied design.

Generously supported by Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm, this groundbreaking interdisciplinary studio focused on the revitalization of existing structures for the modern era. Challenged with constructing for the future while preserving the past, students gained new insights into the relationship between design and space.

“Working with Gensler transformed us into direct users of space,” says third-year Architecture student Brendan Wallace. “We learned how concepts of space and planning become more complex when considering the former history of a space and how it is to persist when redesigning it for the future.”

Working closely with Gensler allowed students to build upon the theories and skillsets they have learned at UT while exposing them to design aspects that extend beyond a curriculum.

Four student teams produced collections of designs that address the urban futures represented in major U. S. cities, including Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Additionally, led by Abudayyeh, the team produced a studio book documenting the studio’s formation, challenges and results.

Read the full details about the groundbreaking Gensler-UT Research Studio in the publication, Urban Futures: The Gensler-University of Tennessee Research Studio (digital flipbook)

“The semester challenged us to use the concept of space to find a new resiliency in our designs,” explains fourth-year Interior Architecture student, Libby Hankal. “With the guidance of Gensler and our studio professor, we were able to push our thinking beyond the ‘box’ and use the formal language of architecture with new pliable materials and ideas to form a cohesive project that balances between the old and the new.”

What do other students from the studio think about the experience?

Even before the mandate to conduct classes remotely and online, Gensler professionals, including Robin Klehr Avia, Jordan Goldstein, JJ Rivers and Emily Latham, regularly held Zoom sessions with the students to discuss technical floor plan development and provide students with overall design support. In March, professionals, faculty from the college, students and others conducted a virtual mid-term review to great acclaim.

“Our partnership with Gensler has been beneficial on many levels,” says Abudayyeh. “The partnership encouraged innovative and sustainable design solutions cognizant that human experience is ultimately at the center of any design problem. In order to enable this collaboration, we relied on virtual exchanges with our Gensler partners early in the semester. This approach to design education assumed a different relevance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As virtual classes became the norm for everyone, our studio was well prepared to tackle this transition. I was blown away by the students’ resilience and resolve to see their projects through, and grateful to our Gensler partners who supported and guided the studio on many levels.”

Read more about this partnership in the college’s 2020 annual report (accessible PDF).

Download a student work poster from the Gensler-UT Research Studio (accessible PDF).