November 22, 2021 Interior Architecture Students Collaborate with Studio in Romania

This fall, 2nd-year Interior Architecture students are collaborating with students in an Interior Architecture studio across the world in Romania, and together, they are breaking cultural barriers and building connections.

gunpowder tower

The studios’ focus is collaboratively designed proposals, in conjunction with second-year Interior Architecture students from Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism (UAUIM) in Bucharest. This three-week project explores conceptual ideation for a maker and retail space, housed a 16th-century German Saxon Gunpowder Guild Tower (Turnul Pulberăriei) in Sibiu (Transylvania) Romania. Main areas of investigation concentrate on how to lightly intervene in a landmark building yet develop an experientially-rich interior architectural volume.

After individually designing co-op spaces in Knoxville, UT students began virtually collaborating with their Romanian counterparts to design a community retail craft space in the medieval tower. They began by researching the cultural contexts for artists in Tennessee and Transylvania and then applied the experiences to the design projects.

“Our collaboration with the university in Romania was an experience that I have never had before,” said Shelby Parsons, a UT student. “I think I can speak for both the Americans and the Romanians that we have learned so much from working with one another. There were challenges with language barriers, time-zone differences and different design techniques. Overall, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Alexandru Budulan, a second-year student in Romania, added “It was an amazing opportunity for us to understand other people’s culture and adapt to their style of getting things done and learn their manner to express themselves architecturally. Overall, given the things we all learned and the unique and completely new way of working we were able to develop, it was an amazing experience we all would try again anytime.”

Through the studio, students are being exposed to different styles of teaching, culture and perspectives that influence their design projects. In the U.S., students are led by Assoc. Professor Liz Teston, and in Romania, students are led by Dr. Oana Diaconescu, Assoc. Professor PhD. of the Faculty of Interior Architecture at UAUIM. Learn more about Romania.

rendering of inside of tower

“This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with international designers, learn about adaptive reuse of interior architecture and prepare for potential future international travel with the School of Interior Architecture,” said Teston.

The Romanian studio was composed of 67 students, so a mixed-team approach with the U.S. students was undertaken. The site posed many challenges for the students because of the historical aspects to be considered with preservation and repurposing.

“The students treated this argument with great maturity and professional seriousness, as can be seen within the final solutions,” Diaconescu said. “The interaction with American students opened some new perspective of debate for them: the definition of a contemporary architectural form in a historical volume with interdictions, the study of the limit of materials and the introduction of the computer graphics between the communication tools of the design process. Ideas sharing, concept debates and group dialogue were just some of the transversal skills that our students have acquired through this exercise. We will be delighted to continue together these international didactic experiments that gave us the chance to achieve an insight knowledge of the two cultures.”

The unique collaboration actually started in 2018, when Teston served as a Fulbright Scholar to Romania. She traveled in Bucharest for seven months and served as part of the Interior Architecture faculty at UAUIM. There, she taught a course that focused on urban spaces and the way people use them and continued her research on interiority as a human-scaled issue.


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