The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

Colby Lee reflects on his experience in Italy

Colby Lee reflects on his experience in Italy

The Volterra program is a semester-long experience for students in the College
of Architecture + Planning to earn a full semester of credits toward their
undergraduate degree while living and working in a villa in Volterra, Italy. In
fall 2019, twelve sophomore students participated in this program. The students
and CA+P faculty director (Mimi Locher from the School of Architecture) lived
and studied in a beautifully renovated historic building within the ancient walls
of Volterra, where they became immersed in Italian culture while applying
architecture, planning, and design concepts to address local and global challenges.

“My time in Volterra encompassed many valuable learning experiences—both
academic and personal. Volterra, and the country of Italy itself, boasts some of the
most wonderful and well-known architecture. It was an honor and a privilege to be
able to see some of these marvelous structures with my own eyes. On top of that,
I was able to learn about the rich history of Italy’s architecture and the historical
context surrounding it. I very much enjoyed our architectural studio class led
by Mimi Locher. It emphasized the contextual analysis of the existing built
environment, and we learned much about the basics such as floor plans, site plans,
and site analyses, which were then reinforced and strengthened through actual
practice. In one project, we analyzed the key elements in a part of the city, such
as the existing buildings, greenspaces, natural lighting, and pedestrian footpaths,
to conceptualize the creation of a structure. Finally, we created a model in its
surrounding context using the information and conceptions we produced on our
own. From an urban ecology and planning perspective, I was greatly fascinated
by just how much architecture and urban ecology play off each other. Within
Italy and my host city, Volterra, you can see just how much society and culture
influence the architecture. I observed that social interactions in Italy seem to be up
close and personal, and the architecture and urban design reflect this fundamental
social element. Every city in Italy has a piazza, or a public square, which is
used for public gatherings and social encounters of every sort. I greatly enjoyed
engaging with a new and unfamiliar culture. I had so many enriching experiences
with the locals of the city that I will treasure deeply for the rest of my life.”