Since 1997 students at the School of Architecture have commenced their program studies in architecture and urban design by researching, analyzing, and interpreting the distinctive characteristics of the places they are most familiar with—their own hometowns. A selection of hometown maps created by students over the course of nearly 20 years is now on view in Hometown Maps: Where in the World Do Architects Come From?, located on the first floor of the Richter Library.
The exhibition includes works by six former and four current students representing various cities and towns in the United States and beyond. The maps are showcased next to an interactive digital map of the world that has been specially created by UML librarians and School of Architecture faculty as a way to view a range of students’ work by location and year, among other aspects.
“These maps engage the students’ awareness about urban planning and the development of towns through the lens of architectural, environmental, and historical features,” says Gilda Santana, who as head of UML’s Paul Buisson Architecture Library has been helping grow the Hometown Maps archive at UM Libraries Digital Collections. Currently it includes around 300 student-created maps dating back to 2004.
At the exhibition’s opening on October 6, Dean of the School of Architecture Rodolphe el-Khoury said the project is an important way of introducing students to the UM architecture program and its big-picture philosophy. “We think of architecture in an urban context and what it brings to the city rather than focusing solely on individual monuments,” he explained.
The maps are hand-drawn, a testament to the program’s continued recognition of traditional drawing skills, while students use a range of tools and resources to support accuracy in their graphic layouts. The UM Libraries Maps Collection has long been a popular resource, and several students this year consulted UML’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Lab to cull information about their hometowns such as elevation and street data.
With the archive in place, this work has the potential to inform and inspire architecture students down the road. “As each project is presented to the class, the studio learns more about the larger issues of architecture and the environment, geography, and culture, as well as something new about the perspective on place,” Santana says.
Visit Hometown Maps: Where in the World Do Architects Come From at the Otto G. Richter Library, on view through December 2015.