I’ve heard often that architecture is a love for buildings. For me, it’s always been a love for people. At the end of the day, we design for people – for friends, families, and especially strangers. DSA gives us a chance to experience and learn from people all around the world. The trip to India allowed us to see first hand the impact architecture has on urban living, equity, and health in a bustling and beautiful metropolis. By participating in DSA, we are reminded of who we’re really designing for as it turns strangers into friends.

Ian Dayagbil, 4th year student, Urbanism major, DSA India winter 2017

Directed Studies Abroad (DSA)

Directed Studies Abroad (DSA) is a long tradition and an essential component of our undergraduate programs here at the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism. DSA options are most often tied to third year design studios, and to the 4th year urbanism and conservation studios.

During the winter break in February, faculty members and students travel to cities around the world. The 10 – 12 day itineraries span multiple cities, where students observe and engage in urban situations outside of Canada, visit the offices of internationally renowned architects, and document specific sites that serve as the context for their design project during the semester. Previous DSA trips have included Italy, Mexico, Myanmar and India. In the Winter of 2019, our undergraduate DSA destinations included trips to Portugal, Turkey and Japan.

2018 Undergraduate DSA: Istanbul 

DSA Istanbul  comprised a 10 day trip during which a group of 19 students and faculty, lead by Professor Ozayr Saloojee. In addition to visiting significant historical and modern sites – including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque, the group heard from a number of local experts, faculty, researchers, designers and artists about design practice in the city. This included a behind-the-scenes tour of Haydarpaşa train station (the studio project site for the 4th year urbanism students on the trip), visits to local community design organization TAK, lectures by prominent local architects Superpool and ŞanalARC, as well as a private lecture with photographer Murat Germen. Students went on an all-day hike through the Belgrade Forest (with local historian Gencer Emiroğlu) to investigate 17th, 18th and 19th century Ottoman water infrastructure, as well as rented a boat for tours of the spectacular Golden Horn shipyards (the project site for the 3rd years on the trip) and Bosphorous shoreline developments. In addition, students participated in a speculative workshop (“When the Bosphorus Dries Up”) lead by Professor Vince Debritto, from the University of Minnesota.

2018 Undergraduate DSA: Northern Europe

Sessional Instructor Honorata Pienkowska travelled across Northern Europe with a group of 17 students, making extended stops in Paris, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam and Berlin.  The itinerary included a side trip to the Bauhaus in Dessau as well as visits to key architectural offices, including OMA.  Students compared and contrasted the urban fabric of these cities and approaches taken to rebuilding after WWII.

2018 Undergraduate DSA: Japan 

DSA Japan spanned 11 days of travel during which Sessional Instructor Thomas Leung lead 13 students from the project site in Tokyo to Kyoto and Nara. Intervening visits to Okayama, Kurashiki and the art islands of Naoshima and Teshima served to further understandings of Japanese culture through its relationship to the natural environment as observed in built forms, both contemporary and traditional. The latter embodied to its fullest in the temples and shrines of Kyoto. Reliance on physical modelling in the practice of architecture in Japan was a recurring theme upon visits to the offices of, Junya Ishigami, Kengo Kuma and Manabu Chiba in Tokyo. Further explorations at the Department of Architecture, University of Tokyo, provided a rich comparison for the group in the Graduating Diploma Exhibition where final projects of the 2.5 year undergraduate degree in Architecture were viewed. Visits to buildings of Ito, Kuma, SANAA, and others provided a reference for ongoing oscillations between contemporary and traditional works, a paring which was succinctly captured in the art house installations on Naoshima Island.


Before starting my MArch 1, getting into a 3 years master’s program was a concern for me, since it’s a bit longer than other regular master’s programs; now as my first year at the MArch 1 is almost over, I can clearly see how much I have progressed throughout this year and I am so glad to be part of this program. Being taught by passionate and talented architects made me appreciate the importance of architecture in our world, and made me more rigorous about what I do. I am thankful for the motivation we receive from our professors, and I appreciate how they find the potential in each student’s ideas, and help us push them further, which always results in a wide variety of sophisticated approaches and projects. This program has also given me, as well as all my classmates, the unique opportunity to be exposed to some of the world’s most interesting architectural projects in Barcelona, where we had the chance to spend 10 days, to learn more about the city’s architecture and urban planning throughout the years, not to mention meeting some of Catalonia’s finest architects. This trip, which included several visits for historical and modern architectural sites, sketching, photographing, and more importantly exciting discussions with local architects, was truly eye opening.

Maya Jarrah, MArch 1 student

BAGAN, Workshop in heritage documentation and strategies for conservation

Group shot of students at Bagan conservation workshop

The Conservation workshop in Bagan was a multidisciplinary transcontinental collaboration of 60 people led by Carleton Professors Mario Santana and Mariana Esponda with students from Carleton University’s Architecture and Civil Engineering programs, students and professors from Yangon Technological University, members from the Department of Archeology of Myanmar Ministry of Culture, and experts from the CyArk Foundation.

The workshop focused on the comprehensive documentation of heritage places in Bagan, Myanmar: The main goal of this exercise was to:

  • Understand the role of visual information gathering in conservation of Bagan’s built heritage, with an eye to national and international standards
  • Understand the challenges in conserving Bagan’s built heritage  for World Heritage for their conservation
  • Analyze the character defining elements attributing value to Bagan’s built heritage
  • Analyze the state of conservation of four Buddhist temples: ANANDA-GU-HPAYA-GYI, LOKA-HTEIK-PAN, KHE-MIN-GA-ZEDI and EIM-YA-KYAUNG-NGA-MYET-HNA
  • Understand the relationship between recording and good conservation decision-making
  • Learn how to integrate information gathered through these techniques into coherent presentations
  • Effectively work in teams throughout the workshop, ultimately completing a graphic record of the sites.