Elia Zenghelis offers students feedback on designs created during his master class. Photos by Alison Weidemann.
AMES, Iowa — For world-renowned architect and educator Elia Zenghelis, teaching is his true passion, "not only because I'm always learning from students, but also they become extremely good colleagues and collaborators."
Zenghelis—with Rem Koolhaas, a cofounder of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and current principal of Gigantes Zinghelis Architects, Athens—is considered one of the most influential leaders in the transformation of architectural education in the last half-century.
And for the past week, he has led a master class for 50 architecture students at the Iowa State University College of Design.
The public is invited to a reception and exhibition of student work completed during the class beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the Beckman Forum, lower level of the college's King Pavilion.
"Elia has a very intellectual commitment to architecture. I think his real passion is as an educator and giving students a new perspective to look at architecture," said Ross Adams, an ISU assistant professor of architecture who organized Zenghelis' visit.
The intensive workshop provides an opportunity to shape discussions and points of debate around various ways of seeing architecture, Adams said, and "it's a great way to bring together different thoughts, ideas and experiences from throughout the college."
The master class was offered for third- through fifth-year undergraduate as well as graduate students in three spring-semester architecture studios taught by assistant professor Nadia Anderson, senior lecturer Peter Goche and lecturer Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco.
"After looking into Zenghelis' history online I realized how influential as an architect and mentor he has been to the design community," said Joshua Frank, a third-year architecture student from Ankeny.
Reevaluating monumental architecture
Working in teams of three or four members from across all academic levels, students began by researching and analyzing a given historical paradigm or architectural precedent, such as Donato Bramante's Cortile del Belvedere (Belvedere Courtyard) at the Vatican Palace in Rome or El Lissitsky's Wolkenbügel, an unrealized design for horizontally cantilevered skyscrapers in Moscow.
"It's essentially a way of re-reading a building, not just through facts, but also to see it within its space as a sort of monumental form that has a certain role within society throughout history," Adams said.
The groups then were tasked with making "a crucial transformation of the paradigm to better situate it within that society," he said.
Students used Photoshop to develop "a 'visual manifesto' to expose the entity of the paradigm each team researched in part one,” said Kelsi Thrasher, a fifth-year student from Cummings.
The master class was scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Jan. 21-25, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 26-27. For the first three days, students could come and go from the workshop to attend their other classes as scheduled. For the remainder of the session, they have been engaged full time with their projects.
Thrasher said she was nervous about the intensity and group dynamics leading up to the workshop, but that it has been rewarding.
"Groups seem to be getting along pretty well with the collaboration, and I believe it is especially good for the younger students," she said.
"This workshop will definitely make me think about architecture in a different way. Not every project has to become realized and ordinary like most designs today; architecture is at its best when it promotes bigger ideas than what is on the surface."
Students will continue to work through early afternoon on Wednesday, Jan. 28, then participate in a final juried review of their projects from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Hansen Exchange (upper level, center) and Beckman Forum (lower level, center) of the college's King Pavilion.
The public reception and exhibition of the students' work will follow in the Beckman Forum.
During his visit to Iowa State, Zenghelis presented the 2015 Curt F. Dale Guest Lecture in Architecture, which covered his relationship with Koolhaas and how their early projects as students in London inspired the original work of OMA and included a collection of his work from the 1960s to the present. A recording of that lecture will be made available online.
Ross Adams, Architecture, (515) 294-8336, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaden Urbi, Design Communications, email@example.com
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289, firstname.lastname@example.org