Two weeks before the start of the spring semester, a group of graduate students in the Department of Architecture, led by Professor Brent Fortenberry, conducted a series of preservation field study in St. George’s, Bermuda, the oldest remaining British overseas territory and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was my first time to do a study abroad program as an architecture major at Texas A&M. The international and interdisciplinary nature of the course and our student group, the on-site observation and field-recording skills we learned, and the experience of working in historic house museums are the best things I absolutely love about these two weeks.
We first started out walking around St. George’s historic town to get ourselves familiar with the overall landscape and architectural characters of this four-hundred-year-old town. Then our group spent a week at our case study site, an 18th
century residential building called Mitchell House, to produce hand drawn floor plans and site plan. This helped us to better understand the spatial evolution of this building, the connection between historical texts and physical evidence, and the overall architectural scene of the Atlantic world. In between our on-site drawing, we spent time walking in the streets, recording architectural elements and building conditions in St. George’s, and generating ArcGIS data for future preservation work. Each student also did his or her individual projects, including taking photographs of historic house museums, building 3D model and photogrammetry for our case study site, collecting architectural color examples, assessing adaptive reuse effectiveness, and designing exhibition panels for local museums. In our spare time, we also got the chance to visit local attractions, including the Royal Naval Dockyard, Aquarium and Zoo, as well as the famous pink sand beaches.
The experience of working on-site, instead of sitting in a classroom listening to lectures, is extremely helpful for us students in architectural history and historic preservation. When we examined the use of decoration and condition of building material inside of the house, we were trained to read architecture first hand by our own eyes. Our mentors from the department and other preservation organizations, have spent decades working in the field. Their insights are invaluable. I learned to pay attention to details, work effectively in a group, and always be patient with field work. The experience also gave me inspirations for research ideas in the future.
I would encourage our fellow grad Aggies to take advantage of our school’s study abroad programs (after all, A&M is a leading institution in the entire country to send students abroad). Spending some time in a new environment, you will meet new mentors and friends, learn new knowledge and skill, experience new culture, and be able to better reflect on yourself.
Mingqian Liu | Architecture
Mingqian Liu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Architecture