Wintersteen and Bratsch-Prince Review Preservation and Cultural Heritage Studio
On Wednesday, 1 May 2019, Professors Diane Al Shihabi, Ph.D. [ID] and Mikesch Muecke, Ph.D. [ARCH], and 33 students of their interdisciplinary studio DSN S 546 Preservation and Cultural Heritage Morocco: International Perspectives and Design issues, welcomed ISU President Wendy Wintersteen and Associate Provost Dawn Bratsch-Prince in the College of Design Gallery to view the students’ comprehensive semester-long analysis in a public exhibition. Also present were key project collaborators Tobin Tracey (Director of the Office of Cultural Heritage at the US Department of State) and Jim Wenzel (US Department of State). Reviewers Lynn Paxson (ISU University Professor) and Gregory Palermo (ISU University Professor Emeritus), and guests including College of Design Dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez, Lee Cagley (Chair, Interior Design), Ingrid Lilligren (Chair, Art & Visual Culture), Carl Rogers (Chair, Landscape Architecture), and faculty from the College of Design also attended.
As part of the class, in February 2019 Al Shihabi and Muecke and students from three departments in the College of Design (Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture) and representing eight countries, travelled to Morocco to analyse the American Legation complex in the Medina of Tangier. The building, parts of which date back to the 18th-century, is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, is a National Historic Landmark, and is the first and only such designation in a foreign country. In the studio students researched the intersection of design and diplomacy, and documented, analysed, and interpreted information about the historic site. Their research included oral history interviews of staff at the Legation in Tangier, on site photographic and video documentation in Tangier and in Andalusian Spain, development of a Historic Structure Report, and exploration of three website prototypes to convey the history and significance of the American Legation. Analysis included development of a physical model and 3D digital models, three graphic timelines (using GIS, 3D modeling and animation), and manipulation of panoramic photographs to allow viewers to navigate data through virtual-reality equipment (Samsung Vive and Oculus Rift headsets). Students also applied understanding of Moorish design precedents by creating six CNCed wooden mashrabiyas that show the intricacy and variety of geometric Moorish patterns. They summarized their interpretation of analysis through many detailed drawings that demonstrate the American Legation’s cultural and design significance within the context of the north-African and Spanish history and design, and the diplomatic importance of the building as a representative of Moroccan/American relations.
The students were grateful to have the opportunity to speak with President Wintersteen, Associate Bratsch Prince, and other guests about their research, analysis, and interpretation of the American Legation property. This is the third iteration of Al Shihabi’s and Muecke’s interdisciplinary collaboration with the US Department of State’s Office of Cultural Heritage. In prior investigations faculty and students analyzed US ambassadors’ residences in London (Winfield House in 2017) and Prague (Villa Petschek in 2018). Al Shihabi and Muecke are currently working on developing their fourth interdisciplinary collaboration with the State Department for the Spring 2020 course.