Traveling Savanna Studio
About Traveling Savanna Studio
The Traveling Savanna Studio is a unique feature of Iowa State’s Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program. Taught in the fall every year since 2000, this traveling studio is a learning community for all sophomore landscape architecture students who have been accepted into the undergraduate degree program, and serves as a foundational experience for the rest of the BLA curriculum.
The studio is an integrated suite of five classes comprising 16 credits taught by three instructors. While taking these courses, students spend six weeks travelling across the Savanna Region of the US, from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico.
During their travels, students visit and study a range of landscapes from urban to rural, from city plazas to national parks. The semester is devoted to hands-on learning in the field. Students learn how to observe and inventory sites; identify plant species and communities; draw and record landscapes, and analyze cultural aspects of design, among other skills. According to Savanna Studio founder Gary Hightshoe, “We go on the road, and our whole purpose is to figure out what landscape architecture is all about. The Savanna Studio is unique in the country, and it informs students for the next three years and beyond.”
As part of the semester, students also visit museums and historic sites, tour landscape architectural offices, meet practitioners and alumni, and learn life skills such as CPR.
Prior to and in between two three-week trips, students learn studio-based design and technical skills to enhance their site-based experiences. The semester concludes with an exhibition of the work produced throughout the semester, including student sketchbooks, a traditional product of the semester. The course also provides students an opportunity to get to know one another and form lifelong friendships.
About the experience, one student wrote: “Savanna Studio was only one semester but it opened my eyes to the opportunities we have as aspiring landscape architecture professionals. It brought our class together and made us feel as though our education was different from all the others.”
LA 201: Landscape Interpretation and Representation
LA 221: Native Plants of the Savanna Region
LA 241: Developing Identity as a Landscape Architect
LA 272: Cultural Landscape Studies
LA 281: Landscape Form, Process and Detail