Study Abroad: India

From December 28, 2016-January 10, 2017, a group of NYSID students went on a study abroad trip to India for the “Exploring India’s Golden Triangle: From the Mughals to the Modernists” course taught by NYSID instructor and Fulbright Scholar Suzanne Frasier.  See photos here! As a frequent traveler to India and expert in South Asian architecture and design, Frasier says that India is an exceptional location for design students to study abroad. “The quantity, variety, and multitude of architecture and period styles make India the most interesting place on the planet to study design.” she said. “Our historic building styles are so very different in the USA, so the visitor to India is completely transported.”

Over the course of two weeks, students were given a taste of unique South Asian design styles used throughout the country. They traveled to New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad; and visited ancient sites, modernist masterpieces, national institutions, and historic residences that included the Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, and LeCourbusier’s masterpiece, the Mill Owners’ Association Building. They also took a special visit to CEPT University, one of India’s premier architecture and interior design colleges.

“Visiting India for the first time opened my eyes to different compositional elements that I haven’t been in contact with before,” said student Antonio Rodríguez. “I loved the use of sacred geometrical patterns, the interesting spatial relationships that blended outdoors and interiors in a seamless way, and the use of light and shadows to create more visual dynamism in their architecture and design.” For student Nicole Tenhagen, visiting the majestic Khiki Mosque in South Delhi was especially fascinating. “There are four open courtyards and 180 structural columns, which run in north–south direction and divides into aisles. The roof is flat but has 81 magnificent domes raised from above. We even climbed to the very top of the domes to get an incredible view of the city.”

While on the trip, students also enjoyed experiencing the local culture. They got henna tattoos, rode in rickshaws, and enjoyed food from the bustling Chandi Chowk, a vast marketplace that dates back to the Mughal period. “Chandni Chowk was very exciting for the NYSID travelers.” Said Frasier. “We ended our tour on a rooftop overlooking the courtyard of a beautiful mosque. It was an opportunity for us all to see how an urban space can be an interior space—that interior design in not relegated to rooms alone.” On December 31, students even had the unique opportunity to ring in the new year with traditional Indian celebrations that included dancing, eating on the floor, and wearing traditional Indian sarees.

Overall, the trip proved to be a matchless experience unlike any other and students came back with perspective and illumination. “As a designer, it’s always good to submerge yourself in different societies because it provides first-hand perspective that is enlightened by feelings and memories, rather than trends or printed material.” Antonio said. “This trip has expanded my design vocabulary and will certainly inform my own design solutions and inspiration for years to come.”

For Frasier, the trip was certainly not her last. “This wonderful group of designers-in-training was so smart, talented, resourceful, considerate, and fun that I cannot wait to take the next group of NYSID students to India!"

Phyllis Greer