Recently, my Philadelphia Architecture seminar took a field trip into the city to explore different architectural sites. My class of twelve students piled into two vans and drove the thirty minutes into Center City. After arriving, we first explored the Independence Hall area; we took a tour of the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and discussed our thoughts about the building in the plaza where numerous civil rights protests have occurred.
After this historical stop, we made our way to Welcome Park, an “open-air museum” that celebrates William Penn’s contributions to the urban planning of the city. Our class took in the space and then met back in the center to discuss a paper we had previously read on the thought that went into the city planning; we discussed the proximity to two rivers, the gridded floor plan, and the capitalist ideals that influenced the layout.
Our last stop as a class was the Franklin Court, a complex of museums and ghost structures of Ben Franklin’s house designed by famed Philadelphia architecture firm, Venturi Scott Brown. In fact, later this semester I’ll be conducting a case study on this site, focusing on the contrasts between colonial and modern and exploring the layers of history buried in the plaza.
While I’m not entirely sure of my major yet, having the ability to take courses through the Art History department has been a highlight of my Swarthmore education thus far. Last semester, I was in another small seminar course focusing on Picasso’s works. In this class, we similarly took field trips to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art as well as the Barnes Foundation. I was also able to take a (free!) bus trip to D.C. to visit museums there through the Art History department.
This flexibility to discover all areas of academia is one of the highlights of a liberal arts education. After I write this post, I’ll work on a lab for my computer science course and then I’ll focus on my architecture readings on Independence Hall’s history. This balance and continued exploration of ALL fields is what I came to this school for.