Waterloo School of Architecture Rome campus

Offered to students in the fall term of 4th year, the Rome studio is located in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, Trastevere.

The main focus of the studio is to offer students a different perspective of design methods as opposed to those offered in Waterloo. Therefore, the studio involves Italian professors and critics to complement the process of designing in Rome. Every year, the questions asked become more challenging. How do we, as architects design in a place like Rome, one so dense with history. Students are invited not only to design in the eternal city but to also evolve in the eternal city. It offers students the chance to immerse themselves in a culture which operates in a way far different from that of Canada.


In 1979 the School of Architecture inaugurated its Rome Program for fourth year students. The program has provided over seven hundred Canadian architecture students with an opportunity to live and study in the eternal city, arguably the richest architectural environment on earth.

The profound influence of the Rome experience is reflected in the work, tastes, and cultural values of all past participants. Students and graduates have consistently referred to it as the most influential experience in their educational careers. Rightfully so. There is no place in the world that can bring alive the essence and intensity of the past than that of Rome.

From the foundation of the Rome Program, Waterloo has played an architectural role in the Italian capital, involving Italian academics and practitioners, creating links with Italian and foreign institutions and, widely exhibiting and publishing the work of faculty and students.

The Exhibitions

Upon the completion of the Rome Design Studio, the students put together an exhibition of the final projects at the Trastevere studio. In addition, there is a traditionally held annual "Rome show" put on by the returning 4B class in Cambridge. The exhibition not only shows the final projects that were done in Rome, but also provides an opportunity for the students to reflect on and thus recreate their Rome experience through three dimensional installations. The Rome Show is also a big event which brings the students back together to re-experience the great times had in Rome and to share it with their fellow peers, friends and families.

Cultural initiatives

Waterloo has always played an important role in the architectural scene in Rome through involving Italian academics and practitioners, creating links with Italian and foreign institutions, addressing specific design problems concerning the city of Rome, and widely exhibiting and publishing the work of faculty and students.

Between 1985 and 1988, Waterloo was responsible for the organization of a major public Lecture Series at the Sala Borromini co-sponsored by Architettura Arte Moderna (AAM) and North American architectural programs in Rome. The University of Waterloo was also instrumental in the organization of an architectural competition among the North American programs for the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy (AACUPI). This competition proposed ideas for an important archaeological site, the Crypta Balbi. Current initiatives, undertaken with the generous support of the Fondazione Cariplo, focus on the relationship between architecture and landscape and address environmental and ecological aspects.

Research projects

In the early years, research conducted through the Rome program focused on the relationship between history and design, or more specifically on archaeology and architecture. These concerns became the content of the book, "The Design of Antiquity" written by Professor Haldenby and Professor Pignatti. In more recent years, research has addressed the design and transformation of the environment, both natural and artificial. In 1995, the University of Waterloo participated in an International Design Seminar titled "Città Storia Paesaggio" with the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Perugia. The University continues to participate in research projects both in Canada and in Italy.

Teaching & Research

Specific interests in examining the history, architecture, and cultural content of the city of Rome characterize the University of Waterloo’s Rome program. It’s no coincidence that the Rome program began in 1979, the year following the exhibition "Roma Interrotta" at Trajan's Market in Rome and at the same time as "The Presence of Past" exhibition at the Corderie in Venice. These two cultural events were of great significance and fostered deep cultural and theoretical debate, both in Italy and abroad. The specific cultural interest, supported in Rome by the Argan administration and later by Petroselli, is the concept of using history as a theoretical reference for modern design. The early design projects of the Waterloo students in Rome follow this approach by relating history to the reinterpretation of traditional building typologies as well as to the study and transformation of small hill-towns.

The program continued by addressing the relationship between architecture and archeology. This occurred between the years of 1981 and 1983 following an important cultural debate that took place in Rome with the theme of acknowledging antiquity. The debate was carried on by several cultural figures such as Carlo Aymonino, Renato Nicolini, and Adriano La Regina who is the Archeological Superintendent. The design exercises of the students, derived in part from the controversial proposal of removing via dei Fori Imperiali, have been focused on the central archaeological area of Rome and recommend a new and delicate relationship between modern architecture and archaeological sites.

The program continued between 1984 and 1986 during which it proposed several institutions dedicated to the study of the past and related to the spirit of the enlightenment. The design projects were conceived both in the central and peripheral areas. The designs encompassed both urban and natural areas and were always characterized by the presence of historical remains. The designs addressed the reinterpretation of the urban palazzo when conceived for the city, or searched for a new equilibrium with nature when conceived within the Roman campagna. These proposals were related to important studies, such as the study done by Benevolo and Gregotti on the central archaeological area, the study on the Via Appia done by Ghio Calzolari, and the final document of the Ufficio Speciale Centro Storico.

In the following years until 1989, the Rome program addressed the theme of antiquity in a more comprehensive and theoretical manner. The program gave particular consideration to a selection of sites within the central Archaeological Park. The proposals had the specific goal of providing proper space to the Torlonia Collection, which contains rare statuary and is inaccessible to the public. The projects intended to repurpose the classical "himago hominis" within the ancient city centre, by searching for a new synthesis between architecture, sculpture, and archaeology.

Following a shift in cultural goals, between 1990 and 1991 and subsequently between 1992 and 1993, the Rome program focused on design problems related to the traditional urban fabric, specifically to Campus Martius and Testaccio. The University of Waterloo, together with the Association of American College and University Programs in Italy (AACUPI) and other North American universities, organized a student design competition for the Crypta Balbi in 1993. The initiative was sponsored by the Archaeological Superintendency and explored the possible new functions and ideas for one of the most significant archaeological sites "internal" to the city fabric.

From 1994 to 1996, the program returned to the Archaeological Park with the study of "grey" sites, such as those interstitial areas located in between large monumental complexes that are nowadays partially disused. New cultural programs were proposed for these sites following the renewed interests of the Rutelli administration for the relationship between history and culture. The projects addressed “grey sites”, such as the design of an opera festival in the area adjacent to Villa Pepoli, at the same time in which the superintendency was searching for alternatives to Caracalla. The projects in 1996, in the Park of the Aqueducts and when the City of Rome was organizing the competition for the Park of Centocelle, were addressed in the same manner; they aimed to link the theme of public green areas to the archaeological landscape of Rome.

During the last few years, the Rome program has addressed several sites within the city. They are mostly urban but always significant from a historical, natural, and archaeological perspective. The program intends to develop projects and typologies from the specific morphological and cultural character of each site. The designs were meant to include new and innovative expressions of culture that consider two of the great challenges of the moment, the first related to the Jubilee, and the second to plan and design for new and significant cultural buildings for the Rome of the future.