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Toronto Developer Backs Future Urban Designers

Students will travel to Latin American cities to gain new perspectives

A Toronto developer is helping graduate students in the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design gain first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing urban designers in the developing world by funding study trips to two major South American cities.

This fall, 12 students travelled to Bogotá, Colombia, and spent several days studying the city and attending presentations made by faculty of the National University of Colombia. Another group of students will fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2008. The trips are integral to semester-long studios in which students research Latin American cities and propose new directions for their development.

The innovative course – called Studio Norte Sul and offered through the Master of Urban Design program – is the brainchild of adjunct professors Robert Glover and Carmen Franky and is open to all upper-level master’s students in the faculty. Students are selected to participate in the studio via a lottery. “The study-abroad component introduces students to a variety of urban and architectural practices,” says Robert Levit, the director of the Master of Urban Design program. “It helps them develop an outward-thinking, international perspective.”

A donation from Toronto developer Woodcliffe Corporation will cover flight and accommodation for the Bogotá group this year and the Buenos Aires group in 2008. The gift will enable any student to take the studio trip, regardless of financial circumstances.

Paul Oberman, president and CEO of Woodcliffe, says that as Canada’s cities become increasingly ethnically and culturally diverse, so must building and planning policies. “We have much to share with the rest of the world and much more to learn from it,” he says. “I congratulate U of T for having the foresight to foster an international architectural dialogue.”

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