Rome, Italy

Summer 2016 Destinations

Summer 2016 destinations will be posted mid-November 2015. Complete course descriptions and details for each program will be posted by Friday, December 18, 2015. Summer study-abroad registration will begin Monday, February 22, 2016.

Past Summer 2015 Destination

Students have followed their inspirational compasses to Rome since the 15th century. Like artist Michelangelo di Buonarroti, writers Michel de Montaigne and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet Joseph Brodsky, architect Louis Kahn, painter Phillip Guston, photographer Carrie Mae Weems, designer Constantin Boym and countless others, they don’t come simply to record, but to draw from Rome’s past and present in order to create new works in various media that resonate and respond to their own contemporary conditions, materials, and visions.

Rome remains one of the most visually potent and historically complex cities in the world—one that holds a special status as a city of ruins, decay, and constant renewal. Under the weight of its own history, Rome continues to provide an exhilarating urban laboratory for extracting relevant lessons regarding design innovation and resilience.

SEEING ROME: An Intensive Summer Drawing Studio

Instructor: Katherine Rinne
May 30–June 21, 2015

Check-in: May 30
Checkout: June 21

Interested students should contact Katherine Rinne ( to start the approval process for registration.


This is the only CCA 2015 summer study-abroad program open to students of all levels, from  those who will have completed their Core Studios by May 2015 to more advanced undergraduate and graduate students.

Structured as a “walking studio,” students visit many of Rome’s most important museums, buildings, piazzas, streets, and gardens. Each day is spent in a different section -- from the historic center out to the periphery -- taking a topographic approach that allows students to study the city as a living organism rather than a series of historic sites. From the smallest church interiors to the most monumental piazzas, students view, experience, and analyze the city’s complex built environments.

Regardless of a student’s discipline, drawing is one of the best ways to explore and experience Rome. Drawing forces us to slow down, to really look and contemplate what we see. And contemplation is key because this is how we can best absorb what the city offers. Like earlier students of Rome our lessons begin with learning to “see” with new eyes: to understand through classic sketching media and methods how proportion and scale, materials and structure, surfaces and depths, haptic and aural senses, light and dark, sun and moon, and theoretical principles operate, whether at the scale of a door handle (or something equally small), chair, sculpture, single room, building, piazza, street, or the entire city.

We will “see” with all our senses, through drawing, keeping a journal, design projects, photography, mapping, and short reading assignments. Our goal is to learn and absorb new analytical and visual communication skills that support our individual creative practices.

The city is both our laboratory and studio. Classes include on-site historical and cultural lectures and discussions; daily drawing assignments; visits to historic and contemporary buildings, sites, and museums with local architects, artists, designers, engineers, curators, or conservators.

In addition to daily drawing assignments, participants also engage in three short projects -- one each week. All assignments and projects are conducted on site, out in the city itself -- in other words, studio time is kept to a minimum. All lectures, site-visits, etc., are documented in a sketchbook/journal that each student carries at all times. Along with the three projects, the sketchbook—filled with thoughts, observations, lecture notes, sketches, collages, photos, maps, and other ephemera (and conceived of as a design in itself) -- is part of the final project.

Housing is located in Trastevere in fully equipped, shared apartments within walking distance of all amenities. Our studio space is in the Renaissance Palazzo Cenci located in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto near to the Tiber Island. We have our own studio space but share the palazzo facilities (terrace, library, kitchen, lecture hall, etc.) with students of architecture, landscape, interiors, painting, and historic preservation from two other universities.


Katherine is a firm believer in using the hand to understand and remember the material. I found this method to be very effective. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to effortlessly recognize and remember buildings. In addition, I appreciate how supportive she was in helping us learn how to draw. She recognized our strengths and gave us advice on how to move forward.

Many students nowadays have forgotten how to use their hands to represent ideas. In this trip I was very delighted to be reminded again of that fundamental skill . . . It was a wonderful trip with wonderful people! Every day was worth it, I was pleased.

About the Instructor

Katherine Rinne is an authority on Rome, where she lived and taught design studios and seminars for several years. The focus of her research is urban infrastructure with an emphasis on water and design.

Her book, The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City (Yale University Press, 2010) won numerous awards for scholarship and design.

She is currently anticipating the 2015 publication of a coauthored book, Rome: an Urban History.

Learn more about Katherine Rinne »


Undergraduates: Completion of freshman level by summer 2015 and instructor approval
Graduate students: instructor approval

All students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2014–15 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For Interior Design undergraduates, this course satisfies an ARCH Elective. For juniors, it can satisfy an Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio.
For all other majors, this course satisfies an Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio or Studio Elective.
For graduate students, this course satisfies a Grad-wide Elective.

Program Fee

$4,750 + $50 registration fee

Included in program fee:
3 credits, housing, studio/classroom, field trips, one month bus pass, entrance fees, visiting artists, and travel/health insurance

Not included in program fee:
Airfare to and from Italy, meals, supplies, or printing. Students must pay a 25 Euro-refundable deposit for studio and apartment keys and a 5 Euro-refundable deposit for a printer card.

Related Topics
(Please read in entirety)

All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs