Visiting Modern Architecture

How to Plan your Architectural Travel

Canova Plaster Cast Museum

I love planning my architectural explorations, for me it is almost as fun as the traveling, however I recognize not everyone feels this way, it can be a lot of work particularly if you want to see it all and don’t want to miss a thing.  I really hate getting back from a great city and missing an amazing architectural project because I didn’t know it was there!

When I went to Venice I was ill prepared and missed a bunch of Carlo Scarpa’s architecture, I have heard his work is amazing from friends and wish I could have experienced it in person (now his work is on my bucket list).  So to prevent this I have outlined my system of travel planning in hopes you will never miss out on any architectural experiences.

Choosing an architecturally rich city

If you haven’t already decided where you want to go one of the methods I use to determine which cities to travel to is to first ask myself and my travel companion: what time of year I want to travel, how long the trip will be and what do we want to gain from the experience.  Most people like to travel where the weather is reasonably good so that will help narrow down where you want to go depending on the time of year.  How long you have will narrow down how far you can go and how many cities you can reasonably see.  There are so many wonderful and exciting cities so once the list has been narrowed down do image searches and talk to people who have been to the places you are interested in – this will definitely help to make your final determination.  If you are like me there are just too many places and not enough time and/or money.

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Finding the architecture

Once you have determined the city or cities you are going to visit you can begin to find the architecture.  Research cannot be overstated – the more you do before you leave the less you miss and the more you see!  I always search for as many architectural gems as I can by doing the following:

  • Refer to architecture magazines and books
  • Talk to friends and family about your travel plans they may offer suggestions and tips, most people love to reminiscent about the things they have seen and places they go.  Friends and family are usually a reliable source because they are unbiased and the information and experience is first hand.
  • Image searches, try different keywords, when you see something you like save the picture and try to get the name from the website – the pictures are important because a list of building names can get all confusing after so much research
  • Visit www.archgroupie.com which is our architecture directory of architectural gems organized by city so you are able to skip all this research but if we haven’t covered the city yet – feel free to write us and let us know.
  • Consult various architecture websites, check out this blog post:  12 Awesome ARCHITECTURE websites

Keep an ongoing list of everything you find.  This can be done on your computer, in a sketchbook, on a smartphone app such as Evernote, or all of the above.  Whichever method works best for you, we will organize the information in the next step.

Get Organized

When you believe you got it all or have run out of time for researching begin to vet through the information.  I always rank my researched architecture list into three categories:

1. Absolutely will not leave this city without seeing this building…MUST SEE

2. Really want to see

3. I will live if I don’t see that building

4. Not that interested

Now research the essential information from the top three categories: address, hours, entry fee, tour times, website links, etc.  Make reservations, get tickets if required and prepare anything you may need to visit the building.

Map it out

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There are lots of ways to map out the architecture, you can use Google maps, print a map and label it with a corresponding legend or mark up your travel guide book.  It is important to map it so you can better prepare an itinerary.  Mapping will also help you know when a building is hard to get to or just next door.   I like to always group sites by geography so I do not waste precious time traveling back and forth around the city – on a map it is easy to tell how close or far apart buildings are.

Architecture GROUPIE is creating maps so you can skip all this work too.

Itinerary

Visiting Modern Architecture

Make an itinerary, I have never been too keen on a day by day / hour by hour itinerary but many buildings are not open every day and if you are not careful you can miss out on some great sites because you weren’t organized or well researched.

Based on your “MUST SEE” architecture list outline what days they are open and closed to see if a conflict will occur.  Use your itinerary loosely to figure out how you will get around and what you plan to see and do… be sure to leave flexibility for example if the weather is rainy I like to check out some indoor venues such as a museum.

Documents

It is important to let people know where you are just in case.  I create a small spread sheet with the important information of where I will be and give it to a family member, be sure to include any information you may need as well, such as confirmation numbers, see example below.  Another option is to enter all this information into a sharable calendar such as Tripit, I have not used it yet but plan to give it a try on my next travel adventure.

 Date  City and Flight Info

Hotel (name, address, phone number)

Confirmation Number

Include your email address and phone number at the bottom.

Also it is important to have a copy of important travel documents such as your passport, visa etc.  Save these on your smartphone, tablet or print them out.  I would recommend putting all this important stuff on the cloud (Dropbox Google Drive, etc…) or you can just email it to yourself in case something happens to your device, this way you just need any computer with internet to access this sensitive information and its one less thing to care around. 

Budget

If you are on a budget be sure to take note of ticket prices and free offers.  Some buildings can be viewed from the outside if the tours are really expensive and it isn’t on your “MUST SEE” list.

Also visit:  5 TIPS FOR VISITING MODERN ARCHITECTURE ON A BUDGET

Just remember you will likely never go back to these cities and see these places again so don’t go overboard and miss out on great architecture.

Now all you need to do is pack…  Happy Travels

travel guides - blog

A happy groupie is an architecture GROUPIE – check out the digital maps to save you all this work

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7 comments

  1. May I also suggest that you include other cultural activities besides architectual. So that you don`t come back having only seen important pieces. The smallerbut perhaps not important museums, cafees or churches may well be the best experience in terms of getting to know the people and the country you visit.

    1. Thank you Rita – that is an excellent point. There are more ways to see and learn about another culture, I am a foodie so I always make a point to try the local cuisines. On this blog i focus on the modern and contemporary architecture however i do love to visit old architecture and simply walk the streets and people watch taking in how different and similar things are to what where I come from.

  2. Your blog inspired the thought that it might be good to research architecture firms of interest in the different countries, as well. I’m thinking that there may be an opportunity to get a tour of some of their work, and at minimum the possibility of meeting and seeing how other architects work in those countries. Have you or anyone els had this experience?

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