Westphal: Exploring the Urban Environment for Class
October 18, 2021
Our guest blogger for the post below is Chris Hytha, Class of 2021 architecture alum.
When deciding on a college, an urban environment was essential to me. From a young age, I have been fascinated by cities and their overwhelming scale compared to the small town I grew up in. The first two years of my architecture degree in Philadelphia at Drexel's Westphal College of Media Arts & Design were a time of transformation. Everything I thought I knew about architecture was stripped down and rebuilt to create a new understanding of the built environment. With my developing ability to analyze, understand, and critique the world around me, I was inspired to venture out into the city.
I had my bicycle, a few good friends, and the city was ours to explore. My curiosity led me from the tallest rooftops in the city, out to the abandoned warehouses of North Philadelphia and everything in between. My excitement to explore led to a new passion of photography which started shortly after moving to Philadelphia. Throughout high school, I also developed an ability to sketch, and the city provided endless opportunities.
Drexel University's undergraduate Architecture program, housed in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, challenges students to take on consequential design problems.
In many ways, my passion for sketching and photography are rooted in a desire to understand and unpack the richness and complexity of Philadelphia. Nearly every weekend, I biked out into the city with my camera around my neck and a sketchbook with no plan in mind other than seeing something new. Even after six years of observation, I still manage to find buildings and details that surprise and inspire me.
The time I spent exploring undoubtedly impacted my skills as a designer. Every new spatial experience slowly grows the archive of good and bad design, which can be drawn from when a new design challenge presents itself. Nearly all the design projects in school focused on local sites in Philly, which provided opportunities to more formally research and analyze different neighborhoods in the city.
My senior project was a culmination of my six years of experience in Philadelphia. In architecture school, the final year is reserved for a self-directed study. The project site can be anywhere and can address any problem that a student is passionate about through architecture. For me, doing a project in the heart of downtown Philadelphia was a natural choice. For years I was an observer, and this project became an opportunity to give my response as a designer. I chose to explore public transportation and how Suburban Station can become a gateway into the city, integrating with the Ben Franklin Parkway and celebrating views of City Hall. For more details on my proposal, visit my website.
Drexel University's undergraduate Architecture program, housed in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, challenges students to take on consequential design problems. Learn more about architecture at Drexel, see sample plans of study, and explore program opportunities on Westphal's Architecture program page.