Design Paris

Group of students in Paris

Design Paris, the first semester-long study abroad program hosted by the College of Art & Design based out of Paris, France, launched in the fall of 2018. This year the program expanded to encompass an interdisciplinary focus, including architecture and interior design students.

“This is not a passive learning experience,” said Robert Holton, program director and associate professor of architecture. “It’s extreme active learning that goes past the classroom. The students gain hands on experience on field excursions exploring sites, studying buildings in person.”

The design students in the program have the opportunity to study buildings and spaces from multiple vantage points. Collaborative learning opportunities include workshops working with French studies, fostering cross-cultural exchange and discourse.

“It has been a great experience combining the two disciplines of architecture and interiors in a city with an amazing culture of design; both historical and contemporary,” said Kelly Greeson, assistant professor of interior design. “This rich design culture transcends how the disciplines are normally understood and addressed within their own context.”

The Design Paris school is located in the Marais neighborhood, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the heart of the city. The city of Paris acts as a classroom in itself, as all studio instruction is supported by field visits to architectural sites throughout the city and region.

Living in France for the entire semester allows them to surpass the tourist experience and begin to understand the subtle nuances of the local culture, exploring Europe more profoundly. “The students become citizens of the city, not just tourists,” Holton said.

Students took advantage of the semester-long stay in Europe to travel to other cities as well, collectively visiting over 30 different destinations. These experiences enriched their design education, as firsthand exposure to the built environment vastly expands the learning experience.

“There is something so awe-inspiring about being able to finally visit and experience the buildings and structures you have been studying in class,” said Naomi Mareschal, BArch candidate.

“By studying abroad in Paris for the semester, I got to experience firsthand one of the most popular cities in the world, but as part of the program we also traveled outside the city limits to places such as Honfleur, Fountainbleau, and Eveux, to name a few,” said Dakota Boesch, MArch student who studied the first semester.

“The students have rather seamlessly adjusted to the exposure to both disciplines and have been able to not only recognize the rich design culture but also the rich multicultural aspects of the city,” Greeson said.

“Paris is a historic city, and so students are working in an urban setting that is very old,” Holton said. “They address the contrasts between old and new, which is a unique new experience for them as designers.”

Follow the Design Paris blog to see students’ adventures abroad.

Visit for more information about the program.