Past Program

Azores: Design with and for Nature

In this 3-week travel course, students learned about design with nature, by designing for nature. The volcanic archipelago of the Azores, situated along the mid-Atlantic Ocean ridge, was the location and context.

This course has been completed.


Global Summer Studies
  • Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal
Summer 2022

Course Dates: Jun 19, 2022 — Jul 9, 2022

Open to RISD students, Brown University students, non-RISD students

2.5 GPA required. Non-RISD participants see eligibility requirements below.

  • Sustainability
  • Cultural Ecology
  • Forestry
  • Design Installation
  • Craft
Program Partners

Walk & Talk, Innovation Green Azores

Academic Credits
  • Architecture
Course Numbers
  • ARCH-1560-01

Included tuition, accommodation, in-country transportation, field trips, entrance fees, some group meals and international travel health insurance.

Azores: Walk and Work with Wood
Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal 2019
Azores: Walk and Work with Wood
Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal 2019

About this Travel Course

Course Description

Islands nations are at the forefront of climate change as their specific geography makes them more susceptible to the destructive power of storm and rising oceans. As the need for resiliency is accelerating, islands have the potential to act as incubators and leaders in green designed futures. This course explored design for nature, using the Azores as a case study.

In the first part of the course, we took several walks through forests, fields and the water’s edge of Sao Miguel, the Azores' largest island, to explore the cultural/ecological networks. We used walking as a means of observation and as a way to collect and generate thoughts. Each walk was connected to a series of exercises, including a performative experience with a Walk&Talk artist. Drawings from the walks were translated to a series of pattern drawings that document field conditions and interrelationships seen.

Taking from these observations and material explorations, students worked together to create a small Butterfly and Bee Pavilion that was installed in the garden of the Quinta do Priôlo, an organic farm and community space in Ponta Delgada. As a class, students worked together in teams to iterate design ideas that were presented to the members of the community and Walk&Talk designers. Finally, we will work directly with local woodworkers and craftsman to assemble the project on the site. The pavilion provided a home for young butterflies and bee hives. It was made of Cryptomeria wood and light weight netting. Together as a class, students drew from their separate academic disciplines to approach the project.

Course Objectives

  • Studied the intersection of ecology, traditional economy, and contemporary cultural activities
  • Explored the island’s rural and urban landscapes by walking and making daily experimental drawings
  • Drew with an eye of understanding ecological relationships
  • Learned about the potential of the wood and other materials from the forest by meeting with forest ecologist from the University of the Azores and the Department of Forest Management
  • Learned from local craft traditions, including wood working, basket weaving, cheese making, and embroidery
  • Examined the crossovers between our communities (New England has one of the largest populations of Portuguese people outside of Portugal and many immigrants from the Azores)

We also worked closely with a local arts organization called Walk & Talk, which hosted an annual summer arts festival during our stay.

    Learning Outcomes + Assignments

    • Exposure to Portuguese culture, architecture and design and the specificity of the vernacular
    • Learned about bio - technology from the examples of engineering and artist experiments
    • Understanding of island social ecological economy and sustainable economic development that balances natural habitat protection with urban growth
    • Understood responsive and resilient design strategies towards natural and man-made environments
    • Understood interdisciplinary work with arts and scientists
    • Observational and experimental landscape and forest drawing
    • Translation of discursive arguments and inquiry into design methodology


    To participate in RISD Global Summer Studies, all students were required to stay in RISD- provided housing for the duration of the course. Students were accommodated in double/triple occupancy rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchen available for the group.

    Background Information


    Because of its dramatic natural beauty, the Azores was designated among UNESCO’s Global “Geoparks”, a network established to protect biodiversity, promote geological heritage and support sustainable economic growth. Sao Miguel, the largest island, includes Ponta Delgada, the largest city within the Azores. It also includes historic towns, agrarian pastures, hedgerows of blue hydrangeas, lake-filled calderas, and cryptomeria forests. Multiple religious festivals have been a critical part of the daily life of the place and recently, several new international festivals have been established.

    The geographic isolation of the islands and their mountainous terrain give rise to several endemic species and a wide variety of biotopes, ecosystems, and landscapes. In addition, the Island’s remoteness means that its inhabitants have learned to be relatively autonomous and self-reliant, depending mostly on available resources of the islands. Agriculture has been and still is the primary form of income. There are efforts underway to build on the sustainable development of traditional agricultural markets and modernize the forest sector through responsible forest management. This year single use plastics, that pollute the ocean will be prohibited and designers are developing replacements that use waste from invasive species. The Azores is largely dependent on imported fuels including diesel and oil even though there is significant renewable energy potential (geothermal, wind and solar). Tourism is playing a larger role in the life of the Azores and pushing the economy. With it, local artists have successfully organized popular gatherings that draw an international contemporary arts scene, including Walk&Talk, Tremor, Burning Azores. Arts are used as a means to invigorate culture and open up new ways of connecting traditional and modern-day worlds.


    RISD Students

    If your current cumulative GPA is 2.5 or above, you are eligible for registration. If your current cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, you must first contact the Registrar at to seek exception to this academic policy.

    Non-RISD Participants

    If you are a college student currently enrolled in another art/design college or institution around the world, or a professional practicing in the field, you are eligible for registration. We will collect a recommendation/support form from your institution/workplace.

    In order to register for RISD Global summer studies, you are expected to have a high level of English (speech, writing, and comprehension) as all coursework and critique is delivered in English.

    Attendance Policy

    Global Summer Studies are three weeks long and take place in June/July, and you are required to attend all program activities scheduled during the travel course. RISD Global Summer Studies comply with RISD class attendance policy. In case of unexcused or multiple absences, you may be removed from the course, given a grade of “W" (withdrawal) or a grade of “F” (fail).

    Withdrawal Policy

    Requesting to withdraw from a RISD off-campus global learning program, including RISD Global Summer Studies, prior to the start of the course is highly discouraged and requires a formal process outlined in the RISD course withdrawal policy. It is not possible for a student to drop a RISD Global Summer Studies travel course via the standard Add/Drop process after it has commenced. In the case of unforeseen and extenuating circumstances (and only after students have spoken with the faculty lead and RISD Global for approval to withdraw from the program), students should be aware that no refund will be issued.

    More Info

    In order to reserve a seat, a non-refundable deposit of $500 is required at the time of application submittal. Students will have until April 1, 2022, to submit full payment. Students that fail to make full payment by their deadline will forfeit their $500 deposit and their seat in the course. New application submissions starting April 1 are not eligible to make a deposit and must make full payment by April 15, 2022.

    All RISD students enrolled in RISD and other full degree schools/universities are required to remain in good academic standing in order to participate in Global Summer Studies. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for all RISD students. Failure to remain in good academic standing can lead to removal from the course, either before or during the course.

    In cases where summer travel courses and studios do not reach full capacity, the course may be canceled after the last day of registration. As such, all students are advised not to purchase flights for participation in Global Summer Studies courses until the course is confirmed.

    Apply to Global Summer Studies

    The deadline for Global Summer Studies 2024 has now passed.

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    1:1 Advising Session

    Have questions? The RISD Global team is available to meet for a 1:1 advising session. We can give you more information about your study options, help you figure out which program makes sense for you, and assist you with the application process.

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