An International Education: Why is Travel Important for Designers?

An International Education: Why is Travel Important for Designers?

Annie Peyton will spend the next 13 months on a fellowship to develop new ways of thinking about design and urbanism in the largest and most populous continent, Asia.

While WRNS has an internal scholarship program to promote learning and critical discourse within the studio, we always encourage employees to chase their educational goals in whatever form they take. That’s why we were so excited to hear that Designer Annie Peyton was recently awarded a Luce Scholarship from the Henry Luce Foundation. Though we’re sad to lose her, we’re proud of her choice to expand her knowledge about Asia during her upcoming yearlong fellowship in Thailand. 

Annie joined WRNS after living abroad in Denmark and then Rwanda for a Global Health Corps fellowship with MASS Design Group. Living internationally has helped Annie expand her practice as a designer, making her critical of the all-to-easy trap of falling into siloes of thinking. After working on a hospital in a small village in Rwanda, Annie vividly remembers entering a clothing store in Germany and feeling overwhelmed by how invasive the consumerist culture was in Western cities. Living in Rwanda gave her a different context for how to live, putting consumer culture into a perspective she couldn’t have gained otherwise.

“It’s similar with architecture. It’s so easy to think about a building as an object, but it’s really important to be reminded of the human beings you’re designing for. Thinking in these terms maybe isn’t as sexy as an aerial rendering, but no one will ever experience a building from the sky. The usefulness and the function — the role of a building in a community — these are the aspects of design that really matter.” 

Seven of the top ten largest cities in the world are found in Asia, a fact that drew Annie to the region. She will spend her year working with a Thai landscape architecture firm called Landprocess  in Bangkok working on civic and urban interventions. As a self-proclaimed “transit nerd,” she is excited to see how Bangkok’s infrastructure (a small but well-run metro system) pairs with more informal, dynamic modes of transit (water taxies, cabs, and more) on a massive urban scale.

The Luce Foundation supports the whole development of its fellows, stressing the importance of humility and a genuine interest in people. Along with exploring the architecture and infrastructure of Thailand’s cities, Annie hopes that her time getting to know the people in Thailand will help her grow as a humanist designer. We have no doubt it will. Good luck, Annie!