BSU architecture students on 4-month tour of the world

MUNCIE -- A group of Ball State University architecture students and faculty left Muncie this week for a one-of-a-kind world tour.

Ball State's College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) sent 33 students and two faculty members across the ocean for POLYARK 17, a biennial tour in which the students will see some of the world's greatest architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning projects.  

The group, which departed Tuesday, will pay a visit to about 25 countries, including Spain, Italy, Egypt and China, before returning to the states in April.

Joe Bilello, CAP dean, said the POLYARK tour was first launched about 30 years ago, but on a much smaller scale.

Architecture professor Rod Underwood and landscape architecture professor Leslie Smith -- POLYARK tour co-directors -- helped develop the program from a short, one-country study to the more lengthy global trek it is today.

Smith credits Underwood with turning POLYARK into a full-semester immersion experience back in 2000.

As part of the experience, students are required to document the journey in sketchbooks and journals, which will be added to a Web site,, where people can follow their travels.

"The students' coursework is inextricably woven into an intense day-by-day itinerary visiting places, spaces, design professionals, buildings, gardens and vernacular environments that are urban, rural and natural," Underwood said in a university release. "They will be using the world as their classroom to actuate more sustainable environments."