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    In the Spotlight

    PMA Principal Katie Stodghill Speaks to Students at the Virginia Tech Steger Center in Switzerland

    Service on Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design’s 2018 Accreditation Committee as an alumni representative brought PMA Principal Katie Stodghill a unique opportunity to visit and speak at the college’s Steger Center for International Scholarship in Switzerland in April. Through a former VT classmate, and a PMA intern from Virginia Tech, Katie had developed an interest in the Steger Center – an active learning community of Virginia Tech architecture and Global Scholar students. When an invitation came to travel to the center to speak to the students and serve as a guest architecture critic, Katie jumped on it.

    The Steger Center is tucked away in the small historic village of Riva San Vitale, nestled against the border of Italy. The town is in the southern municipality of Ticino, a region of southern Switzerland. “There’s a long history of Virginia Tech Architecture association with Ticino,” said Katie. Since 1992, Virginia Tech students based at the center as part of a study abroad experience have studied modern and historic architecture in Riva San Vitale.

    Following a missed flight, Katie caught the last train into the village. She arrived in Riva San Vitale late at night, the magic of the town quietly hidden under a dark sky. Bettina Ebi, a German architecture graduate student studying at the center as a former Fulbright Scholar was sent to pick her up. Bettina had recently returned to academics to complete her architectural studies after a long hiatus and had great interest in learning about Katie’s long career in architecture in the U.S. About the same age and both sharing a passion for architecture and design, the two became fast friends.

    While at the center, Katie spent her time lecturing and helping architecture students with their work in the studio. Her guest lecture included a presentation to about 30 architectural students that highlighted significant projects from PMA’s portfolio and her graduate thesis: Narrative as Architecture.

    In her free time, Katie spent as much time as she could exploring the area. Riva San Vitale is filled with rich architectural history. According to the Steger Center website, “many local buildings are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance.” Katie visited many historic sites, such as the Riva San Vitale Baptistery, the oldest known stonework Christian monument in Switzerland, which dates to the 5th century.

    “Bettina and I toured, sketched and photographed together,” says Katie. “I think we walked every street. The town is so charming. The cool thing was being connected with someone my age who could show me around the town,” she says. Bettina spoke both German and Italian and “she knew her way around the town and could talk to the townspeople. I discovered things I would have never found on my own.”

    “When I was able to see and hear the names of things that I had studied in school, it was a real homecoming… There were little gems everywhere. I would walk around a corner and see a building I had studied,” says Katie. Inside the center Katie saw many things, such as a favorite quote, that reminded her of Olivio Ferrari, a Virginia Tech professor of architecture who taught there while she was a student and was instrumental in founding the Steger Center for International Scholarship, previously known as the Center for European Studies and Architecture.

    “Each of us is alone in this world. Everyone is imprisoned in the tower, and he and his companions can only communicate through signals, which have no common reference, because their meaning is very vague and uncertain.” (Maugham, W.S., 1919)

    From Switzerland, she travelled to Leipzig to visit her daughter who recently completed her college studies in Germany. Upon returning home, Katie maintained her connection with Bettina. She helped advise her on her studies and is currently on her thesis committee.

    “Visiting Ticino wove together a lot of threads,” said Katie.

    The Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale.

    Katie Stodghill, PMA, and Heiner Schnoedt, Virginia Tech Architecture Professor, at the Chery Bed and Breakfast in Riva San Vitale.

    Casa Bianchi House at Riva San Vitale

    Monte Generoso in Val Mara, Switzerland.

    Writer's Studio - Flora Ruchat - Roncati, Architect.

    Battistero di Riva San Vitale