Zhuo Cheng's picture

From Rome to Constantinople

Last summer, I attended a study abroad program in Rome via the University of Minnesota. That trip truly opened my eyes. As a design student, it is important to have expansive vista, creativity comes from experiences and experiences are either from the book or from the trip.

With the unforgettable trip in my memory, I decided to continue my steps of traveling. This semester, I attended another study abroad program which is in both Rome and Constantinople, two great cities in the world that influenced and shaped the layout the today’s Europe.

The reason I still call her Constantinople is because the stories when she was still called as Constantinople was totally different from the day when she was renamed as Istanbul.

Rome was the center of the Europe during its Imperial glory, then the center of the cathedral after the collapse of the Empire. The city is also called “external city” since its civilization was always standing.

The class we took in Rome was the study of Rome’s rich history. We were assigned to create a map that shows the many different layers of the city. After hundreds of hours of hard working and many 4-hour sleep night, we created a map that was big and detail enough to show not only the layout of the city but also the illustration of its beauty. Our final map was too big so we have to do our review by using an entire city plaza. But we were all very satisfied.



Following the steps of Constantine the Great, we stepped into the land of Constantinople. At this point, all we knew about this city was when Constantine built the city, he saw this city as “New Rome.” There’s lots of similarity between Rome and Constantinople. First, they are both Christian city for the power of church. Then, they were both built on seven hills. At last but not least, they were both the center point of the world back to the history.

However, after Ottomans Turks overthrow the city, the story change. The Ottomans Turks didn’t destroy the city and re-built a new one, they found their way to fuse both culture together perfectly. For instance, Aya Sofia was turned from a church to a mosque so she could stand still for thousands of years.

The fusing of the culture made Istanbul a great city from all aspects. We were all very excited that we could experience the mighty of the city. However, as design students, we will not be willing to experience the city as a tourist.




The way we communicated with the city is through design. We were assigned to a very complicated across the water of Golden Horn of the Historical District, and our goal is purpose the re-design possibility of the area to create more comfortable and effective landscape to better serve of the city. It is a semester long project and we are all ready for it.


Yeni Mosque, Istanbul