CONSTRUCT is an AEC educational program and exhibition that has the goal of bringing together the different disciplines within the construction industry to help improve the future of the built environment. Breaking down the barriers between the different players within the construction process allows for a more collaborative work environment. CONSTRUCT is the place to share the latest in standards and best practices, industry trends, and emerging technologies. Join Construction Architects, Designers, Specifiers, Engineers, Project Managers, Contractors, Construction Managers, Estimators, Owners, Product Representatives, and Manufacturers for cutting-edge, solutions-driven learning opportunities.
Posts tagged with "Architectural Education":
The 2019 edition of Cersaie - the world’s premier exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings - is returning to Bologna, Italy from September 23-27. With a robust program that includes lectures by Pritzker-winning architects, CEU-accredited seminars for architects and designers, and training courses for tile industry professionals, Cersaie will serve as an important venue for education, conversation and community. More than 800 exhibitors from 40 countries will showcase the latest trends, designs, and innovations in the ceramic tile industry. Cersaie is organized by Edi.Cer SpA and promoted by Confindustria Ceramica in collaboration with BolognaFiere.
Architecture has faced many challenges in modern Ukraine: shifting narratives around cultural heritage and the legacy of Soviet architecture, predatory developers who willfully ignore planning regulations, a struggling economy, and widespread corruption to name a few. Ukraine’s state institutions of higher education often grapple with badly needed reforms, bloated by outdated bureaucracy and limited resources. But today, only five years after a peaceful revolution came to a tragic end and with war waging at its eastern border, Ukraine’s first independent school of architecture has just completed the inaugural year of its bachelor program in architecture. The newly established Kharkiv School of Architecture (KhSA) and its dedicated community of educators and students are hopeful signs of the bottom-up reforms possible in post-revolution Ukraine. In spite of the frustrating global tug-of-war over its lands, and the sobering societal struggles, a new generation of leaders are being trained to construct Ukraine’s future. Reformation Calls for reform in post-Soviet Ukraine have been steadily building for many years but became a global focus in 2014 during the “Maidan” movement (now termed the Revolution of Dignity). Although it began in Kyiv as backlash to the former President Yanukovych's decision to reverse an EU agreement, the movement rapidly grew to multi-city protests. The protestors’ grievances grew to include Ukraine’s systematic and widespread corruption, which affects many aspects of daily life, including in higher education. As Lviv-based historian Yaroslav Hrytsak told the Kyiv Post at the time, the revolution was characterized particularly by, “young people who are very educated, people who are active in social media, who are mobile and 90 percent of whom have university degrees, but who don't have futures.” Today, the legacy of the Revolution of Dignity is a young generation that continues to work towards political, social, economic, and educational reforms. For the leaders of the KhSA, the question is how the architects they are training can be not only become responsible practitioners but the reformers Ukraine needs. One of the many positive societal shifts in post-revolution Ukraine is a growing engagement in the built environment. Young activists are leading a charge to save Ukraine’s remaining Soviet modernist architecture from destructive forces, including decommunization laws and aggressive development. Additionally, many architects are returning to Ukraine after training or working abroad and leveraging their experiences to bring visitors and new ideas into the Ukranian architectural community through workshops, forums, and other public programming. A New Model Kharkiv is an industrial city in the northeast corner of Ukraine. The country’s second largest city, Kharkiv was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic before the capital was moved to Kyiv in 1934. In architecture circles, Kharkiv is perhaps best known as the site of Derzhprom, a Metropolis-like complex of constructivist towers interlinked by iconic skyways that made it the largest single structure in the world when completed in 1928. The KhSA fronts a small square near the confluence of the Lopan and Kharkiv Rivers. Behind its sparkling white Beaux-Arts facade, the activity of the school is intense and frenetic. The lower level galleries are filled with studio spaces and exhibitions. Upstairs, the “big hall” hosts lectures and symposiums on an almost nightly basis. The basement workshop is filled with mock-ups, models, and countless meters of wood. The school rents various lab spaces to a coding academy, a VR company, and other start-ups. The greatest hub of activity is the small office on the lower floor. Inside, the young tutors and directors that run the school day-to-day meet constantly, often planning events and the school’s schedule on a weekly or daily basis. The conversation is intense, vigorous, and constant. No one in the room is over 40. The KhSA serves a unique population—of its first class of eleven students, ten are women. The students range in age from 18-to-44, many with families and children. Everyone in the first year class is Ukrainian, but the school is in the planning stages of an international master’s program, which they hope to introduce in the coming years to attract students from around the world to study in Ukraine. The KhSA is a new type of architectural education in Ukraine. The school’s statement of purpose is to “prepare a future generation of professional responsible architects and urbanists who will implement spatial changes in Ukraine and will create a quality environment with an emphasis on modern technology solutions, community challenges, and new ideas.” A workshop earlier this summer at the school focused on rehousing some of the nearly 1.5 million internally displaced Ukrainians who have fled the Eastern conflict zone near the Russian border. The school’s founder, Oleg Drozdov, sees training architects to tackle the real-world problems of the Ukrainian context as his young institution’s mandate. Drozdov leverages relationships from his successful practice to identify organizations, municipalities, and projects that could benefit from a relationship with the school. Open/Work To celebrate the first year of their newly established bachelor's program, program director Kuba Snopek and his colleagues decided to hold a public exhibition and architectural education symposium. Our practice, Outpost Office, was invited to lead a seminar that would work with students to curate, design, and fabricate the exhibition, Open/Work. We quickly discovered that KhSA’s first class was a prolific one. We began by asking the students to collect every single piece of work they had produced and arrange them on the floor of the big hall. Over the next few hours, our students assembled an immense landscape of work, including compositional studies, material experiments, construction details, and modest houses that concluded their studio studies. After a conversation about the work, we asked the students to sweep through the school again, gathering tools, books, posters and any other ephemera that was significant to them. We explained that we were seeking answers to a deceptively simple question: What makes an architecture school? In many ways, our approach to this seminar and exhibition draws inspiration from previous research work on organizational and material systems of open-air markets and bazaars. Starting in 2014 as a Fulbright Fellow in Ukraine, Ashley became fascinated with architectural logic of organization, tectonics, and display methods found in Ukrainian markets. In 2016 she led “Bizarre Bazaar,” a travel seminar with students from the University of Michigan’s Taubman College to study these environments and make legible their design modalities of organization, governance, and logistics. Like all start-ups, the KhSA works with limited resources. In this spirit, the exhibition utilizes inexpensive materials typical of bazaars and markets in Ukraine—white metal grating, glossy white tiles, and generic LED lights—along with the bazaars’ highly curated organizational approach to display. The white metal grating used as the exhibition’s primary material is also erected by bazaar vendors to densely suspend their goods. Students worked collaboratively to explore organizational methods and detailing more often associated with museum storage than acts of display. Objects in the floating archive are arrayed to produce micro-narratives that celebrated significant accomplishments of their first year. The exhibition not only included student work, but items borrowed from around the school including lecture posters, books, pencils, ✖️ 's (for Ха́рків), pillows, hard hats, woodworking tools, and at least one concrete whale. Ultimately, the exhibition is a moment to reflect on a remarkable milestone before another important "first" arrives... second year. This project would not have been possible without the supporting institutions that funded our research in Ukraine the last five years, including the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University, University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Fulbright Program, the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, and the KhSA.
Most architecture students study design precedents or build upon knowledge gained in history courses, but one mid-century educator repeatedly told young minds instead:
Do not try to remember.Bruce Goff, a self-trained architect and long-time mentee of Frank Lloyd Wright, instilled this idea in his students at the University of Oklahoma (OU) during his tenure as chairman there from 1947 to 1955. Instead of copying the popular Beaux Arts and Bauhaus styles of the recent past, Goff wanted architects in training to express their own creativity and views of the world through designs that avoided architectural stereotypes and instead presented a radical future. This era of educational exploration and disruption became known as the American School of architecture. Historian and OU Visiting Associate Professor Dr. Luca Guido is the curator behind the exhibition, Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell. Now on view in OU’s Bizzell Memorial Library, it details the widespread influence of Goff’s personal teaching style and the program he built, which attracted students to the American Midwest from as far as Japan and South America. The exhibit features large-scale drawings by alumni, as well as uncovered models and writings from Goff’s students and colleagues like Herb Greene, Elizabeth Bauer Mock, Bart Prince, Mendel Glickman, and Jim Gardner, and Bob Bowlby, among others. Built from the school’s expansive American School archives, the show unveils former students' work that’s been so pristinely preserved and restored, it all looks like it was completed yesterday. Goff, who seemed to have encouraged serious attention to presentation, penmanship, and shading, left behind what Guido considers a “gold mine” of materials. Every framed assignment on view is a piece of art in and of itself—a testament to the architectural educator’s guidance. “Bruce Goff introduced a new architectural pedagogy,” Guido said, “and the School of Architecture at OU endeavored to develop the creative skills of the students as individuals rather than followers of any particular trend. The drawings represent the evidence of an extraordinary and, at the same time, little known page of the history of American contemporary architecture.” That history is one that OU is now trying more heavily to build upon. As one of just two architecture schools in Oklahoma, OU lures students from across the state, nearby Texas, and around the globe to the small town of Norman. It was considered a world-class institution during Goff’s years and still seeks to live up to that legacy today. Since becoming head of the school three years ago, Dean Hans E. Butzer has worked to re-elevate its status. “Our discussions over the past few years prove a symmetry between those defining aspects of the American School and the overarching strategic priorities of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture,” he said. “The work of the American School of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s may be described as contextual, resourceful, and experimental. Today, we have set the goal of graduating entrepreneurial students who design resilient cities, towns, and landscapes through the lens of social equity and environmental sustainability.” This idea is evident in the success of last year’s graduating class. As of fall 2018, one hundred percent of architecture students secured a full-time position within six months of graduation, according to Butzer. Only two, the faculty jokes, didn’t get hired. They instead went on to begin master’s degrees at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. When asked why OU graduates are so attractive to firms across the country, Butzer noted the work ethic and creative problem-solving skills they learned as students. Teaching students to speak up, stand out, and work hard can be traced back to Goff’s presence at the school and his own career as an eccentric architect who always put the client first and aimed to “go the extra mile,” according to Guido. His modus operandi was to first connect deeply with the client, ensuring the end result was strictly their vision. His objective was to never design a building he personally wanted to live in. Some of Goff’s most famous structures, the Ledbetter House in Norman, the ill-fated Bavinger House that was demolished in 2016, as well as the Bachman House in Chicago, took on forms reminiscent of Wright’s residential work—low-lying residential homes with surprisingly large interiors, cantilevered carports, and large windows—but they all displayed a curious amount of flamboyancy that was signature to Goff himself. The architecture of his early years, such as the historic Tulsa Club and the Art Deco-designed Boston Avenue Methodist Church, are celebrated landmarks in Tulsa and reveal Goff’s visual personality. Goff was also a champion of sustainable and site-specific construction; he often utilized local materials for his projects. Fittingly, Goff rejected the idea of having a personal style of architecture. Some of Goff’s mid-century work and the sketches of his students from this time seem to be inspired by Atomic Age tropes. Viewing them now, they’re so futuristic they probably seemed structurally unbuildable at the time, but the geometries that came out of the American School were forward-thinking and technically-advanced. During Goff’s leadership, architectural courses fell within OU’s College of Engineering where students were taught how to complete construction drawings and to specify materials. But in Goff’s classes, it was all about creativity. “Bruce Goff didn’t believe in critiques,” said Guido. “He wanted them completely free to propose what they wanted. The assignments were structured around abstract themes that allowed the students to express themselves in the best possible way because for Goff, there would be no little Corbusier's, no little Mies's, and even no little Goff's. He didn’t want his students to become followers of someone. He wanted them to abandon all memory of what came before them.” Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at Bizzell is on view through July 29 and will turn into a comprehensive traveling exhibition this year with a stop at Texas A&M University in the fall. The OU Libraries also has plans to secure the preservation of the archives by making them part of the school's Western History Collection and digitizing select images for online research.
Tour extraordinary historic homes and gorgeous gardens as Pasadena Heritage presents architectural and landscape design spanning more than 8 decades. Tour guests will experience noteworthy architecture and landscape design that influence each other and combine to create perfect harmony. From “curb appeal” to private interiors, visitors will enjoy places that clearly demonstrate the beauty of indoor-outdoor living blended seamlessly together. Prior to the tour, on Thursday, March 28that 7:00 pm, Michael Logan, Busch Gardens researcher and historian, will speak about Pasadena’s historic Busch Gardens. Industrialist and co-founder of the Anheiser-Busch Corporation, Adolphus Busch, and his wife Lily, bought a winter home on Orange Grove Boulevard in 1904, and immediately began working with a prominent landscape architect to beautify their property. They installed rare and exotic plants and trees, created fanciful water features, and turned the floor of the Arroyo into a botanical wonderland. In 1905 they opened their garden to the public, and Busch Gardens became a major tourist attraction until its closing in 1938. In his presentation, Mr. Logan matches historic images to their same exact locations a century later. The lecture will take place at Maranatha High School, 169 S. St. John Ave., and free parking is available.
Nashville, Tennessee's Belmont University just announced it’s creating a five-year Bachelor of Architecture program. It will be the first of its kind in Middle Tennessee and only the second in the state. Why is this big news? Currently, Nashville is home to about 600 architects, which isn’t a lot compared to similarly-sized cities like Austin, Texas (1,010) and Charlotte, North Carolina (1,190), according to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization estimates that the Cumberland Region surrounding Nashville, which covers 10 counties, will add another million people by 2035. Previously, there were no undergraduate architecture programs located within 150 miles of the city. The only other in the state is at the University of Tennesee—Knoxville, which also offers a master's degree—The University of Memphis only has a graduate program in architecture. In fifteen years, future Belmont architecture graduates could be getting their licenses. The Christian liberal arts school said it will begin offering courses in the fall of 2020 through its newly acquired O’More College of Design. Belmont’s Provost Dr. Thomas Burns told AN in an email that over the years, many local community members, from students, architects, and business leaders, have lamented the lack of such a program in Nashville. “Nashville has always been an extremely creative community where the importance of the development of a designer’s or artist’s craft found seamless purchase with the heart of the community,” Burns said, “so the marriage of an architecture program with Belmont’s focus on creating citizens ready to contribute to our city was a natural choice.” Though Belmont boasts a small population of just over 8,300 students, its global reach is large. More than 36 countries are represented in its current study body as well as people from every state in the U.S. It offers over 90 areas of undergraduate study (music and music business are two of its biggest attractions—Brad Paisley is an alumnus), as well as 25 master's programs, and five doctoral degrees. With the addition of an architecture program, future students could steer Nashville through a massive building boom. The Music City is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the South—over $13 billion have been poured into the region in recent years. Provost Burns noted the announcement, though just a few days old, has already sparked excitement in the community. “Nashville has been ready for an architecture program for years, but there wasn’t an educational institution where they could focus their energy,” he said. “We’ve had a great deal of interest from local architects wanting to develop and support the program and our students.” Over the next year, the school will work with the local leaders to develop the architecture program’s initial curriculum, which, according to Provost Burns, is aimed at producing graduates “who see themselves contributing and supporting their community through good work and good citizenship.”
Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical, an exhibition opening at the Cooper Union in New York City later this month, will showcase work from undergraduate architecture theses from the school's past 50 years. Visitors to the show will have the chance to check out the professional beginnings of bold-face names like Elizabeth Diller, Stanley Allen, and Daniel Libeskind. “The thesis year is a pivotal point in Cooper Union’s five-year architectural program, as it showcases the imagination and maturity of our students,” said Nader Tehrani, dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture in a statement. “Thesis is a culmination of an emerging architect’s learning and the launchpad between life as a student and their future as a professional. It allows students to become self-driven and often serves as a touchstone for long-term research throughout their career.” The show is going up in anticipation of the school's launching of a digital archive of past student work in October 2019. The Cooper Union has been one of the New York City's top architecture schools for decades and was particularly important in the 1980s and '90s as a center of activity for architects like Peter Eisenman and John Hejduk. A symposium, Thesis Now: Pedagogies, Research, and Agency of the Architectural Thesis, will accompany the exhibition on December 1, and the show is being presented in tandem with this year's Archtober festival. Archive and Artifact Wednesday, October 24–Saturday, December 1, 2018 Tuesday–Friday 2 p.m.–7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m.–7 p.m. The Cooper Union, Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, 2nd Floor 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues New York, New York 10003
While architectural academic institutions in the Midwest boast incredible professors from various parts of the design industry, students don’t often have the chance to peek behind-the-scenes of an international practice since many larger firms keep their offices in New York or Los Angeles. Luckily for students, many major architects give back to the field by teaching on the side. For as long as architecture has been an educational pursuit, students have benefited from these unique opportunities to learn from an architect in action. University lectures aren’t just for students, though. Whether they are two years or twenty years out of school, every architect can enjoy these events. That’s why ahead of the upcoming school year, we’ve rounded up a list of impressive talks—all free and open to the public—happening this fall at various universities from St. Louis to Chicago. Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning and Design Lawrence Scarpa, cofounder of Brooks + Scarpa Architects Monday, October 1 Michelle Delk, ASLA, partner and discipline director at Snøhetta Monday, November 5 University of Michigan Taubman College Florian Idenburg, cofounder of SO–IL “Open Structure - Open Form” Tuesday, September 25 Ann Forsyth, professor of urban planning at Harvard GSD “Planning for Longevity: A Gender Perspective” Monday, October 8 Washington University Sam Fox School Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, founders of TWBTA Cannon Design Lecture for Excellence in Architecture and Engineering Wednesday, October 24 Barry Bergdoll, MoMA curator of architecture and design “Activating the Museum: Reflections on Architecture in the Gallery” Friday, October 26 Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture Takaharu Tezuka, cofounder of Tezuka Architects Friday, October 19 Kenneth Frampton Le Corbusier Symposium Keynote Address Thursday, November 8 Iowa State University College of Design Kevin Schorn, associate at Renzo Piano Building Workshop 2018 Herbert Lecture in Architecture Friday, September 7 University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture Dan Pitera, executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center Friday, October 5 Amie Shao, principal of MASS Design Group Friday, October 26 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning Katherine Faulkner, founding principal of NADAAA “Organized Layers” Friday, September 14 Alexandra Lange, architecture critic at Curbed, author “A Modern Education: Learning from Froebel, Frank Lloyd Wright, Anne Tyng and Isamu Noguchi” Thursday, October 11 Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang “Expanded Practice” Friday, October 19
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the 2018 honorees of its Diversity Recognition Program, now in its 10th year. The program seeks to recognize those who have substantially committed to increasing diversity in the field of architecture, as well as those who have challenged the traditional ways of doing things. This year’s honorees are the Maryland-based Architecture, Construction, Engineering Mentor Program (ACE), and the organization, Iowa Women in Architecture (iaWia). The ACE Mentor Program, founded in 1994 in Rockville, Maryland, is a workforce development program created by AEC industry members as a way of getting high school students interested in a career in design or construction. The program supplies students with scholarships, mentorship opportunities, and support as they pursue an education in an AEC field. To date, over 1,000 schools and 9,000 students participate in the program annually, and ACE has awarded over $15 million in grants and scholarships since its founding. Iowa Women in Architecture was co-founded by four women in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2011 as a nonprofit that would support women in architecture and serve as a resource for every stage of the profession. The group’s mission is to increase the visibility of women in design, advocate for women in design fields, and to help advance women to leadership positions. This year’s AIA jurors included:
- Steven Spurlock, FAIA,
- Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, and
- Jonathan Penndorf, FAIA
What are we to make of a recent survey that claims MIT, the Bartlett, and Delft University of Technology are the best architecture schools in the world? This ranking, created by British-based Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) also names Stanford, New York University, and University of California, Santa Barbara, as its top schools for architecture and these institutions don’t even have standalone schools of architecture. This assessment has received a great deal of attention on social media, particularly from those associated with the top schools. But what are we to make of a listing that does not even mention SCI-Arc or the Architectural Association in London? It also lists the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales ahead of Cornell University, and Kyoto University just ahead of Princeton and the University of Michigan. I have nothing against the schools that came out on top, nor am I trying to be chauvinistic by emphasizing U.S. universities, but one has to wonder about a list that puts King Saud University in Saudi Arabia ahead of Rice University in Houston. But what criteria did the QS use in establishing the ranking? First, this firm, which calls itself a “higher education marketing company” and one of the “three most influential university rankings in the world,” looked only at universities. This means that while QS surveyed “2,122 institutions across the globe, offering courses in architecture or the built environment,” schools like Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, Cooper Union, or the Royal College of Art in London were not even considered for evaluation. QS asserts that its evaluation is based on four factors: academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper, and what it calls “H-Index citations.” An H-Index citation is a metric that attempts to “measure both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar.” It’s hard to learn more about the QS architecture ranking, and it seems rather sloppy and unscientific, but the firm also rates universities worldwide, and these rankings seem to line up fairly closely with its architecture list. Its top universities in the world are, in order, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Harvard University, California Institute of Technology, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University College London, Imperial College London, University of Chicago, and the ETH Zurich. Interestingly, Yale University came in sixteenth in the QS world ranking of universities, but its architecture school ranked a lowly 100th in the world behind the University of Kebangsaan in Malaysia, Texas A&M University, and Monash University in Australia. This QS ranking seems tone deaf to the real qualities that make a great architecture school, even while admitting the value and importance of PhD-level scholarship and research. Architecture is a craft as much as a liberal art, and therefore requires its teaching institutions to transmit a particular set of real-world skills that have to be mastered by students. For this reason, a great lab with CNC milling and robotic machines is important to contemporary design education. The students’ ability to work with their hands, render a plan, and be able to create a working section is as important as learning the history and theory of the discipline. In addition, the realities of the marketplace mean that students need the mentoring of professional working architects who make up the bulk of most design schools. The students who come out of great design schools need the refined focus of building culture, and this has been true since the École des Beaux-Arts and its workshop intern practice that is unique to the field. Furthermore, today’s architecture graduates don’t always find employment in traditional architecture offices—let alone go on to pursue PhDs as the QS ranking would suggest. In the words of cultural critic Brian Holmes, “designers, architects, and other actors in the creative fields must be multidisciplinary, open to collaboration, and motivated to find and initiate these often-amorphous work arrangements.” You can only get these in a full-blown school of architecture, and this need not be a university. There are many problems with the QS evaluation that undermines its usefulness, but one, in particular, is its disregard for educational differences between undergraduate and graduate programs—not to mention overlooking the educational content in two- and four-year degree and non-degree programs. The DesignIntelligence ranking of schools in the United States may also have shortcomings, but at least it gets the finer points of undergrad and graduate education and considers them. It identifies Cornell as the best undergraduate program in the country and the Harvard Graduate School of Design as the best graduate program, and that assessment seems more in line with real-world architecture in 2018. Finally, it may make sense to consider architecture education in a national context, rather than a worldwide one, since the licensing protocols and building requirements are so different from nation to nation. Sorry, MIT, but this QS ranking is so myopically concerned with academic citations as to be nearly worthless as a guide for what comprises quality architecture education in all its 21st-century variety and subtlety.
Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry will be teaching architecture, design, and art on the online education platform Masterclass. It is the latest online program that lets anyone get an intro to the field—or allows architects to brush up on their skills. Gehry will share his philosophy on design and architecture from his enormous model archive, giving a glimpse into his creative process with case studies, progressive models, and storytelling. “I have tried to give the students insight into my process—how and why I did things. I hope this gives them the wings to explore and the courage to create their own language,” said Gehry. The renowned architect joins other MasterClass instructors, including Serena Williams, who taught a tennis workshop, and Christina Aguilera, who gave students a singing lesson. For more information, visit their website.
Milton S. F. Curry, associate dean at Taubman College, on race, class, public education, and the future of architecture
The following letter was sent to The Architect’s Newspaper in response to the current debate, at local and national levels, about public education, in and out of the field of architecture. The author, Milton S. F. Curry, is the Associate Dean at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Director of Michigan Architecture Prep. ARCHITECTURE AND PUBLIC EDUCATION: CULTIVATING CREATIVE POTENTIAL In University of Michigan President James B. Angell’s Commencement Address on June 26, 1879, he stated “The most democratic atmosphere in the world is that of the college. There all meet on absolutely equal terms. Nowhere else do accidents of birth or condition count for so little.” Ezra Cornell stated in his address at the opening of Cornell University on October 7, 1868, “I hope that we have laid the foundation of an institution which shall combine practical with liberal education, which shall fit the youth of our country for the professions, the farms, the mines, the manufactories, for the investigations of science, and for mastering all the practical questions of life with success and honor.... I trust we have laid the foundation of [a] university—‘an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.’” These words are not merely rhetorical flourishes, they are ideological imperatives that buttress some of our superb world-class public and private universities and institutions and by extension our collective belief in an egalitarian system of public education that educates all, no matter what one’s lot in life. The Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program—an architecture enrichment program based in Detroit and supported by the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning—leverages the institution’s public ethos by engaging high school juniors in a studio-based architecture and college preparatory academic program. The program—one of the few of its kind to commit to a half-day full semester program with high school students—is an exemplar in leveraging university-level thinking towards enriching the secondary education of students in a large urban public school district. The field of architecture is expected to grow by 17 percent between now and 2022 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Yet as of 2008, only 1.5 percent of American architects were African-American, despite comprising 12 to 13 percent of the total U.S. population. This fact alone—virtually unchanged since I was a junior in high school, accounting for population growth and demographic growth among minority populations since the 1960s—should precipitate crisis-level response from our educational and professional institutions and accrediting bodies. But it hasn’t. Attracting diverse students, retaining them and supporting their academic success and professional development is challenging in architecture for several reasons: 1) unique residential segregation by class and race in the U.S. which leads to sizable gaps in academic achievement by twelfth grade—evidence shows that residential segregation and segregation in the nation’s public school system has gotten worse since the 1970s when desegregation plans were enforced by state and federal offices for civil rights; 2) lack of sufficient cultivation of “successful mindsets” among underrepresented minorities and marginalized populations and groups, 3) lack of “critical mass” of underrepresented minorities and other marginalized groups—making it more difficult to develop a sense of well-being and belonging, and 4) the focus on “identifying talent” versus “cultivating potential” in trying to articulate and sell the value of an architecture education to minorities and marginalized populations. The discipline of architecture alone cannot alter the systemic and exclusionary forces that have resulted in the current situation in which architecture students, and top-tier university students as a whole, are much wealthier and more ethnically and racially homogeneous than the population at large. Yet precisely because of our legacy of studio-based educational pedagogy and the capacious way in which architects can receive a broad liberal arts education while simultaneously becoming experts in visual and spatial aspects of conceptualizing and making physical and virtual objects at all scales, we are uniquely qualified to make substantive interventions in the public education landscape at this moment in American history. Detroit students, like so many students in large urban school districts, need more opportunities to expand their creative horizons beyond the traditional classroom. At a time when the twin forces of efficiency and technocracy translate into more mechanized test-taking and quantitative metrics of evaluation, an architectural way of thinking and making can unleash creative potential in students who have been all but written off because their way of learning and their cultural forms of expression and knowledge exchange do not comport to middle-class values and norms. Our democracy depends upon quality public educational institutions to educate the country’s diverse population. Privatization and defunding of public education strike at the heart of our social compact and our racial history as a nation. Our current political debates about the growth of charter schools and voucher schemes and the privatization of public schools as alternatives to underperforming public schools must be subjected to fact-based analysis. As U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren stated in her January 9, 2017, letter to U. S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, “Today’s voucher schemes can be just as harmful to public school district budgets, because they often leave school districts with less funding to teach the most disadvantaged.” With just 58 percent third-grade reading proficiency in Detroit Public Schools, as reported by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce State of the Region Report 2016-17, clearly there is a necessity to improve performance in Detroit and other urban school districts. But this urgency need not result in opportunistic formulations that lead to random shuttering of neighborhood schools or a turn to online education as a panacea for the problem of effective knowledge exchange in K-12 education. The collective energy and monies spent trying to influence politicians and create a parallel system of unregulated publicly-funded private charter schools would be better spent facilitating smaller classrooms, empowering quality teachers to teach meaningful content as opposed to ‘teaching to the test,’ and paying teachers for the value that they are expected to provide. Individual and collective identities—understood in the context of historical legacies of exclusion and marginalization—are directly connected to life outcomes. Detroit students, like so many students in large urban school districts, need more opportunities to expand their creative horizons beyond the traditional classroom. Without a critical mass of representation from women, Black Americans, Latinos and Hispanics, and others who have been systematically underrepresented in the discipline of architecture, the discipline will continue to underserve not only the communities from which these persons emanate, but the entire polity. The context for the production of art and architecture today is shifting—because people want to understand themselves as not only having a stake in the cities they live in—and they want to be involved in how they are designed and developed. I anticipate a new generational critique of the exclusion of our disciplines to underrepresented minorities and lower-class citizens globally; and a renewed sense of participation in thinking anew about the very institutional structures that enforce elitism and exclusion. Detroit Public Schools Community District students who participate in the Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program—unlike the caricatures of them that get publicized in the media—are motivated to learn and eager to be intellectually challenged. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. They—many of the over 130 students who have matriculated through our program—are better equipped to succeed in college and better prepared for the cultural shift from an urban high school to a top-tier public or private university. How do I know? I know this because we have students who have matriculated through the program who are now enrolled at the University of Michigan, Lawrence Technical University, Michigan State University and other institutions, and they tell us that our program helped propel them to grow their mindsets and to more quickly assess the own “knowledge landscape” for gaps and to correct for those gaps quickly and proactively. Project-based learning coupled with focused basic proficiencies can more quickly propel motivated and unmotivated students to aspire to their own academic achievement—this is what we have found in our five semesters of operating the Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program. Smaller class size, intense student-teacher interaction, and iterative-based design projects that incorporate applied geometry and visual arts are the core of our program. Their design projects are infused with lesson plans on social movements and the relationships between the visual histories of social movements and the space of the city—the integration of humanistic thought, social issues of concern to them and their families, and the study of architecture. Our relative success suggests that these pedagogical innovations can and do work, and that those of us in higher education can learn from them as well as apply many of these design-centered pedagogical approaches into the university context —in architecture and design-related fields but also in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering. Students in our program are not acutely aware of the history of race and class that pervades the city of Detroit. They are not consumed by the massive loss of jobs, the rampant corruption at the hands of countless emergency managers for their school district and for the City of Detroit. They are interested in seeing—that is, believing in—a vision of the future for themselves that is possible and achievable. They are less interested in platitudes like ‘individual responsibility’ or ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstaps’ than in personal narratives of persons like them who have started their own business or charted a nonlinear path from high school to a seat in an architecture firm doing what they love and what they are passionate about. As Marshall Brown stated in our Fall 2016 Graduation Ceremony, “Architecture can take you places—geographically, mentally, and intellectually.” When I was the age of our students—a high school student growing up in Central California to upper middle class parents, yet living among working class Black Californians, and being bused to predominantly white public schools during the heyday of school desegregation—I valued diversity even though it meant enduring psychological trauma at the hands of racist teachers. The wager that was available for me, my parents, and so many of my contemporaries was to seize the high level of intellectual content accompanied by abject racism or settle for low-quality educational options with a homogeneous Black community (largely poor and working class). With Black wealth at fractional percentages of white wealth, the Black middle-class today, 2017, is relegated to the many of the same schools and school districts as their working class and poor counterparts. Because of my background of inhabiting several worlds simultaneously, I celebrate cross-class and interracial learning environments as some of the most stimulating forums of cross-cultural knowledge exchange and one in which the research has shown are best at producing a leveling of the playing field in terms of matching Black and Latino academic achievement with their white counterparts. The methodology of public education—one that used to be focused on high-performance and outcomes that provide a pathway to college—has shifted to become more focused on accepting society’s conception of poor and working class and minority students as irreparably damaged by their station in life and their own bad luck. What flows from these conceptions are a tamping down of expectations and a “settler” mentality that these students should be educated, but the threshold of education that they deserve is related to the individual choices that their parents made and on the available resources that society is willing to part with to help them along. This is not helped by an accelerated white flight currently taking place whereby white families are fleeing schools with the largest minority student populations. To counter these efforts, universities must become more engaged in leveraging their resources and intellectual capital to create expanded opportunities for the nation’s most vulnerable children—those in high-poverty and monolithically minority-populated urban metro areas and those in rural areas. Based on our experience at the University of Michigan, this is the best way to extend our values and assist in what has to be a massive crisis-level response to the failure of our public educational system to live up to our aspirations as well as the historical success that was achieved in other periods of our history—when public schools were very good and when public university systems were recognized and funded as a public good. More information on the University of Michigan Michigan Architecture Preparatory Program can be found here.