Passing (K)notes to the New Dean
Dear Dean Massey,
After listening to your kickoff lecture, I realized how little I know about the ongoing research being carried on in the school. Over the past year, I have been trying to figure out: what are some of the Taubman faculty's present research and design interests and what are their ongoing projects?
It is only on the day of completion of the project, when the mystery is unveiled at the exhibition or at the opening of the project that I get some clarity on that. For a keen student who is unaware of these developments, it seems like a lost opportunity for valuable learning. I feel that the disclosure of projects, faculty grants and research opportunities in the school should be more apparent. At the same time, it would help students doing independent research to have a platform where they can discuss their work and interests and collaborate with other students and faculty members. I believe that architecture education is not only limited to the courses offered by the school but also in engaging in apprenticeship opportunities and active collaboration within the University.
Kindly- Tithi Sanyal
Bryce R. Brown
Dear Dean Jonathan Massey,
Thank you, really, for taking the time to read students’ opinions. Being one myself, I don’t know much. But it would seem that architectural education, if it’s to meet its definition, must first seek to keep afloat a sense of purpose and meaning in students’ lives through architecture. To me, this means that professors must help students with answering their own architectural questions, allowing them to piece together and grow their biography—that the relationship is one of personal guidance, one that includes memory. While some professors have greatly helped students in these ways, others have been hardly present. In other cases, it seems that abstraction has replaced meaningful pedagogy. And graduate studios, usually based on students choosing or being assigned professors based on professors’ themes and ideas, are seemingly not in line with this way of educating.
A second part of architectural education seems to be in learning how our work will affect others. Therefore, “Given the interrelationship between living space and human behaviour, those who design buildings, neighbourhoods, public spaces and cities, ought to draw on the various disciplines which help us to understand people’s thought processes, symbolic language and ways of acting. It is not enough to seek beauty in design.” While these aspects of design are already being considered by some faculty and students, they are seemingly not yet an integral part of our graduate or undergraduate program.
I hope that you may have time to consider these points and whether they may improve our program. And, again, thank you.
Samer El Husseini
While pursuing my undergraduate degree at Ohio State University, I once approached a professor in awe of his un-orthodox teaching methods and met him after class at his office. I started, and told him that I read a quote once that said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” He looked at me and said, “it turns out it was ‘explore and you will learn.” I never really understood what he said, but hope to do so at Taubman college. The multitudinous faculty and wide range of equipment was a major incentive for my coming here. It excites me to know that there are multiple publication opportunities, fabrication capabilities and of course “The Blobs” and “The Squares”. I am looking forward to having a more open dialogue and an inter-connected studio culture that nurtures an open ended conversation about architecture, a cross-platform induction of other disciplines, and of course, the late nights.
It is undeniable that the goal of an academic institution such as Taubman College at the University of Michigan is to expose students to multiple facets of architecture. Dean Jonathan Massey has assured us of this in his inspiring speech at the Fall 2017 opening lecture. In his speech, Dean Massey expressed his vision for a more affordable and inclusive system for all by shortening the training time. However, it seems to me that this might diminish an aspect of professional practice. Would this model affect the quality of the designers? We may end up with a group of great thinkers who don’t know how to work. I personally would love to hear more about this vision and how we are going to implement it at Taubman College.
Shawn M. Lutz
Architecture today has personality and delivers de-familiarizing objects through a nuance of scale and forged complication to make simple. An enactment guided by narrative, lines, image, and volumetric interiority demands productive complication with imperfection. Blurry at first, the imperfections are conflicting and troublesome, but without doubt, find alignment as a singular cohesive form. As precision becomes the formal interface, blurriness transforms into a new precision by contrast. Urbane by in-between conditions, the blurry to precision is the support. Alignments and misalignment of geometry, modification of figures, orchestrate intersections as knots, projections and collisions manifest an interior agency; use languages of heaviness, chunky, contrast, flatness, and profile to provoke tensions or spatial decompression are conditions within today’s architecture. Rather than viewed as a collection of parts, conflicting pressures and unifying objects develop into a continuity and response of remembrance, where surveillance between form and volume is a relationship to one another. Thus emerges contrast, forging a dialogue of new formal relationships in both interior and exterior. Attributes and language are not estranged by geometric collisions, projections, configurations, and infrastructure for a social order through modification that inherently reveals the consciousness of belonging to place and time.
I was one of the students who clapped during your kickoff lecture when you said that studio culture creates architects that are overworked and underpaid. But once the “Down with the System!” moment subsided, I realized that fixing this issue would be quite tricky. If being overworked is the students’ problem, then the obvious answer would be for the faculty to assign them less work. But that won’t work! If a smaller number of assignments is assigned, students will simply spend more time on each assignment to fill up their entire schedule (let the “who slept less?” one-upmanship begin! I once didn’t sleep for 547 hours straight! True story). Also, Michigan does not exist in a bubble. Students constantly compare their work with that of students in other top (10?) universities.
My point is that having architecture students work less is not realistic, nor even desirable. I think the main problem isn't being overworked, but being undervalued. The issue isn't that students spend infinite hours designing a project, it's that they often don't feel particularly proud of the result at the end. Students brag about 'surviving' a studio rather than about the great work they produced in it. I don't know how this can be fixed, do you have any ideas?