November 28, 2001
The Envision discussion revealed that the School
of Architectures highly ranked programs are not satisfied
to rest on their laurels. With its rare combination of strengths
in architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history,
and urban and environmental planning, the School of Architecture
is uniquely positioned to provide creative solutions to problems
affecting the natural and built environment in this country and
abroad. As it looks to the future, the school seeks to capitalize
on its ability to influence the people and the policies shaping
the world around us.
The schools faculty are committed to addressing
the issues of our time, but without diminishing the uncommon level
of energy and thought they devote to their teaching. They are dedicated
to sustaining an intensive, demanding, and highly personal culture
of instruction that provides students with an exceptionally rewarding
experience. This style of teaching impels students and faculty alike
to draw on the full capacities of their intellects and their imaginations.
Addressing the Needs of Society
Faculty taking part in the discussion were asked to identify
pressing issues that could be addressed by marshaling the intellectual
and creative resources of the school. Prominent among the concerns
they raised were the increasing disparity between rich and poor,
continued degradation of the environment, and the growing homogenization
of the world. The places where we live, work, and conduct business
are becoming more and more alike and more and more unlikable. People
are put off by their environment and feel powerless to change it,
the Envision participants observed. The rise of heritage tourism
is a sign that we are desperate to find places of enduring value.
Other specific issues that surfaced in the Envision
discussion include the following:
The Envision participants also raised
a number of issues affecting their professional disciplines, among
||Corporatization of the architecture profession and the diminishing
role of the architect in creating the built environment.
More and more, developers and other non-architects are carrying
out the tasks of space planning and urban planning. As a result,
new communities and commercial developments are springing up
without benefit of the ethical, aesthetic, and humanistic principles
that guide the profession. A similar problem exists in landscape
architecture, it was noted. Engineers are increasingly making
the design decisions that shape outdoor spaces; the results
may be efficient, but they are rarely appealing or imaginative.
Recognizing that the corporate world offers a wide range of
opportunities for effecting change, the faculty is open to forming
constructive relationships with the commercial forces that in
fact make the larger decisions about the environment. Putting
behind them the elitism that once marked the design professions,
they wish to direct their knowledge toward more viable and practical
applications, and they would like to have the assistance and
backing of the University as they take on this more public role.
||Showcasing the Role of
the Designer in American culture. Academics and practitioners
should do more to make the public aware of the critical role
of architects, landscape architects, and planners in creating
environments that enrich our quality of life. By exposing the
University community and the general public to the social, economic,
and aesthetic benefits of good design, the school will foster
greater appreciation of the role of the designer in contemporary
||The need for greater ethnic
diversity in the profession so that it better reflects the communities
it serves. Although there has been increasing diversity
in architecture school enrollments, for some reason many persons
of color are stepping out of the pipeline to the profession.
A dearth of innovation and experimentation, especially
on this side of the Atlantic. The diminution of the profession
may in part be the result of a failure of imagination. American
architects must be able to present effective and compelling
new models to compete with corporate pressures in the marketplace
With multiple disciplines under one roof, the School of Architecture
can bring impressive forces to bear on these and other difficult
problems. Indeed, it was noted that the school has the potential
to exert tremendous influence on the future development of the Southeast
corridor, from Baltimore and D.C. to Atlanta. Among the possibilities
envisioned by the faculty is a think tank on Metropolitan Virginias
future growth, which would be the locus of research and design work
aimed at producing new planning, landscape design, and architectural
models for the state. The school needs additional funding and facilities
to take on this project.
The natural cross-pollination of ideas that occurs
among disciplines in the school fosters a conjunctive, multidimensional
way of thinking that can be a powerful tool for addressing complex
issues. One of the goals suggested in the Envision session is to
extend this way of thinking not only to students in the School of
Architecture but more broadly to other future leaders coming out
of the University.
Serving the Needs of the University
The schools faculty could well
be of greater benefit to the University and are more than willing
to be consulted when their expertise can be of value. The school
feels that the University is ignoring one of its strongest assets
when it fails to take full advantage of the creativity and design
experience housed in Campbell Hall. Envision participants urged
the University to tap into this resource when it creates new buildings
and landscapes. Members of the faculty could assist with feasibility
studies for new projects, and they could help the University create
environments of aesthetic integrity that go beyond simulation of
This will be especially important as plans go forward
for the new Arts Grounds. Historically, architecture and the arts
have been closely aligned, and the University should involve the
Architecture School in the planning and design process to ensure
that this effort to create a new environment for the arts is effective.
Building Collaborative Bridges
The Envision participants repeatedly expressed a desire to form
more effective collaborative bridges with other areas of the University.
Efforts to work with colleagues across Grounds have met with bureaucratic
barriers or lack of interest, and the school has at times turned
to specialists from other institutions to add complementary dimensions
to its teaching. This appears to be a significant source of frustration
for the faculty. Working in fields that are collaborative by nature,
they consider the cross-disciplinary instruction and research that
take place within the school as one of its key strengths. Attempts
to extend this collaborative ethos outside the school, however,
have been stymied by scheduling problems, lack of space, and competing
demands on faculty time.
Even when there have been successful collaborations,
as in a recent environmental negotiation initiative involving law,
commerce, and environmental sciences, these activities have no home.
The Architecture School is critically short of space. The University
needs to provide facilities where faculty from different schools
can work and teach together, a need expressed not only in the Architecture
School but also in the Envision discussions held elsewhere on the
Traditionally such cross-disciplinary work takes
place in special centers, but faculty pointed out that a better
solution would be flexible incubator spaces for developing creative
ideas, much like the incubator spaces provided for business start-ups.
In addition to providing adaptable space for collaboration, the
University should be more open to flexible degree programs that
combine professional and academic disciplines. Harvard, for example,
offers a one-year master of design program that allows students
to explore other professional areas.
The multiple disciplines housed by Virginias
School of Architecture make joint degree programs within the school
easy to navigate. As one participant observed, a defining quality
of the schools students should be a willingness to cross disciplinary
boundaries to search for the best and most rewarding experience.
The Challenges of a Demanding Studio
The studio culture in the School of Architecture offers a student
experience without peer at the University. Nowhere else on Grounds,
it was noted, is there such intense and frequent interaction between
students and faculty. For three hours, three times a week, a senior
member of the faculty is sitting with a student, offering analysis,
constructive criticism, and guidance. Although the studio environment
is viscerally rewarding, it places extraordinary demands on students
and faculty alike. For much of the year, the lights in Campbell
Hall burn around the clock, as students work through the night on
By "living their work" in this way, students
learn to carry a concept through from rough idea to finished product.
They also learn to discuss and defend their ideas. The culminating
moment in students training is the final review, a public
event in which faculty discuss and critique final projects, and
students respond. The school even provides opportunities for first-year
students to exhibit and discuss their work publicly.
The downside of the intense studio culture is that
it tends to cut the school off from other parts of the University.
Faculty are hard-pressed to find time to collaborate with colleagues
in other schools or to assist the outside community in dealing with
design and planning issues. Students outside the school find it
difficult to "dip into" this way of learning. There is
a real need, according to the discussion participants, to serve
students who wish to major in architecture but minor in fields outside
the school. It is equally important to give students in other schools
the opportunity to minor in architecture.
The time demands of the studio experience also make
it difficult for faculty to apply their expertise to real-world
problems and to pursue their own design and consulting initiatives.
The school and the University must remove the barriers that keep
design faculty from remaining actively engaged in practice, such
as the 1/7 consulting rule. The state also should ease the restrictions
that prevent faculty from being hired by the University to take
part in the planning and design of new projects. This rule prevents
the University from exploiting a superb pool of talent that is recognized
around the world.
Meeting the Needs of Students and
Other issues facing the school include the growing technical
demands on faculty and students, according to Envision participants.
The school must ensure that it gives students and faculty the ability
to master changes in construction and design technology and to stay
abreast of new developments. It was suggested that the school add
faculty from a broader array of disciplines to help students grasp
the technical, social, and economic dimensions of design and planning.
One of the concerns raised in the discussion is
that the desk in the studio is gradually giving way to the laptop
computer, which can be used anywhere. While it should continue to
embrace new technologies, the school should also sustain and nurture
a studio culture that is vital to the student experience.
It was also noted that the school should provide
training not only in design but also in how to operate a design
practice. Students must learn to manage their time and their finances
so that they can run a sound business as well as an aesthetic enterprise.
In fact, it was suggested that the MBA may be the ideal companion
degree to an M.A. in architecture. As student interest in double-degree
graduate programs continues to grow, the University should explore
ways to meet this demand.
Opportunities for Study Abroad
As the University seeks to strengthen its international programs
through the Virginia 2020 initiatives, it should look to the School
of Architecture as a model. Recognizing that up-close, on-site analysis
of the built environment provides an ideal way for students to gain
insights into other cultures, the school provides a growing number
of opportunities to study abroad. With donor support, it has begun
to help students bear the costs of taking part in international
programs, but more funds are needed. Like the studio experience
in Campbell Hall, studio programs in other countries place great
demands on faculty time.
Just as it is committed to sending students abroad,
the school is also interested in enrolling more international students.
More resources are needed to provide scholarships and travel funds
for students from other countries.
Building Stronger Ties With Alumni
About half of the Architecture Schools graduates enter
fields other than architecture, including advertising, business,
and commercial real estate development. Envision participants noted
that the school should make a better effort to cultivate ties to
these alumni, who are often highly successful. They should not be
regarded as "failures" because they have chosen career
paths outside the design professions. It was also suggested that
the school establish stronger ties with University alumni and friends
from outside the School of Architecture.
Fulfilling the Schools Public
A portion of the Envision discussion
focused on how the School of Architecture could make the University
and the general public better aware of its strengths and its ability
to provide expert guidance and assistance. It was also emphasized
that the school must work to counter the perception that the most
innovative and creative ideas are coming out of industry and real-world
practice rather than academic settings. To achieve this goal, the
Architecture School must articulate its ideas and principles in
ways that are easily understood by those outside its specialties.
It must also make clear its willingness to become involved in the
physical and economic revitalization of our communities.
Participants in the Envision session pointed out
that one of the distinctions of the School of Architecture is its
commitment to ensuring that students are culturally competent and
that they understand the ethical ramifications of their design and
Through its multidisciplinary lens, the school allows
students to examine their own values as they consider the ways we
and other cultures organize our spaces and our lives. This can be
a valuable exercise in self-discovery, and it is one of the many
ways the School of Architecture exerts a profound and lifelong influence
on its graduates.
The power of this influence has broad implications.
As one of only a handful of great architecture schools based in
a public institution, the Universitys School of Architecture
has an obligation to produce the leaders who will shape our communities
and to guide the policy and design decisions that affect how and
where we live and work. The school can proudly lay claim to students
and faculty fully capable of fulfilling this obligation. More resources
and facilities must be acquired to support their ambitious efforts.