ENV Dean’s Office Response to Proposal # 3:
A proposed School of Architecture is created in the College of Engineering
The College of Environmental Design was born out of need, and that need remains. The need is to produce design professionals in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Art and Graphic Design, Urban & Regional Planning, and Regenerative Studies. The need is to provide the region with those highly educated professionals who will design our expanding cities; design energy efficient buildings and water-conserving landscapes; design our print and digital “virtual reality”; make systems recommendations for watersheds, transportation networks, energy use and distribution; create artwork that strengthens our ties to each other and the world – as well as hone our political conscience; and work with scientists and engineers to mitigate the past and optimize future construction. Together, designers play a critical role in a cast of professionals who make our natural and built environments work: our role is to harmonize the relationship of humans and nature by providing life-enhancing culturally and ecologically sustainable places.
Until the early twentieth century, society recognized two primary categories of knowledge: the sciences and the humanities. In the 1920s and ‘30s in the US and much earlier in Europe, a third category was identified: design knowledge. While design relies on the findings of and interaction with scientists and humanists, it is a separate realm. It is separate, in part,because designers use the right side of their brains to shape their solutions. There is no single best solution to each design problem the way there is one best answer to most engineering problems. In design there can be many good solutions, and the choice of which one will be implemented depends on the situation the client, the budget, a community’s values, and more. Designers certainly do use the left side of the brains, but the right side drives the visual, tactile, and overall interactive qualities of their solutions.
Those in a School of Architecture residing within a College of Engineering would be misunderstood by their colleagues. We, and our practicing colleagues, often hear comments that indicate that engineers think that design programs are “incomprehensibly arty”. Schools and departments of Architecture within Colleges of Engineering rarely if ever thrive. All the premier architecture programs (Minnesota, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Wisconsin, Rice) are in colleges of design. In this setting, allied with other design programs, there is collaboration that anticipates the post-graduate professional practice experience In ENV, students interact with and learn about those disciplines that they will work with most closely in their careers. Faculty members in these related fields often work together on scholarship, studio assignments, and outreach projects.
The Department of Architecture should not be moved to the College of Engineering, but rather engage Engineering where possible from within the College of Environmental Design. This Architecture program has an excellent reputation, as does the College of Environmental Design. This reputation is local, regional, and national. Moving the program would diminish its reputation. It is probable that fewer faculty would earn tenure and that the program would get fewer resources. Since it will remain half a campus away from Engineering, it certainly would have less visibility. While these risks may not materialize, it is difficult to see any positive outcome from such a move.