School Status Report: Cal Poly Pomona, OTIS, SCI-Arc, UCLA, USC, Woodbury Interior Design, Woodbury Architecture, by Sigrid Miller, Mary-Ann Ray, Niel Denari, Sylivia Lavin, Robert Timme, Linda Pollari, Louis Naidorf – Late Fall 1997
           
           
   
 
 
 
 
       
         
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Cal Poly Pomona
Founded 1969
435 UC Students
60 C Students
B.Arch and M. Arch

An idealistic and yet pragmatic notion lay at the genesis of the California public university system: that of a state polytechnic university to meet the educational aspirations of a large variety of Californians interest in advancing their understanding of a modern environment and more particularly its technology. The polytechnic is designed to offer an affordable education which provides both the breadth of a liberal arts program and the specificity of a professional program. It is pertinent in contemporary terms to locate the Department of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona within this tradition of the public polytechnic as the genetic imprint of this egalitarian structure as it continues to manifest itself today. At Cal Poly a richly diverse student population has the opportunity to test the waters of the creative discipline of architecture as a form of meaningful, cultural, social and technological expression. Students are encouraged to learn through the art and science of architecture how to see, how to think, and how to understand both the potential beauty as well as the requirements for the settings in which we live and work. Awareness that the nature of these settings evolves with history is critical in the both the design studio and the lecture class. The examination of this evolution is key to the students’ understanding of why constant change in how we design our environment requires creative resolution. To the end as the artist Joseph Albers once said:

“All are is or was modern in its time, daring and new, demonstrating a constant change in seeing and feeling. If revival had been a perpetual virtue, we would live in caves and earth pits. In art (as in architecture) tradition is to create, not to revive.”

The design studios stress that the art of architecture as opposed to the commodity of buildings requires a demanding intellectual discipline. It is the coupling of the theoretical discipline with the practice and application that yields the most stimulating results. The campus provides an ideal setting for studying both the popularity and the environmental degradation of a now universal aspect of contemporary growth – the suburbs. Additionally, the University has developed a world-renowned Center for Regenerative Studies in close proximity to the College of Environmental Design. The center provides architecture students with an opportunity to gain insight from a growing and changing model for sustainable environment. This brings the polytechnic institution once again closer to the original notion of education for public benefit.

OTIS
1987
40 UC Students
BFA

Practical Art

Environmental Design is a foray into ‘Practical Art.’ In the traditions of art and design, design is considered art contaminated by the requirements of necessity and use. The course of Environmental Arts at OTIS understands that the practical art is in fact poised to be a most profound art. The practical art is an art supplemented by and given meaning, purpose, and intensity through its interaction with use and the practices of life.

Crossbreeds, Cross Dressing, Role Reversals, and Ship Jumping

The education in Environmental Arts at OTIS allows us an arena to transgress the boundaries of singular disciplines such as Architecture, Furniture, Landscape Design, Interior Design, Set Design, Installation Design, Urban Design, and Event Design. Within this array of design fields we move and slip around – freely at times, while at other moments sharply critical in these maneuvers.

Through experiment with crossbreeds, cross dressing, role reversals, or ship jumping amongst disciplines, we strive to continually invent our modes of attack. Given a project at the scale of Architecture, we might jump to a scale larger than that usually considered by Urban Design. At the same time, we might explore the scale of the micro-miniaturist, much smaller than that of a furniture designer. It is our hope that we, and Architecture and Design, learn something from the dissolution into scales of operation that the worlds of business, science and technology are already comfortable with – as well as from other slippages that might take place.

The Double Edged Designer

At OTIS we are working to provide an education for a kind of “double-edged” visual/spatial designer: a most intense and focused studio artist within the realm of the slow, thoughtful and specialized studio world, while at the same time a curious explorer of the very fast world swirling around (and sometimes swallowing up) that very same studio.

Curricular Itinerary with Eventual Loopholes

The structure of our curriculum springs from a careful and inspired groundwork (laid by Coy Howard, with continued work by Peter Borrego) – a kind of itinerary through layered sets of issues. These issues include explorations

-From object centered work, to space centered work , to work centered around both known and new relationships between an object and space

-From physical and material to abstract, conceptual, and ephemeral

-From the handmade, to the tool-made, the machine-made, and the electronically made object/space

-From the production of the “One-Off” through the “Several-Off” to the “Many-Off;” from custom design to general and universal design

-From individual concerns to social concerns to worldly concerns

Along the way, loopholes are acknowledged – loops are made which fold back upon the paths described above – and experience is gained from having undertaken the itinerary. Design is experienced as an endeavor comprised by a field of many multiplicitous modes and realms of operations, and that each developing designer who embarks upon a future will chart a unique path through this field.

SCI-Arc
Founded 1972
205 UC Students
215 C Students
B. Arch and M. Arch

1.0 The Now

With little regard for the millennial fever which might captivate global cultures, SCI-Arc recognizes the fact that the fictional projections of life in the year 2000 have failed to convince us that this momentous turn in the calendar will coincide with a system of technological operations capable of rendering obsolete the life of the 30 years previous. In that, only a cursory glance at history will tell us that the vitality of any culture is always based on the concept of the crisis, the future, the idea of the progress, and the inalienable search for knowledge. So it is not left for fiction to guide us any longer into a future which has indeed been, to paraphrase J.G. Ballard, annexed into the present. We are left with the creation of new realities, which if at times are extreme, surely come from the desire to enter willingly into THE NOW: the most persistently pleasurable time for working in.

1.1 Popularization

In this, SCI-Arc will expire the idea of popularized knowledge. The school is intent upon generating concepts and applications which must become both critical of and viable in a global culture which is moving away from the institutional heaviness of precious models into an accelerated fractious and indeed multicultural world. SCI-Arc will move toward dismantling the idea that the academy is an elite cultural guardian of a less informed public audience and will instead inhabit the landscape of Los Angeles and the world alongside the necessarily popular structures of politics (local government and the exigencies of practice), entertainment (media technologies and the proposition that is should be used for functions other than distraction), and culture (all the realms of language which exist in general) all this without sacrificing the integrity of architecture’s unique spatial performance. It is recognized here that it is a far more compelling method of teaching architecture when the contingencies of applied rather than abstract life are used to structure the invention of new realities. Whether concrete or digital these new realities will emerge out of the study of the legitimate forces at work in our culture.

2.0 Discipline/ Precision

If the search for freedoms has been at the heart of most avant garde projects, for 25 years SCI-Arc has rehearsed this enthusiasm with relentless clarity. What is less known or remembered in the very struggles of creative openness is the strategic rigor needed to activate the sheer anarchic impulse to challenge authority. The members of the SCI-Arc community will refocus on the idea of discipline and precision, two conditions required for optimum performance. This is no straight-edge mentality however, as integrity and professionalism are not an inherently political agenda, nor a dress code, merely the conduit for the force of new ideas.

UCLA
Founded 1964
220 G Students
March, MA & PHD

When the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning of UCLA was founded in 1964, the world was awash in the idealism optimism and agonies of an era that saw the birth of social activism and the environmental movement, the beginnings of the information explosion, as well as the astonishing accomplishments of the world’s first youth culture. The legacy of this rich and energetic origin remains strong. What is now the Department of Architecture and Urban Design continues to define architecture as broadly interdisciplinary, intellectually and culturally diverse, as well as politically and ideologically engaged.

Students as UCLA use advanced technology to investigate the myriad dynamic systems that interact with architecture and that are best explored through computation and virtual processes: current studies include the integration of new animation techniques into design, the examination of natural forces and their impact on the form and materials of architecture, the restructuring of both the construction process and the profession, and the potential effects of new forms of representation. Such an expansive view of the role of technology and the environment is perhaps unique to the Department.

Our broad view of technology is paralleled by our desire to understand the cultural and historical implications of architecture in the largest possible sense. By leading students to scrutinize the various discourses that shape and produce basic notions of what constitutes architecture or the city or even the architect, new possibilities for the discipline and profession are made available. Advanced research in contemporary theory, cultural studies and visual culture is transforming the traditional arenas of the architecture historian and critic. New emphasis on the role of representation, particularly as it is transformed through digital technology, on the conventions of architectural practice, and on the seminal role played through both historically and today enables students to deepen their appreciation of the importance of architectural and urban form. This fundamentally interdisciplinary view of architecture is enhanced by the Department’s strong ties to other academic programs in the School of the Arts and Architecture and throughout the University. Encouraging students to understand architecture in relation to the other arts – to art history, film, theater, and philosophy – contributes to increasing the awareness of architecture and urbanism to cultural life as a whole.

One of the most diverse, dispersed, exasperating and exhilarating urban environments anywhere in the world, Los Angeles and its rich heritage of modern architecture provides a model to which we aspire as well as an object of our study and investigation. The Department of Architecture and Urban Design maintains is commitment both to being in the contemporary world of architecture with fulsome pleasure and fascination and to critiquing that world without hesitation.

USC
Founded 1919
500+ UG Students
B.Arch M.Arch
MBuilding S & MCA

“There is now an unmistakable movement toward a new American art and architecture which will be a vital expression of essential of present-day life and a necessary consequence of the rapid development of modern technology, which will retain the rich heritage of the past as general inspiration.”

While these words appear to be a response to contemporary events, they were written in 1937, by USC School of Architecture Dean Arthur Clason Weatherhead. Sixty years ago, modern technology consisted of such advances as industrialization and rural electrification. Today, the technology of the information age is changing the way we live, learn, and even interact. Our faculty and students are embracing these advances, while maintaining the close individual contact so necessary for an excellent architectural education.

Last year we took the computers out of the instructional classroom, and placed them in the creative, multi-sensorial world of the design studio. We have redefined the studios as computer-supported, flexible spaces that: “belong” to the students, and provide them with ongoing access to both the Internet and the library of software available at the University.

We realize the importance of developing an academic environment that is not only “high-tech” but also “high touch.” We must continue to teach the fundamental concepts of beauty, proportion, and harmony that have always formed the underpinning of outstanding architecture and urban design. In our students’ hands these qualities will manifest themselves in designs that are reflective of the activities, technologies, and sensibilities of contemporary society.

The support of humanist values realized through the media of advanced information technologies forms the underpinning of the School’s design studios.

USC Architecture students participate in programs throughout the world gaining the skills and self-confidence necessary to be a part of an international practice. In addition to programs abroad in France and Italy, we are working to establish a similar, summer program in Asia. It is the goal of the School to enable all of our students to spend a semester working in a foreign country.

USC is dedicated to more than just excellent professional training. The university has developed a new, strong general education program paralleling the architecture curriculum. This program will insure that all or our graduates have the opportunity to develop knowledge in a wide range of areas, to become renaissance men and women.

Woodbury University
Founded 1985
242 UG Students
BArch

Just as architects emerge from years of recession, they now confront a sharply altered landscape of practice. Fragmented and specialized practice areas, international dispersed collaborators and consultants, an increased emphasis on design-build and diminished fees all require major changes in our professional attitudes and approaches and must also be reflected in our schools.

Woodbury’s architecture program nurtures individual creativity and provides the traditional foundation of skills and knowledge, but we also prepare students to deal with new issues which are re-shaping the profession.

One issue is control. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the wife of Bath ask “What do women want?” The answer is just what architects have always wanted, “mastery.” Architects yearn for a mythic past when they were master builders and bemoan the erosions of their control over projects. In deference to new realities, we present the architect’s role as part of an ensemble – creative and influential even with limited authority. With the help of the Community Redevelopment Agency, we have initiated a studio and Community Design Center to give students practical experience with collaboration. The focus is on urban projects incorporating economic, social and political issues and involving planners, landscapes architects, other professional and community and political participants in the design process.

Another issue is simply angst, a pervasive sense that we are being swept into an uncertain and probably unpleasant future. In spite of being wounded by years of recession, architects now and in the future must deal with accelerating change and not be daunted by it. A major example, of course, is in the area of computer technology. We have found that hardware and basic skills are just part of the story: innovations in utilizing the technology are now altering the entire design process.

The third issue is risk. We ask our students to be innovative, collaborative and to take risks: to look beyond the boundaries of a problem. For our part, the university is opening an extension of our architecture school in collaboration with Mesa Community College in San Diego, and will bring affordable, accredited architectural education to a population of several million people. Woodbury has initiated formalities with ELEA, the association of Latin American School of Architecture.

The University intends that its willingness to take risks, seize opportunities and embrace constructive change is a clear example to our students. For them and for the practice of Architecture the bar is continually being raised.

Woodbury University Interior Design
Founded 1931
58 UG Students
BS

The challenge for Interior Design Programs today is to develop a disciplinary project in the context of a highly competitive and volatile market. The Department of Interior Design at Woodbury University thus understands its mission not simply to relay the information and skills necessary to successful professional practice, but to project an identity for the discipline through a synthetic design-research education with a broad base in the liberal arts and sciences. This Department seeks to contribute to the emergence of an interior practice with a focused zone of expertise whose opportunities will be diverse, and whose design interventions will be complex and fluid. We conceive the site of our activities to include all existing construction at any scale within which design is imagined as the alignment of form, material, program, lighting, graphics and environmental technologies: simply, the weaving and grafting of new conceptual and plastic organizations into and through existing strictures. Without the burden of establishing a “ground: or the requisite production of lone: objects,” a discipline of interior design with greater currency can unfold through an advanced speculation on multiple levels, surfaces, and networks.

The Department is committed to engaging contemporary culture and technology and to exploring new ways of generating and actualizing design propositions – a goal pursued through a studio intensive curriculum with a focus on design theory, as well as on digital and multimedia technologies.  Rejecting the role of finishing school for the acquisition of taste of the latest styles, the Department promotes design as a form of research and argument. The expected result of the curriculum is the production of designers who are confident when confronted with the unknown, and who actively seek its borders in order to propose alternative design solutions.

In addition to pursuing the design of dynamic environments, the Department understands its obligation to provide its own version on campus. This challenge is confronted by sponsoring a diverse range of activities, electives, and internships; by brining nationally and internationally recognized architects, designers, critics, and historians to the University community; and by making available a dynamic faculty and group of visiting critics. The Department actively recruits (and has been fortunate to retain) faculty representing both established and emerging voices in design education and practice, each of whom is expected to be highly motivated and propositional, serving as an inspiration to students who will realize the importance of developing an articulate position with regard to design in varied imaginative and material contexts.

Back to Late Fall – 1997 Newsletter