Future Directions: Architecture and Urban Design

Jurg Lang, Head of A/UD Program

Design is the central focus of architectural practice as well as education. Strength and distinction in design is thus an indispensable attribute for any leading school of architecture. Because of the centrality of design in architectural education, the methods, approaches and theories dealing with this subject have been passionately debated through the ages. All of these debates – the relation between design and theory, design and research. Design as a comprehensive approach to architectural decision making as opposed to design as a specialized inquiry into the essence of architecture – comprise part of the intellectual concerns and progress of architecture schools. Rather than adopting attitudes that are vague and consequently non-confrontational, every leading school of architecture needs to engage in such vigorous debates so as to clarify and consolidate the underlying framework for a distinct philosophy of design and teaching.

The central issue in this debate is how to achieve excellence in architectural design and design education. From its inception the Program at UCLA has used a dual strategy to deal with this issue: first, by improving the design process itself through better methods and by integrating the use of computers; and second, by enriching the design process through inclusion and emphasis on distinct sub-disciplines that would not only strengthen architecture, but also result in a better product. This dual strategy is reflected in the program’s comprehensive studios and theory courses: nurturing of creativity (basic design); developmental design methods (computer-aided design, formalized design processes, shape grammars); development of design theories (principles of composition, color theory, computational theory); incorporation of structural design and technology (building construction, structural analysis, sound, light and heat technologies, architectural detailing); and focus on building use and function (programming and policy). We have consistently emphasized that these broad areas off teaching must coexist and complement one another and must avoid isolated design approaches that claim exclusiveness or reject viable innovations and alternatives offered by other areas.

The Program has been a leader in attempting to move beyond the subjective definitions of creativity in architecture without abandoning it completely. A fundamental component of our attempt to continue moving in this direction is our location in Los Angeles. The increasing diversity and multicultural nature of this context demands that the Program not only address the need for wider representation of different ethnicities among faculty, students and staff, but also integrate new composite values and diverse concerns into the curricula. The maze of challenges and opportunities in Los Angeles have always served as a laboratory for our explorations. We aim to implement our new research, ideas and design in Los Angeles through increased exposure of our work and active community involvement. We aim to recover architecture from being a tool of commercialism, from its timid use of yesterday’s technologies, and to transform the discipline into an arena of experimentation, challenge, and innovation by linking creativity with scientific research. We aim to provide a socially responsible cultural direction in architecture and reunite its usefulness with art.

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