Dean's Letter

Dean's Letter, Spring 2015
College of Architecture
Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design
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"The professional challenge, whether one is an architect in the rural American South or elsewhere in the world, is how to avoid being so stunned by the power of modern technology and economic affluence that one does not lose sight of the fact that people and place matter." -Samuel Mockbee

The Divided City initiative, in partnership with the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences and the Mellon Foundation, is under way with the first round of faculty seed grant applications under review; the submitted proposals were well represented by our faculty. Next week the second call for proposals related to the program's theme "Segregation" will be issued. I encourage all faculty to consider submitting projects in one of the following areas:
-course development
-interdisciplinary research

Proposals will need to include a partner faculty in the humanities. More information can be found here:


Susannah Drake joins us as a visiting professor teaching the second core studio in urban design. Susannah is a principle with dlandstudio, an award-winning, multidisciplinary design firm in New York that includes landscape architects, urban designers, sculptors, scientists, and architects. Recent projects include "A New Urban Ground," designed in collaboration with the Architectural Research Office for the Museum of Modern Art's Rising Currents exhibit, and the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls in Lilongwe, Africa, to name a couple. The urban design studio this semester will focus on the Hudson Yards Redevelopment project in New York City.

Jacqueline Margetts joins the school as a senior lecturer. She will be teaching a core landscape architecture studio and design thinking. Jacqueline's areas of specialization include contemporary landscape architectural design theory and environmental design. Jacqueline has taught in the environmental studies program at Auburn University and previously was head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Unitec in Auckland, the largest school of landscape architecture and garden design in New Zealand. She has published a wide range of papers in academic and trade journals as well as giving numerous presentations at conferences in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States on garden design, Pacific landscapes, and the work of landscape architect Ted Smyth. Her research includes exploring innovative urban stream restoration techniques, the design of resilience into Pacific Island landscapes subject to hurricane damage, and mapping as a design generator.

Jacqueline's studio, in partnership with an options landscape architecture studio taught by landscape architecture chair Rod Barnett and the University City Sculpture Series class taught by art faculty member Noah Kirby, will be working on a master plan for environmental art in collaboration with the Parks Department of University City.

We are pleased that several visiting faculty will continue with us this spring. Yolande Daniels, an assistant professor of architecture at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and a founding partner of the New York architecture and design studio SUMO, will again be teaching an undergraduate options studio. Jan Ulmer, a practicing architect from Berlin and principle in Jan Ulmer Architekten, will be teaching a graduate options studio. Javier Maroto continues as the Ruth and Norman Moore Visiting Professor teaching a graduate options studio, as is Alfredo Payá. Angela Pang returns teaching degree project.

Design Build Studios

Chandler Ahrens will be leading an undergraduate options studio that will design and build a sculptural light installation in the atrium of the headquarters for T-REX, a downtown entrepreneurial startup organization. Lavender Tessmer and Jason Butz will lead a graduate options studio that will design and build an environmental sculptural installation in the garden courtyard of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in Grand Center. These studios will be located in a newly arranged studio area on the ground floor of Givens Hall. Thanks to Leland Orvis and his crew for facilitating the space, which will allow room for prototyping and prefabrication.

Weil Hall

Buildings separate us from our environment and then strategically reintroduce us to that environment through light, views, air, and space. It's what makes them useful. They can encourage and sometimes discourage our interactions with each other and the environment. Great buildings inspire these interactions; they express these relationships, allowing the building to look like it works. It's what makes them beautiful. Great buildings inspire—connecting us to the history and future of architecture along with its role in physically manifesting these relationships, which can be understood as a part of culture. It's what makes them meaningful. Buildings also prefigure experience; they participate in shaping experience and build on our previous experiences, helping us to know where we are and, subsequently, who we are. These observations take on an interrelated distinction when we consider how they might do the same for a school, and by extension a university and its place as a part of a larger community.

So here's a school-wide assignment for the spring semester: What should a design and art school look like? How should it work? How much should it weigh? Should it be a "duck" or a "decorated shed?" Should it be a machine or an organism? Modern, postmodern, contemporary, timely, timeless, or not? Not only in relationship to the new building that will occupy the parking lot in front of Givens Hall in 2019, but in relationship to the other buildings and to the mission of the Sam Fox School.

Here are a few of my goals for a start: The building should not just facilitate, but incite the work of the faculty and students. It should allow for this work to be visible to the larger university community and welcome that community in. It should convey individual program identities (architecture, art, design, landscape architecture, and urban design; undergraduate and graduate) and the identity of an interdisciplinary school with a shared mission. It should be large. It should be direct, efficient, a bit tough, and because of that, very cool! It should be wired. Environmentally, it should be twice as good as the best building on campus, thereby making it a model for future building. I would like it to have an office space for every faculty member and staff, offices for emeritus faculty, offices for the universities' office of sustainability, and offices for student organizations. It should have spaces for social interaction, fabrication, research, exhibition, and reviews. It should have adaptable studios and seminar spaces. It should have one large room (BFR) that remains open and available, and it should have at least one, perhaps small, space for contemplation.

All of this should significantly enhance and contribute to the immediate and larger context of the university. An old adage when traveling: place your money and clothes on the bed, take half the clothes and double your money. A familiar adage for design: it will be harder than you think, happen faster than you expect, and cost more than you have. This demands razor-sharp priorities early on, clear communication, a great design team, and a great client. Common wisdom says: it's a tough gig to design an art and design school for artists and designers. Given our collective expertise, my challenge to all of us is to be a great client because we are designers and artists. If we do this, the process will embody the mission of the school and not only result in a great building, but most importantly a greater school.


Bruce Lindsey, Dean