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MIT Better World

To mark the occasion, the department is celebrating with a diverse array of educational and social programming on campus throughout the academic year. The events will culminate in a symposium and alumni open house on campus April 12–13. The symposium, which will be open to the public, uses the theme of “turning points” to bring faculty together to discuss futures for design research.

“One can think of turning points as historical—a significant occurrence that shifted one’s focus—or as setting a new trajectory to head towards, where we need to reflect on our direction, and adjust our course accordingly,” explains Andrew Scott, interim head of the Department of Architecture. “The symposium is an examination of the criticality in our faculty’s disciplinary work, whether that’s scholarly inquiry, design practice, or other forms of innovative research. We’re aiming to have an exposé and an open discourse about what we are doing and where we want to go.”

This forward-thinking approach is hardly new for the department, as MIT Museum visitors can see in a new exhibit through August 2019. Drawing, Designing, Thinking: 150 Years of Architecture at MIT chronicles the innovative turns that the department has taken to address the demands of a rapidly changing world. This exhibit highlights the evolution of the curriculum and the design studio, the development of a culture of architectural research, and an examination of how the department continues the production and advancement of knowledge through design, research, and scholarship.

Beyond special events and exhibitions, the fall 2018 semester focused on the department’s pedagogical creativity. The “Practice PLUS” lecture series brought esteemed speakers to campus to discuss key challenges of practicing architecture today, and for the first time, an open call for “Experiments in Pedagogy” resulted in 14 new workshops and classes proposed by students and faculty. These courses broached such interdisciplinary topics as climate change, material upcycling, robotics, creative writing, and contemporary politics, with multiple formats ranging from a weekend field trip to half-semester seminars. “Students and faculty have enjoyed the ability to hit a topic quickly and have fun with it—to test new ideas, formats, subjects, and collaborations,” says Scott. “The experiments have been a breath of fresh air, and have underlined the need to continually reflect upon and change our teaching to address new questions and challenges.”

William R. Ware, An Outline of a Course of Architectural Instruction (Boston: John Wilson and Sons, 1866; reprinted by the F.W. Boles Memorial Fund, 1942). The MIT School of Architecture of Planning is home to the oldest architectural course of study in the US. Courtesy of the MIT Museum.
Architecture Drawing Room, Rogers Building, 1876. Courtesy of the MIT Museum.
Raising the McKnelly Megalith in Killian Court was the culmination of the 2015 cross-disciplinary architecture course 4.154 Megalithic Robotics, taught by Belluschi Lecturer in architectural design Brandon Clifford and professor of architectural history and theory Mark M. Jarzombek ’85. Photo: Judy Daniels
Garnette Cadogan leads the first workshop for Paper Space: Creative Writing and Architecture, organized by graduate students Stratton Coffman and Sarah Wagner as part of the Fall 2018 Experiments in Pedagogy. Additional guests included poet Dorothea Lasky and playwright Ken Urban (MIT Senior Lecturer in Music and Theater Arts). Photo by Sarah Wagner.
At the final exhibition of the Agit Arch Experiment, organized by Associate Professor Ana Miljački and the Criticial Broadcasting Lab. Agit Arch, a series of microexhibitions, aimed to critique and probe contemporary architecture and its political haunts. Here, students Ingrid Dobloug-Roede, Nitzan Zilberman, Rodrigo Cesarman, Nof Nathansan (left to right), and Melissa Soto (not pictured), present their project Card Game. Photo by Sarah Wagner.
James Shen MArch ’07, Liz Burow MArch ’05, and Marcel Botha SM ’06 (left to right) discuss alternative and expanded modes of architectural practice as part of Fall 2018 Practice Plus series. Conversations in this series addressed critical and urgent questions facing practice today. The second conversation focused on power and equity in practice; the third focused on social justice-oriented practices. Photo by Sarah Wagner.
Students from MIT and Tongji worked together to design, develop, and build two full-scale robotically manufactured shell structures. They explored additive manufacturing, robotic fabrication, and equilibrium-based methods of structural design and assembly. Students formed two groups and built both the full-scale structures with support from the staff at FabUnion in Shanghai, China. Photo by Zain Karsan.