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blog prompt #2: social-design-issue irony: cdes mentality

I enjoyed Tom Fisher’s lecture. I found it intriguing the seamlessness of the relationship between a school floor plan and its design education philosophy. For obvious reasons, I was most intrigued by the discussion on the courtyard plan, as the association of this design to Rapson hall pertains directly to the education, to the professors, to the environment that I’m receiving.

Dean Fisher spoke with great knowledge and precision. It was clear, with a published book in hand, that whatever conclusions he’d gathered from research were to be trusted. I not only trusted, but agreed, at least on behalf of my personal experience and education here at the U, as an Interior Design and Architecture Student.

The courtyard type implies education is both connected and apart from society creating an inter/intra analogy.
It reflects a medieval cloister to preserve learning through inwardness.
The courtyard type has tension. Can be together or pull apart.

I had agreed and felt pride in the descriptions of our philosophy, it made sense and I could relate to it. As a design student at the U, I was connecting to campus and to my community; I was looking inward, but also outward, with creativity flourishing from the embodied tension. It all sounded perfect. However, when he began to relate the philosophy of the courtyard type to its manifestation in Rapson Hall, I began to feel confused and distant. He referred to this philosophy of inwardness and levels of connection as only applying to Rapson and the Architecture/Landscape Architecture group. I began to wonder, where did the rest of the majors under the CDes umbrella fit in? Why are we under one name when the Dean of our College doesn’t even reference Interior Design or Graphic Design in his message on our design education philosophy?

I enjoyed Tom Fisher’s lecture. I found it intriguing the seamlessness of the relationship between a school floor plan and its design education philosophy. For obvious reasons, I was most intrigued by the discussion on the courtyard plan, as the association of this design to Rapson hall pertains directly to the education, to the professors, to the environment that I’m receiving.

Dean Fisher spoke with great knowledge and precision. It was clear, with a published book in hand, that whatever conclusions he’d gathered from research were to be trusted. I not only trusted, but agreed, at least on behalf of my personal experience and education here at the U, as an Interior Design and Architecture Student.

The courtyard type implies education is both connected and apart from society creating an inter/intra analogy.
It reflects a medieval cloister to preserve learning through inwardness.
The courtyard type has tension. Can be together or pull apart.

I had agreed and felt pride in the descriptions of our philosophy, it made sense and I could relate to it. As a design student at the U, I was connecting to campus and to my community; I was looking inward, but also outward, with creativity flourishing from the embodied tension. It all sounded perfect. However, when he began to relate the philosophy of the courtyard type to its manifestation in Rapson Hall, I began to feel confused and distant. He referred to this philosophy of inwardness and levels of connection as only applying to Rapson and the Architecture/Landscape Architecture group. I began to wonder, where did the rest of the majors under the CDes umbrella fit in? Why are we under one name when the Dean of our College doesn’t even reference Interior Design or Graphic Design in his message on our design education philosophy?

Rapson Pictures 003.jpg Rapson Pictures 007.jpg Rapson Pictures 008.jpg Rapson Pictures 009.jpg

Ironic that we are prompted to blog a found “social-design issue’ in the Twin Cities. In fact, we were instructed to “go? and find this issue. I have found one in this very school, this very lecture, one of contradiction and disagreement. We, ourselves at the U, in the school of architecture, pride ourselves on inwardness and strict boundaries instead of reflecting the nature of our joint name. To me, our social design issue starts here, without need to ‘go’ because it exists within. It is the contradiction of our own identity in the College of Design.

There was a distinct moment during Fisher’s lecture I realized, while I had chosen to go to a school with the courtyard mentality, I had come to desire a workshop-type school, one of acceptance, one of interaction, one of engagement, dynamic overlap, and interdisciplinary education. When I started four years ago in the College of Human Ecology, I admit, I was innocently content with my beginning education and the ‘design philosophy’ of my new professors. The separation of design disciplines didn’t phase me. In fact, beginning that first day until now, we were told over an over again to pride ourselves in our separation to be advocates for our profession, ensuring that our job is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

Somewhere in these four years of priding myself in my chosen profession and finding value in my education, I found this ‘advocacy’ position to be a constant justification against my peers, against others in the design community, against professors in my own college. This justification was rooted in various misunderstandings leading to defensiveness and disrespect that I hadn’t meant to partake in on either “side?. This thought was more fully realized when the Colleges merged last year to become CDes. The nature of the name and the majors listed under that name implies an interdisciplinary philosophy, one that has yet to be realized. With the joining of the colleges, I also applied for the Architecture minor, and again experienced disbelief. My Architecture advisor didn’t know anything about the interior design school, any of the faculty, or anything about the classes I had taken. I was continually amazed at how unconnected these two disciplines were in the educational system yet how integrated they seemed to work in the professional world. If these two majors were so uninvolved with one another, how were the other disciplines functioning so interdependently? Couldn’t we work better learning and working together, broadening and specializing at the same time?

I have had internship experiences with two large firms, both of whom highly stress the interaction between Interior Design and Architecture (among other disciplines), which I’ve enjoyed, and which prompted me to become an advocate for a higher joint effort here at the University.
Now that the colleges have merged under one design roof, I believe we should be working towards a goal of higher integration between all of the design majors. Although I understand Dean Fisher’s pride in the design of Rapson Hall, and its reflections on our design philosophy, it is not conducive to a mentality that amalgamates all of the disciplines. We are taught to focus too much on the “inwardness? aspect when school should be a time of preparation to look outward.

I have explored the ideas of joining studios, a joint major, and a joint facility for all of the CDes majors with Interior Design faculty who share in the desire to see the College more integrated. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of interest, community, and financial support from the rest of the communal faculty and administration. Hopefully the lack of support stems from the newness of the college, and more will amount in the future. As the president this year of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) I have attempted to become an advocate myself by starting the collaborative effort at the bottom with student activities and joint meetings/events with the AIAS group. The answer to this issue is not necessarily about entirely joining the majors, but about rethinking and rebuilding our educational philosophy to make it stronger and more responsive. We simply need to be enough people, together asking questions (whatever questions these might be), in order to make a difference in bettering the educational system.

Ultimately, this social design issue will never be an obvious one such as habitat for humanity or raising awareness for the homeless, but there is still potential for a profound conclusion. It is looking at the heart of what we think of as design, how we think of design, and how we can improve upon our own methods rather than always focusing on how we can improve the world around us. In class, we discussed the basis of design as a question, not always a solution, yet we never are asked those questions of ourselves. Focusing on our design education as a holistic idea, similarly to our holistic ideas of our design projects we create in class will, in the end, produce more desired and functional responses and better prepare us as students who enter a very collaborative world.