I write to you from Portland, Oregon, where I have been for the last five days at an annual conference and board meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. In my conversations with deans from around the U.S. and Canada, I realize that our situation in Minnesota pales in comparison to that faced by universities in some other states, where across-the-board budget reductions of 12 to 15% and more have occurred. And yet, unprecedented opportunities also abound.
Spurred by a comment made by Maurice Cox, Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts here on Saturday about his interest in ideas on how to deal with the foreclosure crisis, a group of colleagues from various universities and I have worked since then on a proposal to leverage the expertise of unemployed design and housing professionals and students across the country to help cities deal with the huge number of vacant houses and envision creative ways of rebuilding their communities.
Conversations like this have made it clear to me that we have entered an era of rapid and remarkable change, where ideas that would have been dismissed a year ago may now have real traction at the highest levels of government. Designers may not exactly “love a depression,” as Michael Cannell wrote in the New York Times on January 3rd, but those affected by this deep recession may learn to love, as I do, the determination of designers to help make the world a better place.