Monday Minute, January 25, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

As we have all watched the tragic events unfold in Haiti over the last two weeks, maybe you have wondered, as I have, what our disciplines might do to help, apart from giving money, as individuals, in support of the charitable work going on there? Wearing my hat as the president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, I sent out a call on Friday to colleges like ours across North America asking for ideas and information from faculty and staff who have expertise in areas such as low-cost housing, sustainable development, and economic revitalization, in anticipation of the enormous rebuilding effort that will soon get under way in Haiti. Let me reiterate that call here. How might the work going on in this college -- the work you are doing in your classrooms, studios, and labs -- contribute to this effort? What ideas do you have about how we might make a difference?

The situation in Haiti has also made me wonder what effect it will have on us. Might whole new areas of activity arise in response to it and the growing number of emergencies occurring with greater frequency around the world? Here is a list of some of the new fields that I have heard different people mention: "meta-design," organizing large-scale systems in response to global needs; "geo-design," applying geographical data to disaster response; "catastrophe planning," preparing for large-scale events before they occur; and "reuse design," looking at the re-purposing of almost everything. A recent article on the economy observed that many of the fastest-growing careers today hardly existed a decade ago, and I wonder if creative and resourceful responses to disasters may soon be among them. So, as we think about what we can do to help Haiti, we might also start thinking about what Haiti may help us do to prepare our students for a world very different from the one we have known.