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    Texas A&M Architecture Department Head Search

    David Morris Feb 4 '06 7
    image

    So the official department head search is over, and yesterday began the process of interviewing potential candidates who have been chosen during the last few months.

    I was chosen to attend these informal breakfast meetings with each candidate as they visit the school, and the first one was this morning with Mark Wamble. I must say, his reputation precedes him. He is an absolutely fascinating guy, and also a graduate of the environmental design program at Texas A&M.

    From just a few stories I heard today, this guy apparently graduated in 1983 with a BED degree, and just moved to New York City with no prospect of getting a job, and showed up on Peter Eisenman's doorstep. Through some bizarre chain of events, he became some sort of project manager on the Wexner Center in Eisenman's office, and later went on to attend the Harvard GSD and did a stint at Cambridge where he wrote a book.

    Anyways, he's a really phenomenal guy, and seems like he has an interesting approach to the idea of the department head position. However, the obvious criticism against him is that he wants to keep his private practice in Houston, Interloop A/D, teach studio, and be department head all at once. Many people are talking up a storm about this whole idea of how much time he could really devote to any one thing when tackling so much at once. I say more power to him. He already teaches studio at Rice while maintaining his firm, and he's won plenty of respectable awards and competitions to boot.

    But until I meet the other candidates I can't say one way or the other. Some of his talking points at the breakfast and at his lecture this morning really sparked my interest, especially the comments that can be summed up as follows:

    -Just because A&M's school colors are maroon and white, doesn't mean every document that the department produces has to bear those colors. (translation: our school website sucks)

    -He turned down a position at UCLA as department head because of these "student blogs" that were starting some kind of gossip revolution in an attempt to have certain faculty members fired. He said there was so much animosity between the students and faculty there that was made so evident by these student web publications that it was obviously not the place for him. Why do I care about this? Well, if I had to pick just one reason it would be the fact that he even knows what a blog is. Our entire IT staff for the largest college of architecture in the world, mind you... didn't even know what a blog was until last week when I requested to have some permanent web space set up to host my students' blogs, which as a result have to be hosted on blgger.com. to check them out go to http://dave.showviz.net/172 and find the "blogroll" category on the right hand side (let me know what you think).

    I got off topic for a bit there, but anyways, other talking points included establishing a the ability to think and design in 3 dimensions early on in the undergraduate curriculum, and to stress the importance of computational means for producing products. e.g. CNC, 3d printing, laser and water jet cutting, etc...

    To make a long story short, Mark Wamble is quite an interesting guy with a unique background that might work well for our school, but I'll have to wait and see how the others make out. Now that I've gone through one breakfast, I'll be ready and willing to grill the next candidate on Tuesday.

    I'm really interested in the process other schools take when performing an official "search" for either a professor or a department head or anything to that effect. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading,

    dave

    p.s. the image at the top of the post is from the Rowlett Lecture by Peter Beck and company. It was called "Tearing down the Silos," referring to the idea of integration across disciplines such as Construction, Engineering and Architecture. It was really a fascinating lecture, and at the end they did a nice demonstration of ways in which they use technology such as Revit and Timberline and DProfiler to do realtime cost estimating and project management throughout the process of a design-build project. Really good stuff.
     

     
    • 7 Comments

    • tagalong
      Feb 4, 06 1:10 pm

      Sounds like this guy would be a great pick for A&M. I graduated from A&M myself. I think he is right on with talks of more advanced production techniques, I would love to see A&M with a CNC, laser cutters, and the like, and more stress on utilizing the woodshop for study which was almost completely ignored by everyone there. I wasn't until I arrived at grad school that I found out how helpful all that is.

      A&M needs things shaken up a bit. I think Tabb was doing a good job, brought in some great professors like Marcel. Fortward thinking, Deisgn, Research, THEORY (o my...to speak that word in Langford), would be the best things for the program.

      AP
      Feb 4, 06 4:27 pm

      The most recent director search at the University of Florida included informal lunches that a small group of students participated in (sounds similar to the breakfast that you describe).

      Other aspects of each candidates time at the school included presentations, visits to studios to critique work, and time spent with various faculty groups for interviews etc.

      Martha Kohen was selected to fill our director position. So far, she has used her international experience to establish some great relationships / exchanges with other architecture and design institutions in Europe and South America.

      For example, UF has had a satellite institute, the Vicenza Institute of Architecture, for 15 years or so. Last year (when I attended as a senior) we participated in a week long charette with 10 or so students and 3 professors from the University of Pescara, Italy. The charette looked at a unique, linear public space system in Pescara, the Stradaparco.

      Before beginning the charette, a group of our students visited Pescara and toured the Stradaparco. The Pescarese then visited our facility, conducted the charette etc, and then one of their professors traveled to UF with the charette materials and presented them as part of our lecture series.

      Other opportunities like this have also resulted from Director Kohen's connections.

      She's also done a great job improving the lecture series (Alberto Perez Gomez was there last week)...


      good luck, and enjoy the process. keep us posted.

      Aaron

      Steven WardSteven Ward
      Feb 4, 06 4:32 pm

      digression alert: Perez-Gomez was a great lecturer when he was here last year.

      David Morris
      Feb 4, 06 4:40 pm

      wow thanks for the great comments. we have been having problems in recent years getting good lectures. A few last semester were excellent, most notably Brian Mackay Lyons, and these two guys from William and Mary who took panoramic photos of 150 or so major cathedrals and famous architectural projects all over the world. Their work was really phenomenal. Other than that, it seems like the college doesn't dish out enough money to get good lecturers.

      AP
      Feb 4, 06 4:50 pm

      Mackay-Lyons also visited UF while I was there, not sure if it was before or after the new director though...? Others from this semester included Charles Rose and Robert McCarter.

      TED
      Feb 5, 06 5:29 pm

      who are the other shortlisted guy/girls?

      David Morris
      Feb 5, 06 7:18 pm

      here's the full schedule:

      * Friday Feb 3 - Mark Wamble
      * Tuesday Feb 7 - Elizabeth Louden
      * Friday Feb 10 - Vergel Gay
      * Tuesday Feb 14 - Dennis Radford
      * Tuesday Feb 21 - Guillermo Vasquez
      * Friday Feb 24 - Jeff Potter
      * Friday March 3 - Henri de Hahn
      * Tuesday March 7 - Sandra Paret

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