Territories in Teaching
Last night, Tatiana and I braved the Long Island Expressway to visit NYIT's other campus out in Old Westbury. Yes, our school has a Long Island Campus, and the home for second class citizens (ha-ha!), Manhattan.
Anyway, the lecture event was “Territories in Teaching”, a symposium turned open discussion on pedagogy. They picked a fantastic panel, too:
L to R: Dean Judith Di Maio, Professor Rodolfo Imas , Moderator Nader Voussaghian, Professor Michelle Bertomen, Professor Michael Schwarting (director of Graduate Studies), Professor Jonathan Friedman (former dean)
Tatiana and I went because, well...there's always the lure of listening to Imas. This is my seventh semester. I had Professor Imas for my Design Fundamentals II class and produced this:
After that, I kept going back for more. I took him voluntarily TWICE for another design studio (design a cemetery) and an independent study course (Parasite Architecture). Wild rides, all of them.
In addition, I'm always stopping by his class (and, never in an official capacity as a TA in the eyes of the school, but of my own accord). Granted, people call me stupid, they call me a glutton for punishment, but it's not because I keep going back for more. I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons that I'm an idiot. Fact is, I just keep learning from the man. But anyway, on to the lecture...
It's tough to go in open minded, because we have preconceived notions of these people, whether we have met them or not. Rumor and innuendo abound. Audience members castigated the panel for having singular objectives and slants on architecture and claimed that they should always be well rounded, but I'm sure the panel was chosen as such because they all have unique views.
So, while I personally know some things to expect from Professor Imas, the other panel members were getting on his case about how he believes that culture should be removed from the projects, freeing the students from the past and the future PREconceptions that hold them back. He focuses on removing the scale of the project, because that is one factor that sometimes locks you in to ephemeral and culturally heavy projects. Professor Bertomen called for a greater responsibility to the ills of society, and was quickly labeled a “high ideal do-gooder” by Professor Friedman.
What struck the most poignant chord with me was the notion of boundaries, a topic introduced by Professor Friedman. He mentioned that you have to introduce boundaries to the students to get them to learn, to alleviate frustration and allow them to meet challenges head on. When the topic was open to student questions by the moderator, I immediately jumped in, prompting this exchange (paraphrased):
Me: “You mentioned the topic of boundaries, and how the challenge to the student should be to how to mesh their ideas with these boundaries, almost butting up against them. One thing that I learned from Professor Imas is that sometimes it is almost as important to recognize that the boundaries need to be adjusted, changed, or sometimes removed altogether. That notion of critical thinking, to me, is just as important. Sometimes the best approach and concept is that you don't need the boundaries at all.”
Friedman: “Well, sometimes you DO need the boundaries.”
Me: “Well, sometimes you don't.”
Friedman: “Imagine basketball. You have a court, you have rules. You have to play within those rules.”
Me: “Right, but imagine on that same court, if one day they invented baseball, and they tried to play there. How would those boundaries affect that game, and how would the game affect the boundaries? It'd be something else completely.”
Moderator: “Next question!”
So, see, I didn't even get to ask the rest of the panel about boundaries. I recognize the fact that there are limitations in the real world, and while I appreciate the approach in studio of pragmatic and realistic project, I'm willing to pass at times on that approach during school. Will it get me a job? Dunno. Will it make me a better person? I know it will, but I suppose that's up for debate, too. What I did know is this: school is a great opportunity to explore architecture, perhaps making studio projects theory (and vice-versa), full of thought but NOT necessarily places that people live, etc. etc. I make buildings (the noun) in structures classes and building equipment, and at the office. I build (verb) in studio. I mean, should an approach like mine be so frowned upon?
One day I want to grow up and have an architecture education. Do I want to be an architect? Maybe. Maybe I'll be something no one has ever thought of or given a name to, and that would be even better. I just know that this is the education that's right for that.