Architecture for Social Justice Awards Program: Partnerships in Teaching

[ Award winners selected! ]

This program is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. This link will open a new browser window.

The inaugural Architecture for Social Justice Awards Program: Partnerships in Teaching invites applications from faculty who will be teaching a design studio during the 2003-2004 academic year, in any NAAB-accredited undergraduate or graduate architecture degree program. The intent is to recognize and support faculty who are leading studios that address human equity for both students as well as those who inhabit or experience the built environment. The awards program will document the creative ways that faculty are engaged in teaching architecture as a socially embedded discipline and practice and fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and respect in their classrooms.

The Partnerships in Teaching provide a $1,000 stipend, participation in a virtual network, access to local, national and international resources, opportunities for students to share their process and products on the web, and publication in a report

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Background & Context

The Access to Design Professions Project of the Adaptive Environments Center (Boston, MA) initiated the program in response to concerns about traditional design studio pedagogy, content, and culture, as described in several recent publications and reports on architectural education. The program is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts Universal Design Leadership Initiative.. This link will open a new browser window.

This awards program, like many other innovative initiatives, is inspired by the Carnegie Foundation report, Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice. In it, authors Boyer and Mitgang state:

 

"To enrich their mission, we urge that architecture practitioners and educators assume greater leadership in studying how environments affect human well-being, productivity, and happiness. The curricula and design sequences at architecture schools should foster a climate of caring for human needs by including more frequent contact with clients and communities and by placing more emphasis on "environment-behavior."...Further, the profession and the academy should collaborate on producing new knowledge aimed at clarifying how architects can create more effectively environments that enhance these goals...Building to meet human needs means helping architecture students become effective teachers and listeners, able to translate the concerns of clients and communities into caring design." (p.38-40)

 

The writing and work of Professor Leslie Kanes Weisman, who emphasizes the need for a holistic view of design in which there is no separation between human health, environmental health, and social justice, is also source of inspiration for this awards program. Her 1999 keynote address at Adaptive Environments' 20th anniversary celebration highlighted the essential connections that must be made to create healthy, inclusive, and sustainable communities. Professor Weisman challenged that:

 

"If we are to design a society in which all people and all living things matter, we will have to move beyond the politics of human and environmental exploitation that defined the 20th century. The restoration of deteriorated and unhealthy cities, the ending of placeless sprawl, the loss of wilderness and rural landscapes, the increasing separation by race and income, the fights to end environmental racism and gender discrimination, and to create an environment in which the talents of disabled and older people can find full expression and their needs be met, are all interrelated community building challenges." (Weisman, Creating Justice, Sustaining Life: The Role of Universal Design in the 21st Century, Boston, MA)

 

Supporting the goals of the Access to Design Professions Project, the awards program also focuses on recruiting and sustaining people with disabilities in design careers. As part of those efforts, Building a World Fit for People: Designers with Disabilities at Work (July 2002) introduces a growing student population who are poorly served in most design studios. Co-author Daniel Hunter writes:

 

"Access to graduate programs and professional life in all fields of study is problematic for people with disabilities. Studio based education in architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture and industrial design is often inaccessible to students with disabilities. Teaching the techniques and goals of universal or inclusive design in design school programs is an ironic endeavor when design schools themselves are inaccessible, and design professionals see people with disabilities as a user group, rather than as potential peers and colleagues. Design education is improved when people with disabilities participate, and the practice of design will also improve when people with disabilities are recruited, educated and supported in the design professions." (p.106)

 

The most recent report that recognizes the design studio as both a challenge and potential venue for increasing awareness of human equity issues is the Redesign of Studio Culture by the American Institute of Architecture Students (December 2002). "Studio courses command...the most intensive time commitment...are intended as the point of integration for all other coursework and educational experiences...it is natural for studio courses to create their own culture." The report cites Thomas Dutton and Kathryn Anthony