Architecture, Innovation & Social Entrepreneurship

23Dec15

by Kenneth Schwartz @dinet

Tulane School of Architecture students have opportunities that go beyond most other schools of architecture in bringing their talents and compassion to bear on real issues of the community

At the Tulane School of Architecture we operate in the intersection between disciplinary knowledge in architectural and urban design and direct action through design engagement within the community.

Institutional Context

Traditionally, architectural pedagogy should focus on educating students in the abiding cultural and social roles of architecture and related fields by providing a well-rounded, humanities-based education with discipline-specific coursework that serves to prepare future professionals in design, building technology, theory and professional concerns, with an emphasis on critical thinking. At Tulane, we seek to instill a sense of responsibility and ethical conduct in our students through civic engagement. We provide our students with tangible experiences that yield an understanding of both the possibility and limits of design as an agent of positive social change.

Students who come to the Tulane School of Architecture have opportunities that go beyond most other schools of architecture in bringing their talents and compassion to bear on real issues of the community. Students who flourish at our school are interested in hands-on experience — with clients, community groups, at various scales and with diverse project types, from visioning of urban and landscape issues for a neighborhood or infrastructure intervention to small-scale design/build projects. Students at Tulane succeed by bringing their inherent curiosity with a willingness to explore spatial ideas through a rigorous iterative process, and an awareness of the complexity and interconnection of architectural ideas. Three-dimensional reasoning mixed with critical thinking is something we see in successful architecture students in general (certainly not unique to our school).

Changes in Practice

Architecture as a profession is at a curious and contradictory moment. In one sense, the educational model has never been more relevant in providing experiences that can lead a student in many different professional directions. While the educational model is also very effective in positioning graduates to enter the “traditional” field of architectural practice, there seems to be a continual diminution of the power and potential of that track in contemporary society. To be sure, while there will always be graduates who excel in the normative conditions of practice, society seems to suggest more than this track — as evidenced by the way so many firms have diversified in their practice models over the last twenty-plus years and the financial challenges faced by some practitioners.

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