Sunday, March 4, 2012


Flying home from a few days in Boston for the centennial ACSA Annual Meeting offers a chance to reflect on architecture and education. Boston is where Holly and I started studying architecture (at the Boston Architectural Center) and it’s clear that the city itself remains one of the most influential components of our intellectual formation. How so?

Cities stay with you. Urbanism is a lived experience. If a city is a poem you write with your feet, then walking the streets of a city like Boston (or Philadelphia, my native environment) imbues you with a sense of orientation, dimension, scale and rhythm. Non-visual cues like the reflection of sound off hard surfaces or the direction, speed and temperature of wind form a part of our subconscious understanding of space. The nature of public space – and the rituals and codes for its use – in cities like Boston is notoriously hard to diagram or record. It needs to be understood over time. And it never leaves you.
[image: Public Alley 430]

Buildings stay with you. The buildings in which we spend significant amounts of time – or in which we live through important moments – leave an impression on us. Like cities, they instill an innate sense of organization and order, of scale and proportion, of light and air, of the relationship between spaces and events. Schools of architecture are particularly important, since they impact generations of architects who often internalize the lessons of the buildings themselves. Returning to Boston, I realized that the BAC’s exposed structural and mechanical systems, its efficient circulation and its gracious ways of engaging the street and the corner must have stuck with us, considering tin box’s design.
[image: the Boston Architectural Center, by Ashley, Myer and Assoc., 1963-66.]

People stay with you. Watching my dissertation advisor – my model of a mentor – sitting with her dissertation advisor – still one of the most innovative historians and educators in our field – while listening to a talk by one of the ACSA conference’s honorees – himself a theorist and teacher of extraordinary importance – illustrated how important mentorship and collegiality are in the processes of education. And just as important as our work as educators is the web of relationships formed between students. Spending time with friends from the BAC, McGill and Columbia – some of whom I’ve known for 25 years – reiterates what we knew as undergraduates, that the friendships formed in studios, classrooms, libraries and concert halls has as large an impact on our intellectual growth as anything spoken by a teacher or printed in a book. Fostering and sustaining that kind of environment is an essential task for us as educators.
[image: Elie Haddad, Assistant Dean, School of Architecture & Design, Lebanese American University, and 1988 graduate of the BAC]

1 comment:

  1. And boy, does David stay with you . . . . holeee cow! Otherwise, thanks for reminding me I did undergrad in Brutalism. That movement hasn't only stayed with me, I often attempt to defend it. Defending a movement called "Brutalism" is really quite difficult. Defending such a beast is a good way of suggesting to laypersons, "We won't understand each other. Ever."