Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Dean and Paley Professor
DEAN TAYLOR'S CONVOCATION ADDRESS
Academic Year 2011 - 2012
GOALS, PRIORITIES, AND INITIATIVES
September 7, 2011
I'm very pleased to take this opportunity to set forth the goals and initiatives for the School of Design in the academic year 2011-2012. In doing so, I hope to engage each and every one of you--students, staff, alumni, faculty, university colleagues, overseers, trustees, and friends--in achieving our extraordinary potential. We are a community of scholars and professionals who together can illustrate and communicate that design--encompassing the fine arts, historic preservation, urban and regional planning, urban design, landscape architecture, and architecture--can create value and make a difference in the lives of people in communities large and small, growing and shrinking, advantaged and disadvantaged, around the world.
As a school, our primary objective is to give our students--of all ages and across all the design disciplines--the perspectives, skills, and experiences that will help them meet the opportunities and demands of a changing and challenged, urbanizing world. As an academic community, it must also be our responsibility to offer leadership to our fields of inquiry and application, through ideas, experimentation and innovation, critical discourse, research, and value creation. We must take the responsibility to be among the thought leaders who will shape the communities of our time and the years to come.
Goal 1: Advance our visibility and influence through thought leadership, international engagement, and strategic communications.
As I was coming to Penn nearly three years ago now, I had the distinct if slightly exaggerated impression that our school was perhaps the best school of design that too few people--outside of ourselves--had ever heard of. Our school has amazing strengths in our faculty and students, our setting in a renowned urban and research-based university, and our enviable legacy of leadership in our territories of inquiry and practice. From this basis, we must create our trajectory and make it visible. We want to be recognized for what we do and what we stand for.
Here are three specific approaches that we will emphasize and showcase in the coming year.
- - Thought leadership. Last year's symposium Design: In the Terrain of Water, conceived by Professor Anu Mathur and Dilip da Cunha, brought together over 300 participants in an extraordinary three-day program addressing the potential to reinvent our relationship to water as the ground of settlement and a source of culture as well as an essential of life. We will continue to explore and advance the ideas generated in that symposium. As territories around the world become more urban, urbanism itself must be reconsidered. We will enter into the dialog about urbanism and about how the field of urban design can find regeneration at a time when its perspectives and proposals are badly needed.
- - International engagement. This fall Professor Ali Malkawi and the T.C. Chan Center, together with PennDesign, will be hosting the United Nations Sustainable Programme's annual Symposium on Sustainable Buildings, October 27 - 28.
- And in the spring Professor John Landis and PennPlanning will convene academics and leaders from the US and Asia in a conference addressing Asian Urbanization. We will strengthen our relationship with Singapore through collaborative activities with its Urban Redevelopment Agency, Ministry of National Development, and Center for Livable Cities. We are also pursuing new initiatives in China, Northern Europe, Japan, and India. Our curriculum and studios will more strongly address international examples of policy and practice, including planning and investment in the essential systems of infrastructure.
- - Strategic Communications and Scholarly Publications. Through publications we fulfill our responsibility to share our scholarship with others. Over the last 12 months we have seen the arrival of several books and journals from our faculty, including
- -Jonathan Barnett's City Design
- -Helen Furjan's Glorious Visions
- -Tom Daniels' The Planners Guide to Community Viz
- -Rachel Weinberger's AutoMotives
- -Winka Dubbeldam's Arch-tectonics (in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish editions)
- -Frank Matero's journal Change over Time
- -PennPlanning's Panorama
- -Witold Rybcynski's Makeshift Metropolis
- Publication is essential to the reputation and visibility of our school. We will bring a spotlight to these accomplishments, to encourage even more of them. For this goal and for many others, we will improve the function and image of our website and implement a strategic communications plan.
Goal 2: Expand PennDesign's research as an essential, integral element of our academic community and future professional practice.
The advancement of knowledge through research is a fundamental principle of the University of Pennsylvania, and we at PennDesign must step up. In particular, the challenges of today--increasing urbanization, climate challenges, reduced resources and growing deficits, and shifting economies--are areas where engaged research in our areas of knowledge and expertise can truly make a difference, both in the academy and in practice. We can create value and increase the influence of design on public policy and daily life through research.
Among the areas where we at PennDesign can move to the forefront of thinking are
• Changing demographics and aging populations
• Energy and built form
• Transportation and infrastructure
• Urbanization and urban design
Goal 3: Build the faculty of the future.
The next two goals are strongly linked to each other as well as essential to the future of the School of Design. To succeed, we must attract the best students across all of our programs and build a faculty of thought leaders and engaged design practitioners who are collectively without equal.
This year sees the advancement of two of our outstanding faculty members to the rank of full professor: Professor in Fine Arts Joshua Mosley and Professor in Architecture Ali Rahim. In addition we welcome the following new faculty members:
• Nancy Davenport, Assistant Professor in Photography
• Evan Rose, Professor of Practice in Urban Design
• Valerio Morabito, Adjunct Professor in Landscape Architecture
• Jerry Van Eyck, Associate Adjunct Professor in Landscape Architecture
• Sarah Rottenberg, Assistant Director of Integrated Product Design
Prospectively, this will be the busiest year in my role as Dean for searches for additions to the standing and appointed faculty, which will include
• A new Chairman for Architecture
• A new Chairman for Landscape Architecture
• A new Professor in Architecture Theory and Criticism
• A new Professor in Planning for Urban Theory and Design
• A new Professor in Planning for Transportation
• A new Professor in Historic Preservation
• A new Visiting Professor in the Fine Arts
Note that I am intentionally overusing the adjective "new" to emphasize that we are expanding the standing faculty. This is in part a response to the fact that in over the last five years the combined masters' programs in our school have grown from approximately 500 to 600 students. Directly related to this is the potential to strengthen our PhD program through planned growth. I will be appointing a committee of the faculty to address this possibility over the coming year.
We will also be actively seeking new instructors as well as adjunct and visiting professors, particularly related to shifting and broadening territories within our core and elective studios and with a focus on design.
Goal 4: Innovate and experiment to create a better, stronger, student-serving curriculum.
Our fields of endeavor and our territories of operations are changing dramatically; so too, must our education in design. Areas where you will see change this year are in the core architecture studios, urban design, integrated product design, and architecture theory, where Professor Leatherbarrow will initiate that change by teaching theory in the 500 series. And Professor Landis will take on theory and practice of urban design.
We will continue to investigate what it means to study and practice in a context that requires greater integration among fields of design. In this vein, three areas of existing and emerging strengths at PennDesign are evident:
• The first is an alliance on urbanism, linking planning, landscape architecture, urban design, and infrastructure, which together can form a cluster of excellence in analyzing urban form and size, with the objective of strengthening the role that cities, regions, and megaregions play in rebuilding economic vitality and sustaining community resilience. The importance of reusing and repositioning valuable existing buildings, sites, communities and landscapes brings the preservation group into this cluster as well.
• The second area is directly tied to the art and the making of buildings. Here successful emerging directions in digital design and environmental design can converge with technological inquiry and material innovation to create a new focus on how buildings are designed and constructed for resource efficiency, human spirit and wellbeing, and beauty. The T.C. Chan Center is a key element in this cluster, as our growing relationship with the School of Engineering. So is PennDesign's key role in the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster, led by Mark Alan Hughes with Ali Malkawi, Bill Braham and others.
• The third area spreads our territory of disciplines by engaging the emerging fields in design that extend between graduate and undergraduate study here at Penn. We will build stronger bridges among integrated product design, visual studies, new materials, and emerging forms of design.
Curriculum, like the economy, is a result of the interaction between supply and demand. We expect you as students to be actively involved in shaping the curriculum of the future in all our programs.
Goal 5: Enhance the community culture of PennDesign, specifically though an emphasis on critical design discourse.
The strong sense of community among the students of PennDesign has long been a distinctive attribute of our school. We are justifiably proud of being PennDesign.
In addition to student-led activities, we will provide improved spaces and increase opportunities for interdisciplinary conversations and critical discourse about the future of design. Critical discussion and discourse is an essential part of design education, and a skill and habit we hope that you will take on into your lives. It encompasses theory, philosophy, projects, policy, and purpose, at the professional, societal, and political levels of engagement.
The department chairmen and I are hard at work to bring you a year-long lecture series that will greatly expand your field of vision and give you the opportunity to discuss among a community of scholars the principles and purposes of design in a local, international and multi-cultural world. Frequently these lectures are defined in terms of a single department, but most are of importance to our other departments as well. Branch out, learn more; it will become invaluable to you as you seek models for your work and inspirations for your designs.
In addition, we have a special opportunity this year. Professor Witold Rybcynski has graciously agreed to celebrate his last year of teaching here at Penn through a two-part series of discussions with leading architects whose work in Canada and beyond has been a source of research and study in his own prolific and influential writings about architecture, place, and urban form. Entitled Conversations, the fall event will be with Bing Thom, and the spring event will feature Moshe Safdie. Each will be an opportunity to cultivate our community's engagement in critical discourse, as well as a celebration of Witold's extraordinary contributions to all of us.
We see alumni as an active and important part of our community, and I will be working with the PennDesign Alumni Association president, Tony Sorrentino, MCP, to strengthen the presence of alumni in our school.
Goal 6: Prepare a draft Diversity Plan for implementation
As citizens of the 21st century, we are all deeply aware of the importance of diversity along all many dimensions of difference that constitute society. Despite that awareness, the goal of diversity requires constant and diligent attention, as well as priority among criteria and considerations for decision-making that afftects the size and character of our community and our professions.
Consistent with University expectations, the Dean's office will be preparing a draft Diversity Plan for the School of Design. My hope is that it will be a plan of action, not just another paper exercise. I welcome all of you to participate in the discussion of the principles, objectives, and actions that can make a difference to PennDesign.
In this view, I would like to recognize the Black Student Alliance for their years of activities, including the annual Unspoken Borders conference and ongoing awareness programs. This year's leaders of the BSA, Lamont Cobb from Planning, Jhanea Williams from architecture, and Monica Rhodes from historic presentation, will welcome your engagement. Watch video of BSA's "Demystifying Design" event
Goal 7: Complete the administrative team and improve staff communications
Our staff is key to daily operations and also to the achievement of our creative initiatives. Last year was the first for Janet Kroll, Megan Schmidgal, and Kimba Johnson. Joining us now is Andrea Porter as Registrar. We are continuing to search for an Assistant Dean for Development.
I want to recognize particularly the department coordinators, who do a masterful job of keeping our programs going and addressing the needs of all of our students.
Goal 8: Expand the resources of the school.
Urban education is a challenging enterprise but one that is truly essential to the long-term strength of our economy and the wellbeing of society. One of my primary responsibilities is to enhance and increase those resources.
Working together with our staff and the University development office, we have established three-year goals for attracting additional resources to the school in three areas. The first will support fellowships for students, the second, the addition of a new, funded professorship in each of our programs, and the third, the regeneration of our facilities into a very different home for PennDesign.
During the summer, the University approved the master plan for PennDesign facilities, which was created through the joint direction of our school and the University's facilities management team. The work was incredibly well done by a team of Erdy McHenry architects and the Olin Partnership.
We have crafted a message about our school that is both intriguing and compelling, and I'll be working with our Overseers, the alumni association, and our friends around the world to meet our ambitious goals and raise the PennDesign flag every higher.