Already number TEN, Pressing Matters X is a special issue reflecting a year of reflection and change, after several waves of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and newly developed hybrid teaching methods. It follows last year’s Pressing Matters 9 that was completely rethought with the aim to present an Open-Source publication that shares the Department of Architecture’s concept of design-research, an integral approach of critical thinking, rigorous research, and design, representing a deep understanding of the complex layers of architecture. Together with Jonathan Jackson & team of WSDIA, a more integral design was developed, allowing input from research [ARI labs], students, faculty and Penn’s special events. This anniversary of Pressing Matters X is celebrated by adding the ‘decade’ color of silver to the usual recycled cardboard cover of Weitzman’s Architecture publication. It also represents a year of new opportunities brought by the completely rethought education through the introduction of remote learning, zoom lectures and meetings, and a more inclusive, diverse approach. This difficult year also came with some small light points; a much larger international group of diverse jurors, experts and critics could be invited as travel was no hindrance for attendance, which really expanded the dialogue and drastically increased diversity and inclusion.
After a summer of protests the Department realized it crucial to create a DEI committee, that could assist in restructuring its curriculum, refocus the reading lists, and to also focus even more on an inclusive and diverse student and faculty body. The department also instigated a free summer school for the students as internships and jobs were hard to come by. The generous support of the great group of diverse external experts, critics, and speakers advised and consulted the students in their design for a temporary Covid testing station, where issues such as prefabrication, social equity and race and gender were discussed and inspired the student’s exquisite designs and awards generously published by Surface Media.
In conjunction with the 17th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia, CityX Venice, a virtual exhibition of new and recent work by leading architects and designers from around the world, opened online last May. I was honored to serve as one of the Creative Directors for the Virtual Italian Pavilion with City X under guidance of Tom Kovac and Alessandro Melis. For this exhibition the six architecture faculty members, Laia Mogas Soldevila, Dorit Aviv, Karel Klein, Ferda Kolatan, Masoud Akbarzadeh and Robert Stuart-Smith presented examples of their design-research under way at Weitzman. This also led to a great Log’Rithmn panel discussion with Cynthia Davidson under the theme: “the Science of Architecture.” It was fascinating for me to moderate the discussion with the six speakers who expanded on that title in three ways: ‘The material and ephemeral,’ ‘Irrealis Manu factum,’ and ‘Embedded aesthetics.’ Some 3000 attendants followed the dialogue and discussion that day.
The Department of Architecture will also host the ACADIA conference in Fall 2022. The conference theme, “Hybrids & Haecceities,” asks how technology enables, reflects, and challenges established disciplinary boundaries and design practices. Haecceities describes the discrete qualities or properties of objects that define them as unique, while Hybrids are entities with characteristics enhanced by the process of combining two or more elements with different properties. The conference invites contributions on how hybrids & haecceities pose new ideas and approach-es to design — be they computational, material, aesthetic, robotic, genetic, biological, environmental, or theoretical.
It is an exciting time to be studying architecture; challenges in society have impacted our lives and our profession greatly, environmental and natural disasters have put us on edge, and digital technologies continue to transform the means and ends of our field. The Department of Architecture actively engages in these issues, and our goal is to train our students to be the future leaders in these fields. Our students have proven to be extremely competitive in winning awards, such as Metropolis Future 100, and in finding internships and jobs, as evidenced in the Architecture department’s ranking as the fifth place in “graduate architecture schools with most hired students.” Collaborations with important innovators in advanced material fabrication and experts in the architecture field also give our students a direct connection to advanced practices and experiences.
Our fast-growing faculty includes world-renowned architects such as Thom Mayne, Ferda Kolatan, Marion Weiss, Scott Erdy, Billie Faircloth, and many others. Our lecture series and panel discussions include a great cast of world-renowned architects and innovators. We recently opened our brand-new Robotics Lab, connected to the Advanced Research and Innovation Lab (ARI), and our new MSD-RAS [Robotics and Autonomous Systems], where students join advanced classes in robotic design, and faculty and students develop design-research projects. Faculty members such as Robert Stuart-Smith, Andrew Saunders, Dorit Aviv, Masoud Akbarzadeh, and Ezio Blasetti have been collaborating on a variety of innovative projects, including the development of a Nomadic House [Robert & Masoud], supported by alumni Hanley Bodek and Cemex, that will be built on the Pennovation grounds later this year, and Ezio Blasetti’s research with the students for a carbon-fiber Pavilion to be located in the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.
The Department of Architecture is part of a multi-disciplinary School of Design and an exceptional research University. This is only a small glimpse of what is going on in the Department of Architecture. We hope to see you at Weitzman to inform you more completely in the near future!
Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA
Miller Professor and Chair
Department of Architecture
Designed by WSDIA
Published by ORO Editions
Editors: Winka Dubbeldam, Ivy Gray-Klein, Scott Loeffler, Hanna Finchler