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Architecture education marks golden anniversary

May 03, 2010

The 2009-2010 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of architecture education at ASU. The past five decades have produced alumni and faculty responsible for celebrated works of regional and global importance including the 21,000-acre City of Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, the Rio Salado town lake project, and the Tempe Center for the Arts.

To celebrate this anniversary, the ASU Herberger Institute School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture will conduct an evening celebration on May 8 at Neeb Plaza on the Tempe campus. Event registration is $50 per person, and all proceeds benefit the school.

“The disciplines of architecture and landscape architecture are integral to the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ exploration of creative practice and research,” said Kwang-Wu Kim, dean and director. “The students and faculty from these disciplines continually demonstrate the transdisciplinary collaboration that is modelled throughout the institute.”

First established in 1959, the School of Architecture grew from a single-discipline school housed in a Quonset hut.

“From its inception, the school has been at the forefront of environmental research and the design of buildings, cities and landscapes that allow us to inhabit the complex eco-system in which we dwell,” said Darren Petrucci, director of the School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture.

Once established, the school immediately engaged in community-based environmental research and sustainable urban development with projects focused on a wide array of subjects from the riparian ecologies of the Rio Salado area to the redevelopment of urban corridors that would activate community interest and wellness. A “think globally, act locally” approach developed as a foundation for design education at the school encouraging students to examine the world from multiple scales and points of view.

“We live in a fascinating and demanding place so our curriculum draws heavily on our location, but we also take care to ensure that our students travel internationally for a global design perspective,” said John Meunier, architecture professor and dean of the former ASU College of Architecture and Environmental Design from 1987 to 2002. “The school recognizes and explores designs that are well adapted to this region and contributes to this effort, particularly in the field of sustainability.”

The current formation of the ASU Herberger Institute School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture has developed into one of the strongest, largest and most diverse schools of its kind in the Southwest. The school offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, landscape architecture, housing and community development, and urban design, and a doctoral degree in design, environment and the arts. The school also houses the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, and the Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, two research and design centers located on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

“Our design disciplines continue to evolve in both the educational and professional settings, developing the students, studios, and professionals of the future who will imagine and design the next 50 years and beyond,” Petrucci said.

Many faculty members are engaged in both academic and professional practice or have drawn on their relationships with alumni and other practitioners to provide real-world insight to current students. This collaborative spirit continues to be embraced by alumni such as John Kane, principal and co-founder of Architekton, a Tempe-based design firm responsible for unique Valley landmarks such as the Tempe Center for the Arts, the ASU Fulton Center, and the Tempe Transit Center.

“From the very beginning of my quest to become an architect, there have been many faculty and professionals who went out of their way to encourage and help ASU students, and in turn taught me the importance of continuing the tradition of fostering our future architects,” Kane said. “The curriculum also has become well balanced between theory and practice, evolving into a true transdisciplinary education preparing students for the professional realm.”

Current School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture students identify the integration of disciplines and collaborative practice as key not only to their career placement, but also to their understanding of the design process. Students are developing critical thinking skills that enable them to challenge and interrogate each other’s design approaches as part of the  process embedded in the curriculum.

“The greatest skill I have learned at this school is how to recognize, address and solve problems, really complex problems,” said Kaylee Colter, landscape architecture student. “The tools for dealing with problems may not be the same as they were in 1959, but I think the heart of what we do is very much the same as it was 50-years ago – to design spaces that have positive impact on the community.”

Jason Franz,
(480) 727-9888

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts