March 8-11, 2007 | Philadelphia, PA
Hosted by Drexel University & University of Pennsylvania
Co-chairs: Judith Bing, Drexel University and Cathrine Veikos, University of Pennsylvania
Well over 500 educators, students, and practitioners gathered in Philadelphia in early March for the 95th ACSA Annual Meeting, co-hosted by Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. The PSFS Building, Howe and Lescaze’s modernist skyscraper and National Historic Landmark, was an ideal setting for the stimulating discussions sparked by the theme, Fresh Air.
Theodore C. Landsmark, ACSA president, opened the conference at the Thursday, March 7, plenary session, with a challenging message to think of the conference's potential impact on students going through architectural school for the next 10 year. Judith Bing, meeting co-chair, invited native Philadelphian and Drexel architecture department chair and professor Paul Hirshorn to the podium to introduce the city with a richly illustrated narrative of an everyday walk through its historic streets; it was a perfect counterpoint to the birds-eye view afforded by the PSFS.
Next, co-chair Cathrine Veikos introduced PennDesign professor David Leatherbarrow, the opening keynote speaker. His attentive consideration of the academy and his observations on the state of architectural pedagogy both focused and invigorated our annual meeting agenda, and encouraged conversations all through the weekend around the theme of Fresh Air and the importance of leadership in forming curricula.
For the first time, the meeting's paper topics were selected from a competitive open call to the membership. The result was a diverse group of specific subjects and interests that nonetheless found their grounding in the multidimensional discussions that emerged from specific sessions and carried over into others. The conference co-chairs marked their contribution to the conference theme in a series of Special Focus Sessions, conceived as opportunities to closely analyze the construction of an architectural education. These sessions addressed the integration of design education with the liberal arts, with ecology, urban design, and preservation. Sessions also addressed design as research and the responsibility of academia to connect intellectual resources to questions that engage the needs of the greater community.
This year, the Journal of Architectural Education marked 60 years of publication with ACSA with a session on the question of their upcoming issue, "Design as Scholarship." Other sessions extended this theme, examining the relationship between design and research in the studio. Sessions on beginning design education, Visual Studies, and future pedagogy presented platforms for design curricula that are synthetic, multifaceted and multidisciplinary. Additionally, sessions were dedicated to nonprofessional and special audiences, including architecture programs at community colleges and high school levels, as well as preservation sessions linked with the concurrent meeting of the American Institute of Architects Historic Resources Committee. The annual Teaching Teachers to Teach session addressed adjunct and part-time faculty, with the goal of establishing an ACSA forum for these often-overlooked educators.
Together, the eleven invited sessions outlined the realm of engagement necessary to construct a concise design education that gives students a preparation with which to become both technically astute and visionary.
The conference was also an occasion for celebration and special events. Friday evening’s Awards Ceremony, in the great PSFS Millennium Hall, honored faculty and students for distinguished teaching, community collaboration, design and scholarly achievements, and service to ACSA. Lance Brown of the City College of New York was honored with this year’s AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. ACSA’s first anthology publication, The Green Braid, was also cause for celebration.
Students were also central to the conference. A three-day, on-site competition sponsored by the Brick Industry Association which challenged teams from schools in Philadelphia and across the country. Teams from University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia University won first and second prizes, respectively, while honorable mention awards went to students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University of Houston.
On each day of the conference guided tours took participants to the historic sites, distinguished architectural firms, and masterpiece buildings of Philadelphia and its surroundings. “Out and About,” a guide produced for the conference, encouraged everyone to seek out Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, architecture, and eateries.
The conference came to a close on Saturday evening with events hosted by the two schools: a keynote address by soon-to-be Pritzker Prize winner Richard Rogers at the University of Pennsylvania's Irvine Auditorium, followed by a reception at Drexel, sponsored by AIA Philadelphia, as part of its 150th Anniversary celebration. Rogers was presented with the Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medal by Elizabeth Louden, Tau Sigma Delta President. In his keynote address, Rogers spoke about the essential urban context of architecture, his advocacy for the future of London, and the socially responsible framework of his own practice. Five respondents engaged Rogers in a conversation, drawing out his ideas on practice, the environment, and architectural education—an education, he stressed, that must embrace urban planning, if the future of our cities matters.