Prior to springbreak, Associate Professor Theodore Sawruk and Graduate MArch student Timothy Applebee presented peer-reviewed papers at the 106th American Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Annual Meeting in Denver Colorado. The conference theme engaged “The Ethical Imperative” in architecture and these two papers address issues related to diversity in architectural education and the imposition of orthogonal mapping systems as a means of colonial oppression of indigenous peoples. Professor Sawruk presented “An Assessment of the Academic Supports Provided to African American Female Students in Undergraduate, Pre-professional Architecture Programs,” while Applebee & Sawruk presented “Colonial and Anti-Colonial Design Methodologies: The Instrumentalization of Grids in the Public Interest. While in Denver, they visited various landmark buildings including the Denver Public Library designed by Michael Graves, and the Denver Museum of Art, design by Daniel Libeskind.
In its material, cultural, and economic effects, architecture poses essential and unavoidable ethical quandaries and challenges. In its performative capacity to express ideology, architecture is inexorably entangled in questions of power and legitimation. As part of an interconnected global economic infrastructure that consumes natural resources at an alarming rate, architecture raises new and pressing questions with which educators, practitioners, and students must engage. Given that there is an infinitely ethical dimension to every aspect of architecture, the 106th ACSA Annual Meeting will seek to solicit wide reflection on the ethical challenges of architecture in a world in flux. Architecture as practice and as discipline and pedagogy struggles to solve problems and to advance culture. Within this struggle, the discipline faces an ambiguity of values and agenda. The relationship between these two purposes, problem solving and cultural advancement, often exists as a rift, a great chasm filled with nuanced dilemmas related to ethics and power.
An Assessment of the Academic Supports Provided to African American Female Students in Undergraduate, Pre-professional Architecture Programs
by Theodore Sawruk
Even with the increased number of minority graduates from architecture programs, African American females still make up less than 0.4 % of all licensed architects in the United States. While, increasing diversity within the field of architecture continues to be a priority for both the academy and the profession, one can ask whether current architecture programs are doing enough to help women of color successfully engage and complete undergraduate, pre-professional curriculums. This qualitative, single-case study explored how, if at all, three African American female students were able to engage their undergraduate, pre-professional architecture curriculum. It represents scholarly discourse related to the professoriate and the scholarship of teaching and learning. This investigation examined the characteristics of undergraduate architectural programs, from the perspective of their academic curriculum, faculty teaching methodologies, and the design studio (classroom) environment. The intention of this pilot study is to shed light on the educational practices that currently exist within architecture programs and determine how, if at all, they mitigate or extend the barriers that traditionally limit the success of women of color in architectural education.
Colonial and Counter-Colonial Design Methodologies: The Instrumentalization of Grids in the Public Interest
by Timothy Applebee and Theodore Sawruk
In 2016 the Canadian landscape architect, Pierre Bélanger, unveiled “Extraction,” a site-specific intervention at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Bélanger’s installation drew attention to the grid as it was used by the British Empire to assert sovereignty over the full expanse of British North America (Canada) by implementing the Dominion Land Survey (1871-1930). For Bélanger’s “Extraction,” this sovereign act, specifically the act of placing a surveyor’s monument to demarcate dominion, became a means to highlight 800 years of geological and human exploitation by the Crown. When used as a means of spatial organization, the grid supported the imposition of political and economic agendas by Colonial Europeans on the indigenous landscape and its inhabitants. Theories of architectural and spatial design methodology (per Manfredo Tafuri and Rosalind Krauss) contextualize the instrumentality of grids in our review of recent urban, architectural, and geo-spatial works by Pierre Bélanger, Alessandro Rosanelli, Jennifer Bauer and Kelly Rose. The paper concludes with an appraisal of the advance of geo-spatial grid mapping and its countervalent potential for design professionals.