Hubert C. Schmidt '38 Chair of Landscape Architecture
Hello?… Hello?… Can you hear me? Can you see me?
These are by now familiar phrases to students whose learning environment has been thoroughly transformed by the pandemic. That environment is now bounded not by the classroom or the studio but by a computer, tablet, or phone. Since March 2020, we have ventured far from our comfort zone. The move from campus to home has highlighted inequities in our living and working conditions. The pandemic flux has caused economic, emotional, and physical hardship. It has also highlighted the connections between health, social, and environmental factors, and how, in a globalized world, the same action can have an impact on our immediate neighbor or someone 8,000 miles away.
The shutdowns have resulted in silencing seismic noise, urban skies clearing and wildlife returning, and more people walking and biking. They also have exacerbated disparities in access to food, health care, open space, transportation, and education. All concerns central to the disciplines of architecture, planning, and landscape architecture.
Our experience of the world is changed. Our perception of the world needs changing. The upheaval that began in Minneapolis with the 8-minutes-46 second public killing of George Floyd represents a watershed in our understanding of the movement for Black lives. We have been confronted with our roles as spectators and now must reconsider our roles as educators. Inaction is not an option.
Can you hear me? Can you see me?
These phrases also reflect the failure of academic institutions to listen to the voices of Black and brown students, faculty, and staff. Among the measures to be taken is the expansion of curricula beyond the Western canon. From history to the choice of design precedents, we must challenge colonial gestures in our teaching. We must recognize the need to foreground the social contexts in which design is produced and legitimized as well as the social implications of design and planning. We need to have broader representation in our lectures and juries. These are but a few of the demands voiced by the BIPOC Knowlton Coalition. We welcome their engagement; we look forward to implementing a plan for change.
In the past months, we have witnessed tremendous forces at work. There is no going back. The leadership, faculty, and staff are working to create a more resilient, equitable, and just Knowlton School. Landscape architecture, planning, and architecture, with their understanding of systems, policy, and space are ideally positioned to address these questions.
The situation with the pandemic remains fluid and the return to campus will require us to be flexible and understanding. As part of the university community, we will follow the university guidelines. To maintain the reduced occupancy dictated by public health, there will be minimal access to Knowlton Hall and to studios. However, studio computers will be accessible 24 hours a day via remote desktop. Over the summer, our faculty have worked extraordinarily hard to establish a plan for hybrid and online instruction that will engage and support students, fulfill our educational mission, and strengthen the Knowlton community.
We look forward to welcoming you back in autumn 2020.
We hear you; we see you.
- August 12, 2020
Benjamin Flowers, PhD
Professor of Architecture
Associate Director, Knowlton School
At the Knowlton School we educate the next generation of scholars and practitioners engaged with the designed and built environment. It has long been my belief that the most powerful illustration of structural change in society is found in the work of architects, landscape architects, and planners. The design of buildings, landscapes, and cities does not take place in a vacuum—these are disciplines and practices that require we engage thoughtfully with questions of social justice, political economy, and a range of ecological imperatives. The work of our faculty and students is, therefore, intimately connected to the most pressing causes and conflicts in our society today. Our task is to ensure that our pedagogy and research articulates and addresses those causes and conflicts and that as a school we contribute deliberatively to the world around us