Hubert C. Schmidt '38 Chair of Landscape Architecture
YOU ARE HERE…
We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Knowlton extra muros when the pandemic sent us packing. Our HERE—the informal gatherings on the big stairs and chance-encounters on the ramps, the hive of third-floor studios, and the light-drenched library—dissolved like a PowerPoint effect. With determination, we adapted to new/old surroundings, closeness and loneliness, and virtual communication. Knowlton regrouped across a multitude of THERES.
We now have a new year, a new administration, a new university president, a new College of Engineering dean: We are poised for change. Let’s take stock and step forward. Let’s engage our context. Let’s project. Even though we are designing from home, we are taking on the bigger world. Architectural space responds to climate relief, human migration, and health crisis. Landscape systems confront the social inequity of urban tree canopy and mass extinction of species. Planners measure sustainability across land, community, and justice.
We cannot travel, but new ideas and methods continue to enrich the Knowlton experience. The Baumer Conversations series, held virtually and accessible widely, broadens our reach and diversifies our disciplines. African American history, environmental law, grassroots efforts, and resilient infrastructures underscore commonalities in architecture, landscape, and planning. This spring, we will host the symposium Blackboxing Banham and welcome Andrew Zago and Laura Bouwman to the 2021 Baumer Seminars). Kounkuey Design Initiative, whose projects place activism at the center of design professions, will join a landscape studio as Glimcher Visiting Professors.
The pandemic disrupted norms of teaching and the Knowlton BIPOC Coalition demanded that we revisit what, how, and who we teach. We took notice with curricular revisions and increased student support. We are proud to launch the newly created Michael B. Cadwell Endowed Scholarship and the Knowlton Access Fund to further diversity and inclusion.
Politics have irrupted in our daily lives. Politics have taken a new urgency and relevance in the academic discourse. As planners and designers, as faculty and students, we need to engage with and be alert to politics. Politics, in the original Greek sense, is concern for the affairs of the city, state, and collective life. Politics govern society, morality, and ethics. We work with urban and natural systems, design housing, cultural institutions, and landscapes. Our work is central to the politics of space. Space, in turn, can be symbolically charged, as seen in the events that unfolded at the National Mall and U.S. Capitol on 6 January 2021. These extraordinary times are to be remembered and call for a reset. The best parts of our land-grant mission direct us to inform these politics with the historical and speculative knowledge of our disciplines—their HERE and THERE. Let’s take a stance on the environment, on cities, on space, and on politics.
Last year, we turned constraints into opportunities. The coming months are at once filled with uncertainty and hope. We remain vigilant and we imagine future travel and events. We take stock and we step forward to safe encounters, vibrant exchanges, and the civic space of Knowlton. Let’s project from HERE to THERE, from NOW to NEXT.
- January 25, 2021
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