A Letter from Architecture Chair Caroline O'Donnell

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"Nature Oriented Development" by Jessica Lee (M.Arch '22), Gracie Meek (B.Arch '22), Yvette Wang (M.Arch '22).

Architecture at 150

Ecological philosopher Timothy Morton proposes that our world today is largely made of 'hyperobjects,' vast and simultaneously occurring phenomena that confound and reconfigure our understanding of what the world is and what it will be — therefore begging the question of what it can be. Underscoring the importance of respecting and understanding relationships as much as we appreciate objects, Morton's prescient concept has perhaps never been more relevant than it is now. As we collectively reflect on the Department of Architecture's 150-year lifetime, showing regard for our past as we look toward the future, we have an opportunity to revisit, rethink, and potentially reorient the many relationships that connect historical trajectories to future possibilities within design. 

Thinking ecologically goes beyond interdisciplinarity. It involves rethinking time (asking, for example, how we can design a building for its future deconstruction), and interactions (engaging, for example, with communities and stakeholders whose voices have not typically been heard) while retaining a strong core belief in architecture as something that not only performs, but communicates. This is no mean feat, yet we are well on our way, thanks to the relentless efforts of our faculty, students, staff, and alumni to step up.

From here, we not only look back and see 150 years of enduring tradition and constant evolution, but we also look around us for intersections and places to re-enter; to begin again, to disrupt, aspire, and act; to make change now and build a future on a new understanding of what has been and what is. In other words, we have a collective invitation to a present that asks, or rather implores, us to build a more fair, sustainable, and meaningful world. Ultimately, to imagine what can be so that in another 150 years' time, future generations will benefit from having found out what that is.

Caroline O'Donnell
Chair of the Department of Architecture,
Director of the M. Arch. Program,
Edgar A. Tafel Associate Professor of Architecture

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