How We Teach: Architecture Pedagogy Featured in Puerto Rico Symposium

Warke (left) and Wells during the symposium at the University of Puerto Rico. photo / provided

Warke (left) and Wells during the symposium at the University of Puerto Rico. photo / provided

November 1, 2013

In April, a cadre of current and former architecture faculty and alumni were the invited guests of the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) School of Architecture. The occasion was the second in UPR’s symposium series examining the teaching of architecture. “The Evolution of Pedagogy: Architecture at Cornell,” featured presentations and panel discussions with Professor Jerry Wells, associate professors Lily Chi, Andrea Simitch (B.Arch. ’79), and Val Warke (B.Arch. ’77), Visiting Associate Professor Jim Williamson, former associate professor Milton Curry (B.Arch. ’88), and alumnae Hansy Better (B.Arch. ’98) and Gae Buckley (B.Arch. ’79).

The symposium was hosted by Francisco Javier Rodríguez, dean of UPR’s architecture school, who has been conducting ongoing research on various forms of architectural teaching pedagogy and their histories. The event was organized by Rodriguez, Simitch, and Williamson.

The Cornell participants presented in pairs, with each tackling a time period or thread of design pedagogy evident in the school in the latter half of the 20th century and beyond. Simitch says that the structure meant that groups “gave a slice of the story that then came together to give the full picture of the past 50 years.”

Wells and Warke led the first session, with Wells focusing on the roots of the legendary Texas Rangers, of which he and Colin Rowe were a part. Warke discussed the arrival of O. M. Ungers on campus in the 1970s, and the effects the binary Urban Design and Architectural Design graduate programs had on undergraduate education.

For their pairing, Simitch and Williamson presented case studies of recent undergraduate and graduate work in the context of shifting and expanding representational tactics.

Alumnae and practitioners Better and Buckley showed the outbound influence that architectural pedagogy can have in other realms of design — including film production design and social practice.

The use of expanded practices, informality, and urban design were the subjects of Chi’s and Curry’s lectures, as they explored the role of design in the context of environments not driven by — or subject to — planning.

Sessions were moderated by Cornell alumni Maria Rossí (B.Arch. ’98), Jorge Rigau (B.Arch. ’75), Victor Níeto (B.Arch. ’06), Javier Isado (B.Arch. ’95), and Esteban Sennyey (M.Arch. ’82) — all currently practicing or teaching in Puerto Rico. A large number of Cornell architecture’s alumni were also in attendance.

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