Transcript for presentation:

Challenges and Opportunities for Inclusive Design in Graduate Architecture


Beth Tauke, Edward Steinfeld and Megan Basnak


B3. Education about UD

Date and Time

2014-06-16, 16:40 - 17:00


MA 1

Presentation PDF

Short oral presentation

Transcript of the talk

>>: Good afternoon everybody. A pleasure to be here.
>> EDWARD STEINFELD: My name is Ed Steinfeld. And I’m speaking today for Beth Tauke who is the one who let this presentation, but because of family affairs, she was not able to come on this trip.
I am going to talk about our inclusive design graduate architecture program. And I met at part of the State University of New York.
Let’s start with a little quote and it is fitting that the last presentation was from India. I am going to read Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be of any use for them.” I think this really captures the spirit of universal design and many other philosophers and writers who have said good things that we could use in universal design.
We try to take our program in a direction that will continue to develop and we are always inspired by people from all over the world.
Our group I’m going to talk about the challenges for starting a program in universal design, a description of our program, and the lessons we have learned from the many years we have run this program.
Architecture programs in the US have been behind the curve on universal design while teaching accessibility standards is a required part of every architectural curriculum.
Most schools do a very bad job of it and very few schools teach beyond the code requirements, the standard requirements.
And there are many reasons for this and these become the challenges we have to face.
Worst of all the tradition of architectural education in the United States is filed is style and form based.
Second our accrediting organizations have not included universal design as a primary evaluation criteria.
As I said they just focus on evidence in the student work that they have, that they are knowledgeable about the codes and standards and that is kind of minimum in that regard as well.
Inclusive design educators, on the other side of the coin, inclusive design educators are often researchers and writers, and they are not often focusing on topics that are exciting and interesting to creative minded students.
Another thing we find is that the popular media in the states with shape the attitudes of our students favor human interest stories and that you would think would be a good thing except they never talk about what happens after the disasters.
So they talk about the disasters and never really publicize all of the issues that architects have to deal with.
Another issue we see well, it is not an issue, but we see it as an opportunity. Because inclusion through design is essential now to global practice and architects from developed countries, at least or practicing all over the world, and so they are dealing with a great diversity of different kinds of topics.
We have seen this as an opportunity.
So for example, in our research group, one of the things that we do is we have projects on different kinds of issues. And this one, one of our faculty has worked in Rwanda and he is very interested in informal settlements and so he offered a project on informal settlements and basically as we heard earlier, we do try to a diverse we try to address diversity with students of they come from a diverse background.
We also addressed social justice and social participation as well as human performance.
So our focus is not just on design for human performance, but on design for social justice, accommodating differences.
We found many topics and particularly for design studios that appeal to the students. One is human diversity; one is sensory perception.
Another one is health and safety.
And another one is social justice.
And, in fact, when we talk about disability, we often put it into the context of all of these other issues and we emphasize the interrelationship of different issues of diversity.
So for example, disability has a strong relationship with race and income in the United States.
And also has a relationship with gender and aging. So when we tried to explain to students that disability, that universal design is not just about disability, there are a lot of other issues that they have to attend the two and essentially seems to interest the students more than just a focus on function and accommodating function related to disability.
So what is our program and why ?
We have two different Masters programs, our first professional degree is a master’s degree, and we have two different programs.
We have a two year program for students to complete a four year undergraduate studying architecture.
Then we have a three and a half year program for students who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and the first year we teach most of our lecture courses on universal design.
So we have and we teach a studio in every single semester so we have a studio in the first semester and then we have a course call the social nature of architecture.
Another one is called design of inclusive environments.
And then we have a required course in environmental controls that all the students have to take.
Oh, and I should explain our curriculum is set up with four concentrations. So in the Master’s program we are one of four different concentrations and those are one called material culture, which is really about art and sculpture.
We have another one called on sustainable design.
We have a third on integration and information technologies into architecture and then ours is inclusive design.
Students can focus on any one of those concentrations or switch from one to the other every year so they can move around.
So these are the requirements for our students that stay in our concentration, but also there are courses that are available to the other students, and we do have about a third, depending on the course, from one of the other concentrations or not, there selecting a concentration. So in the second semester, we have another studio, and we have a course on ergonomics and building design and a course on human responses to intentional environments, essentially, human response to the environment.
In the second year we have most electives. Students can elect to take the studio, the same studio that the first your students would take.
So we have students mixed abilities in the studio and then they can do directed research in the first semester and finish with a thesis in the second semester, if they want to do a thesis.
But they could also do another studio if they want.
So we don’t require a student to do a thesis. It is an elective thing. They are not allowed to do it unless they achieved a certain grade level in academic performance.
And then we give them a lot of elective so they can choose courses within our school or within other departments that relate to their thesis.
And then we have another Master’s program, which is a non professional degree program and that one is basically the same course except there is no studio require. And this is for students that want to get a Master’s of science, not a first professional degree, and they may come from occupational therapy or this ability studies or whatever.
We actually have not had any students in this program yet. This is also a course the students who are they have a Masters of architecture can take in order to get more knowledge and become a specialist in universal design or we call it inclusive design.
In architecture, the main course is a studio. It cost to its a little bit less than half of all the credits that a student takes every semester. So it is the most important course. These are the kind of projects we would give. We experiment a lot, and we found projects that are exciting to students, give them a chance to do creative work and they have various attributes that make them good topics for universal design.
So the children’s museum is a studio that I gave because there is a new project for a children’s Museum in Buffalo.
It is a real world project that works directly with the institution, with people managing the facility and building it.
Another project like that was a public toilet in an abandoned grain elevator complex and people try to figure out how to reuse this grain elevator, and they are using it as art for art’s events. So people need toilets. So the project was how do design toilets in this facility, which was not as simple of a project as you might think. And in this case, the students actually bought a shipping container and built public toilets that are now used in the facility.
So actually, it is a compass and something with a building that is being used.
Another project’s global informal settlements in which students did research on informal settlements around the world and can up with different approaches that involved participation of the residents of the settlements.
Another project was an office building in Dublin and another one, affordable housing prototype for a low-income community in Buffalo and in this case, we also have a client who wants to build some affordable housing and we hope to turn that into a real world project as time goes on.
Our students have also pursued a number of disparate thesis opportunities a number of thesis opportunities and they do this with faculty members who have a similar research interest, and then they work, for like I said a different semester doing a topic for a thesis and then they follow through with a thesis, their own thesis later.
And one of the thesis is that is going to be presented in the other room in a few minutes, Karen Kim who is done quite a bit of research on stair safety. She has worked with me and she has presented at this conference, and she also presented at a fall conference. We encourage the students to submit their projects to peer reviewed conferences.
Another project is senior housing standards for munities in Toronto, architectural practices in small towns and the importance of knowing about codes and standards and particularly accessibility standards and Megan Basnak who did that research discovered that was a very important aspect of the research.
And then we also have someone do a project on lighting and another one on wellness centers for women.
And one of the more interesting ones lately was classroom design for the autism spectrum and another interesting one was on temporary housing.
So one of the interesting things that occurred, I think we have had this program running now for about five years and one of the interesting things that occurred when we started it, we had very few students, three to five students and material culture was attracting 20 students and sustainable design twice in his.
Now is all reversed. Now we don’t have enough room for all the students that want to study inclusive design.
So it turned out to be a very popular program for students and I want to talk about why this is.
First of all, we have developed a close relationship with our research Center, which I direct, which is called, “The center for inclusive design and environment access” and the center as you may know is probably the leading center in research and development in universal design in North America and we get a lot of publicity. We are very visible in the school and we have reached out to all the students, and we are closely integrating our projects with our courses.
So it exposes the students to the work we do rather than having a research center part from the educational program.
The other thing is we have expanded significantly over the last few years.
So now, we have seven faculty within the school that is participating in our center and teaching courses in our curriculum.
We also have two other faculty in other schools and we recently hired some more people.
So we have actually a very great resource amongst the faculty, and we have reached I think a critical mass.
Honestly, we are very productive.
We are trying to make universal design education meaningful to the students, and we instill in them that they have to really start thinking about universal design as they move into practice. It will be an essential part of architectural practice in the future. We show them how demographics are changing in the world. We have to be ready for that. We talk about the difference; the changing economies as developing economies are improving. If you guys states is declining. I think it has become very obvious in our country that things are not like they used to be and we have to start thinking differently about the way we design our environments.
We demonstrate and encourage them to understand that societies that value human diversity, attitudes about consumption are changing. We are moving from a society in the United States that valued high consumption to the point where it became absurd. We are still in that mode of thinking, but now we really have to reverse our thinking and start thinking about how to reverse consumption and how to do more with less.
Technology is changing the world and mass customization makes universal design easier to do.
We have to learn how to integrate digital technologies, but we also have to learn how to deal with the complexity that they bring with them.
And finally, governments are seeking new ways to improve life for all so there is an opportunity here as we move into the future about the support that the public will bring to this.
And one of the things that we will find is generation Y.
It is much more just it in social issues than Generation X.
Generation X was a, “Me generation” and Gen Y was not like that at all.
That is really kind of a life kind of thinking. I think they had a better education in their lives.
So, of course, I’m going to skip ahead.
Attitudes or shifting and, in fact the architectural profession is changing and even though they are not doing it very well yet, they are starting to think about how architecture can provide a social benefit to the public.
So I am just going to quickly go through what we think is required to get a good program going.
A comprehensive plan and a set of goals, the buy in from the administration.
Committed faculty and a plan for supporting new faculty.
Student interest, a rigorous interesting and realistic realistic, whatever it was interesting research opportunities and real world design opportunities.
And there we need some sort of internal and external support.
Let me skip ahead.
So we would like to offer our systems.
We think we have been quite successful and we are not bragging or anything, but we really have try to, we would really like to reach out and make connections around the world. So if anybody wants to learn more about our programs, come to visit, we would very much like to talk to you, and we had a couple of books that are available that can help you in your own work if you are a teacher.
>> HOST: Thank you very much. You had the opportunity to answer some questions as well. Thank you.
>> GUEST: Do you have an undergraduate program as well?
>> EDWARD STEINFELD: That is a good question. We have a four-year undergraduate program.
>> GUEST: I am wondering how
(Overlapping speakers).
>> GUEST: Better integrated program.
>> EDWARD STEINFELD: That is a very good question
(Overlapping speakers).
So Beth Tauke is the associate Dean for student affairs. So when I said administrative buy in, well, we are I have 1 foot in administration and recently Cory Dunn Smith who recently joined us a couple of years ago, he has taken over for her. So she has been working hard to get the right faculty place in the right positions to bring universal design into the undergraduate program.
So Cory Dunn Smith runs our first year for semester program and we also have another faculty member associated with our group who teaches what is called a comprehensive design project in the third year.
So we are gradually bringing universal design to the other parts of the program. It is difficult because we have a lot of students and a lot of faculty, and they don’t always buy in to these ideas that it will take some time. Most of our students in our gradual program come from other graduate schools and about, I would say about half are from other countries.
>> GUEST: Okay.
>> HOST: I hope we have time for more questions.
>> GUEST: What does this gradual program, is this a Masters in architecture? Is it inclusive In Design or is it a Masters
>> EDWARD STEINFELD: It is a Masters in architecture and what we call inclusive design research group. And students don’t get any particular degree. They get a Masters in architecture, but they have courses that qualify them for, you know, developing a good degree or a good career in universal design. We use those terms interchangeably, design for all, inclusive design, universal design, to us it is all the same.
>> HOST: Some more questions?
>> EDWARD STEINFELD: One way to think of it is it is one way of thinking about being an architect.
>> GUEST: I live in Belgium. I give advice directly to architects. Sometimes we can also in universities.
What do you think of teaching architects who are practicing a long time? Because we don’t have problems with young architects. They don’t ask us why. They are very interested in our experience, but you have a huge problem with elderly architects.
>> EDWARD STEINFELD: Yes. We experience similar things. One of the differences in practice in the United States is the legal context of architecture. There are a lot of lawsuits if you don’t do what you are supposed to do. So from an accessibility perspective, the architects are quite aware that they have to design accessibility, but they don’t know how. They make mistakes. And we have continuing education requirement for all licensed architects. So we have started our center separate from the graduate group. We have started an online continuing education program so we offer about 12 courses now, and we also have a lot of occupational therapist taking those courses and other professionals taking them and we get credit and our courses are approved by the licensing, the professional associations. So we are expanding that. We have started small and try to develop all of the courses, and now we are going to start marketing the courses more extensively. We usually get about five to 10 students in each course, but not that many architects right now. But we hope to market better to the architects.
>> HOST: Thank you very much. You happen to answer the next question as well. So thank you, very much.


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