Over on Archinect, I’ve posted a lengthy interview with Detlef Mertins, Chair of the Architecture Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
[Image: Detlef Mertins; photograph by Kristine Allouchery].
There we discuss the changing nature of architectural education: what teaching strategies, points of reference, and technologies (such as robotic assembly and 3D printing) can be used most effectively in the classroom. We go through everything from Mies van der Rohe vs. Toll Brothers to the use of algorithms in architectural design; from LEED certification and green building practice to comic books, Archigram, and the use of narrative fiction in student presentations.
On algorithms, for instance, Mertins remarks that the ongoing controversy over whether or not to use mathematics as a generator of architectural form overlooks the fact that reliance on algorithms is simply part of a long “tradition of architects seeking to learn from nature’s capacity to produce forms, patterns and structures of extraordinary beauty and functional prowess. Algorithmic design taps into a giant reservoir of mathematical models already at work in the processes that constitute the universe. In that respect, it’s still a form of mimesis.”
[Images: Student work from the University of Pennsylvania – in this case, a project by Justin Coleman, Amy Johnson, Jaime Lee, and Herman Mao, from their 3rd Year course with professor Cecil Balmond. See Archinect for more].
It’s a good interview, if I do say so myself. For me, as well, it comes with the well-timed realization that if someone as intelligent, articulate, patiently deliberative, and simply good humored as Detlef Mertins can survive the city of Philadelphia, then there may still be hope for our species…
So check it out – and feel free to leave comments on BLDGBLOG if you have any reactions or further thoughts, especially if you’re a student (or faculty member) at Penn.