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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging Commitments: Architecture Division

Last updated on Sep 01, 2021

Over the course of the 2020-2021 Academic Year, the faculty, staff, and students of the Architecture Division at CCA worked together to establish clear and actionable commitments in support of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the division. The goal of setting out these commitments is to clearly articulate, and hold ourselves accountable to, the ways in which the curriculum and culture of the division can better represent and support all members of the community and more actively promote a more inclusive and diverse vision of architectural education and practice.

It is important to emphasize that this is ongoing work and that these commitments are a work in progress. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Core Knowledge, Methods, and Skills

What do we consider fundamental in early design studios, and more generally, in our degree programs? How might our definition be changed, augmented, or expanded based on considerations of DEI?

  1. Contextualize Skills

Core Studios in the Architecture Division will commit to critically framing the ‘fundamental skills’ taught. These are comprised of observational, analytical-evaluative, formal and communication skills, balancing a student's ability to design and draw with an understanding of, and engagement with, the power and equity issues that bias those skills. Skills will be historically situated and questioned.

2. Collaboration / Empathy

All core courses will incorporate collaboration, both as a value (designing 'with' rather than 'for') and as a format for projects and research. Empathetic understanding of multiple subjectivities will be prioritized. Core objectives will include effective communication methods and collaboration across social identity difference

3. Expanded Values

In addition to established Formal and Organizational terms of evaluation, the framing of precedents and the evaluation of student work will be expanded to include human health and wellness, the way it affects labor, its relationship to gentrification, its environmental and social impact, and other extra-disciplinary concerns.

4. Identity / Plurality

The Architecture Division faculty commits to embracing student’s diverse backgrounds and experiences, and to leveraging this diversity in division-wide courses. The wide array of backgrounds and lived experiences of the students will be engaged and embraced as part of a divisional culture that values, teaches and foregrounds diverse forms of practice in architecture and interior design. A variety of contexts, from global to local and across multiple economies and cultures, will be addressed in the program curricula

5. Language

The Architecture Division commits to exposing architectural vocabulary as an exclusionary tool, educating all members of the community to be mindful in their choice of words and with their audiences, and to develop an inclusive language that fosters a sense of belonging for everyone.

References

What are the primary references we use across our various courses? How do we expand and enrich the range of projects our students come in contact with across both historical and contemporary works? What are the values that are modeled and/or supported by the projects we choose?

  1. Expand references (rituals, cultural practices, behaviors)

The Architecture Division commits to developing a robust list of diverse references that consider the identity of designer(s) and users, the structure of practice, the location of practices and projects, as well as both traditional and contemporary materials and technologies.

2. Peer Review

The Architecture Division commits to setting up opportunities for faculty to meet and discuss course planning with an eye to expanding references.

3. Syllabus Prompts

The Architecture Division commits to adding prompts to the syllabus template that stress the value and importance of expanding references.

4. Broadcast Progress

The Architecture Division commits to publicizing the ongoing efforts at diversification in several “model courses” in the curriculum.

5. Accountability

The Architecture Division commits to prompting instructors to discuss their aspirations around more inclusive representation—including the challenges they encounter, questions specific to their subdiscipline, and omissions they are still working on—with students at the start of the semester, to encourage a sense of mutual accountability.

Teaching Formats

What established formats for teaching (critiques, reviews, presentations, collaboration etc.) do we rely on, and what biases and inequalities do these reflect? How might we diversify formats for interactions and the voices heard?

  1. Foster student agency and empowerment

The Architecture Division commits to increasing student choice in methods of presentation, offering a diversity of submission formats can help level the playing field and give students multiple ways to express themselves. Design studio engagement will draw from practice-based models of collaborative problem-solving among colleagues of different experience levels. We will decenter and disperse authority in presentation and feedback sessions and encourage peer feedback and discussion; this may require the intermittent physical quieting or removal of the professor as a strategy to empower the student’s voices.

2. Deliverables

Required course deliverables will be structured to include a broader range of formats and methods—including, but not limited to, roundtable discussions, symposia/conferences, installations, and event-based presentations—that critically consider the impact that project deliverables have on the pedagogy and learning outcomes of a course.

3. Evaluation Processes

The Architecture Division faculty commits to clarifying learning objectives, assessment methods, and course objectives in a manner that allows for a diverse range of aesthetic values and interpretations and that identifies and centers context (Who is the work for? Who do we design for? Who are we leaving out?) as part of the evaluation of design work.

4. Public engagement in reviews of student work

The Architecture Division faculty commits to establishing clear intentions for all reviews and to structuring reviews within a broader disciplinary/social/economic/cultural context focused on creating an ‘elevated’ public discussion that incorporates the students’ intentions, ideas, and development. We will establish clear etiquette for review guests and students including beginning ‘reviews’ with questions, to foster a sense of discussion rather than judgment. Review formats will vary and will model to students various forms of engagement with their work, including informal collaborative discussions, roundtables, critiques, and celebrations. Alternative spatial-physical arrangements will be considered for each alternate format.

5. Learning and Teaching Culture

The Architecture Division commits to a teaching pedagogy that creates an inclusive studio culture - informing work/life balance with the express intent of shifting the profession to be more inclusive of historically underrepresented communities.

Partnerships

What are the blindspots in the partnerships we seek, have, or had in the past? What other types of partnerships are needed, and how might they best fit into our curricular ambitions?

  1. Frameworks for Partnerships and Co-Creation

The Architecture Division commits to cultivating an ever-more deliberate approach towards the school’s institutional and curricular framework for partnerships across sectors, from community-based organizations and other academic and research institutions to for-profit industry and government agencies. This approach will be grounded in a commitment to co-creation across diverse forms of expertise as a collaborative model.

2. Partnership Agreements

The Architecture Division (working with the College) will commit to developing templates for partnership agreements for all course partners and thus commit to defining larger institutional structures that can both seed and sustain long-term partnership opportunities.

3. Funded Partnerships

The Architecture Division will develop diverse funding sources to compensate or arrange skill exchanges with all community partners for their participation in courses and programming. This will include funding for faculty to develop and maintain which partnerships.

4. Partnership Presence in Public Programs

The Architecture Division will foreground partners in the annual Architecture Lecture Series to seed future partnerships and build platforms for building trust and a shared language with like-minded partners both regionally and nationally.

5. Curricular Commitment

The Architecture Division commits to offering one course per year that fosters and enables these partnerships and maintains the longevity of these partnerships.

6. Visibility of Partnerships and Outcomes

The Architecture Division will increase the visibility of work and pedagogy developed with external partners on Scaffold and other CCA platforms, to foreground student work and voices while continuing to build an internal Divisional list of partners and establish a protocol for sustained outreach.

Contexts

What are we considering in our selection and approach to sites and the context of our projects? How might we expand the methods, lenses, and the site choices themselves?

  1. Global Diversity

The Architecture Division commits to increasing the number of global sites and issues in studio and other course projects in order to expose students to other cultures and to pressing contemporary issues while being mindful of how their own background shapes their perspective.

2. Sites vs. "Situations"

The Architecture Division commits to considering all aspects of sites that are chosen for studio and other course projects, including not only the physical and material parameters, but also the diversity of histories, peoples, and perceptions that have shaped each site through time. Sites, in this sense, will be understood as "situations.”

3. Critical Methodologies

The Architecture Division will place emphasis on diverse methodologies for uncovering the complexities of sites chosen for studio and other course projects, maintaining a critical eye on the inherent bias of the methodologies employed.