The Search for a New Pre-Disciplinary, Trans-Disciplinary Core
Mead, Phillip G.
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Six years ago, Idaho's Dept. of Architecture began to question the relevance of its art based beginning design foundation. As one of a few programs tied to a broader college art core, our faculty was beginning to question whether this pre-disciplinary core was essential to the education of an architect. While this debate was in progress, the university upper administration in the grips of the post 9/11 financial crisis decided to eliminate our poorly funded College of Art and Architecture which merged into a much larger College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. Then came the tipping point...it was announced that the Fine Arts Program would be eliminated from the university. Unanimous protest erupted from the architecture faculty and alumni as well as other prominent artists and citizens within the state. One of the more interesting members of this group of architecture alums is surprisingly not an architect, but a construction manager, (Jack Lemley) who took charge of the lagging construction effort of the English Chunnel and most recently, the rescue of Boston's Big Dig. After two years of organized protest, the Idaho State Board of Education restored the College of Art and Architecture which has resulted in a re-invigoration and confidence in art and the need for an all college interdisciplinary core shared between Art, Landscape Architecture, Virtual Technology Design, Architecture and Interior Design. The college is now in the process of re-thinking the core art curriculum with high hopes of establishing a curriculum that will unite the college's knowledge silos and create a student who is not afraid to cross disciplines when tackling a problem. This paper challenges the notion that one must be introduced immediately into a specialized discipline. In an age when it is comfortable to slip into the familiar surroundings of knowledge silos, we are at a time when flexible interdisciplinary thinking is highly encouraged with-in academia and the outside world. This paper asserts that a pre-disciplinary core is necessary in order to be interdisciplinary and transdiciplinary. Like our biological blastema cells whose DNA awaits the last bit of instruction to form into either a fingernail, or a brain neuron, our students need a flexible core of knowledge that can be utilized across disciplines. At a time when global warming could narrow our architectural education towards efficient linear engineering curriculums, we need a strong counterbalance of humanities and art to challenge and expand our students' thinking. This paper will reflect on the second year of progress from our College's Foundation Committee with its debates, alternatives, political struggles and logistical challenges. It is hoped that interested parties from the Beginning Design Conference will contribute to the re-thinking of our new core and the inevitable debates that will follow.