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Archive for Sunday, July 4, 1999

ARCHITECTURE DESIGNS INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH

July 4, 1999

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The architecture school focused on connecting its three programs while introducing new technology.

Dean John Gaunt knows the School of Architecture has a huge task with its three programs.

Students study a trio of disciplines under the roof of Marvin Hall: architecture, architectural engineering and urban planning. Gaunt knows each must be excellent.

"One of my ongoing interests and challenges is to make each program exemplary and interconnect them to a degree that is reasonably logical," he said. "That's sort of the ongoing life of the school. How is the school greater than the sum of its parts?"

To that end, the school is developing interdisciplinary courses and interconnecting introductory courses in architecture and architectural engineering, Gaunt said. The school also is working on an elective course in its planning program that will give planning students more information about architecture in general."

Gaunt's goal of intertwining disciplines doesn't end at Marvin Hall.

For example, he would like to see students in other programs and schools of KU get involved in the architecture school's design studio at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

"Students in the studio work on real community projects," Gaunt stressed. "Virtually every unit could have an interest."

Programs that come to mind immediately to Gaunt include social welfare, education and law.

"These are very broad-based community projects," Gaunt said. "There's a way for the university to connect various units and show how it connects with its communities."

The studio also helps the school's outreach efforts.

"Outreach affects us a great deal," Gaunt said. "The university needs to build strong relationships with the professional and business worlds and needs support of its professionals."

Gaunt also stresses the school's international programs. Students who study abroad gain invaluable experience, he said, adding he can pick out students who have studied overseas.

"It makes a huge difference to be able to study abroad," Gaunt said. "It's really experience in human terms. It's a broadening experience that is tremendously valuable. I see a vast change in students who have studied abroad."

The architecture school offers study abroad programs in two cities in Germany as well as cities in Denmark, Scotland and Australia. Students in its summer programs in Italy visit Siena and Venice as well as make a journey to Berlin. The school offers a study program to Paris.

The school is doing some developmental work in Costa Rica.

"Possibly we will offer study there in the future," Gaunt said. "We're looking at others, too, particularly in Latin America and Asia. The drawback, of course, is the increasing cost of doing it. So we're trying to expand but fighting to maintain what we have because of the cost to students."

Back at home, the school has been focusing on upgrading technology in Marvin Hall. Computers are becoming more and more a part of architecture, Gaunt said.

"A few years ago we were at a great deficit," he said "We have made great strides in the last three years. The profession absolutely demands it. There's been a total change to computers for the documentation process. Firms generally evaluate students on computer experience."

The school now requires third-year students to purchase computers.

Although computers play a greater role in architecture these days, those in the field still must strike a healthy balance between creativity and machines, Gaunt noted.

"We continue to emphasize the traditional skills involved in design," he said. "Students still have to know how to draw. The computer doesn't design for them. It can't think for them."

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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