Panoramic glass elevator with integrated hoistway
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Likewise, D’Mello explains that history always plays an
important role in understanding how design has evolved.
“If [students] don’t understand how we got here, then it would
be difficult to have a vision of the future of design. With the
changing environment, designers need to use all their resources
to create new designs and serve future needs.”
While Christian notes that Parsons students take courses in
design and architectural history to give them a broader context
and help better position them in the field, he warns of the
imprudence of a superficial approach to history. “We have
to caution students at the same time about using history as
only a sort of aesthetic opportunity and, instead, think about
the prevailing forces that resulted in that history,” he says.
Doing so can help provide insight not only into the past, but
understanding the present as well.
Fisher is passionate about expanding students’ view of history
and culture and has made a concerted effort as dean over the
past seven years to offer courses at N YSID that highlight design
and art history from around the world—not just the west.
“I think the idea of design history could be expanded, as we’re
expanding it here [at NYSID], to be not just the history of
western design.” Fisher says it’s more important than ever for
designers to be culturally fluent, meaning “to really understand
the history of a culture, the history of a country, and that means
their design and art history.”
Christian agrees, adding it is important to look critically at
what students are being taught today. “I think we have a really
big challenge right now of critiquing the architectural canon
that we teach students. It’s been such a white, male-dominated
canon,” he observes—a fact that has not painted an inclusive
picture of history. In fact, Christian suggests the contributions
of many cultures have been omitted. But, “when students see
others making history—people who maybe look like them—
that helps them feel empowered to make their own broad design
decisions and thoughts, and that they have value and a voice
as designers today.”
“We have to caution students at the
same time about using history as only
a sort of aesthetic opportunity and,
instead, think about the prevailing
forces that resulted in that history.”
—COTTER CHRISTIAN, THE NEW SCHOOL, PARSONS