Sima’s Emerging Manifesto

Sima's emerging vision.

Sima’s teaching philosophy, drawn from the Bauhaus.

Sima Rouholamin delivered an energetic, thoughtful, and inspirational lecture at the DIT School of Architecture last night.  One of the culminating speakers for this semester’s Schools of Thought lecture series, Sima discussed her dissertation work. A facet of her literature review involves the Bauhaus — a natal fit with the theme of the lecture series (Schools of Thought).

Sima brings such energy and vibrancy to everything she does. She’s so very engaged and engaging.

Alongside her dissertation, she’s developing a vision for what DIT’s School of Architecture is and what it can become. Last night’s event provided a way for her to get some feedback on that vision from the community here, and that community replied with keen interest and resounding support.

Regarding the Bauhaus, Sima discussed the emphasis on making and craft — and the connection between play and design. She’ll soon be conducting phenomenographical interview designed to identify the various different ways architects conceptualize design. I hope to help her collect data for the study this spring.

Brushes with Great Museums

Meeting with Brian Bowe and Gavin Duffy at the Beatty Library’s cafe.

The cafe at the Chester Beatty Library serves up a fine selection of Middle Eastern, North African, Mediterranean, and vegetarian entrees and gluten-free desserts.  We met there for lunch Tuesday since it’s halfway between Gavin’s base on Kevin Street and ours on Bolton Street.

Mom and her neighbors (Tim and Mary) spoke highly of this “Silk Road Cafe.”  The Dean had heard its praises sung as well.  Unfortunately, he was called to a more urgent meeting and couldn’t join us after all.

The Beatty Library’s sun-filled, glass-covered courtyard was a lovely setting for our discussion of student-centered learning, research, and publication strategy.

Shockingly, neither of my colleague had ever been to this incredible museum before!  Yet it houses one of the world’s most astounding collections of religious artifacts.  It represents all the world’s major religions and was donated by the American collector Chester Beatty.  And, amazingly, admission is completely free! (Lunch, however, is not.)

Although I didn’t get Gavin and Brian into the actual exhibit halls, at least they got to experience the covered courtyard and the stunning “Castle garden.” It’s surrounded by a high wall and feels very much like a secret garden. During my childhood, I dearly loved the book The Secret Garden.

Castel Garden, behind Dublin Castle. (Photo borrowed from W&L travel log.)

A few hours after our lunch, I had another brush with great museums when Seán Rainbird lectured at the DIT School of Architecture.  He’s the new director of the National Gallery of Ireland. He has also worked at the Tate in London and the Stattsgallerie in Stuttgart (designed by James Stirling’s office).

Seán Rainbird talked about Joseph Beuys’ fascination with all things Celtic when he spoke at the DIT School of Architecture.

Can you imaging that I delivered a lecture in the same “Schools of Thought” lecture series with such an accomplished person?  Wow!

Seán talked about Joseph Beuys and the Celtic World, the topic of a book he wrote.  He said he had just three weeks to write it!  Can you imagine being so knowledgeable about a topic that you could produce a press-worthy document in just three weeks?  Truly amazing.

They say everyone wants to “be like Mike.”  I’d rather “be like Seán” myself!

Learning from Architecture Students

Funny that Gavin and I discussed diagramming gears  (an idea I brought up over lunch), then this model popped up at the Cork students’ exhibition.

I never know where I’ll end up when I leave the apartment.  Yesterday, after scintillating lunch conversation about Gavin’s thesis and a book proposal I am trying to develop, I hustled back across town to meet with architecture student leaders Colin and Andrew to discuss where our interests overlap.

They asked such great questions about the way we teach at Hampton University and the research I’m doing here. And, they asked me to be part of a day-long Schools of Thought symposium that they, the students, are organizing for the DIT School of Architecture.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll talk on the topic “Student-Centering Architectural Education: Revamping the Way We Learn and Teach.”

Andrew, Colin, and me at the Sab Inn Cafe (it’s the one I refer to as the Hungarian restaurant but the students call the red cafe). The owner gave us complimentary desserts to go with our tea! He’s such a doll!

I’ll get to help spread innovative ideas–that have been implemented by Gavin and his colleagues–with the architecture faculty and students.  I’ll also share the things Michael Seymour and I found in our survey of student preferences.

Colin and Andrew mentioned I might want to stop by the “darc space gallery” where the School of Architecture at Cork was exhibiting fifth year projects.  Finding that gallery was harder than you’d think.  Google had it listed as being on South Great George’s Street, but it’s actually clear across town on NORTH Great George’s Street.

I hung in there, and when I finally arrived I found beautiful graphics, interesting design proposals for Istanbul (they reminded me very much of the work I did in architecture school in the early 90s), and many wonderful people to talk with.

Their primary teacher for the fifth year, Jason O’Shaughnessy, studied at the Architectural Association in Edinburgh, Scotland when Peter Eisenmann and Daniel Libeskind were teaching there (I was working on my Master’s at Virginia Tech at the time). Any way, the influence of Eisenmann and Libeskind is quite clear in the students’ work.  They say the spent the four years leading up to this designing buildings with very typical sorts of programs, such as schools.

Jason O’Shaughnessy actually insisted that I guess his last name.  It took a while, but I finally succeeded. His only clues were that it was “the most Irish last name,” and that I was on the right track with O’Sullivan. Whew!

I had a ball talking with Helen (who works in TV and film production in Dublin) and David (an architecture student from the DIT).

During the event, I particularly enjoyed speaking with David (a DIT student who I heard speak several weeks ago as an opening act for the featured lecturer), his girlfriend Helen, and another colleague of David’s from the DIT.

They expressed astonishment when I said I could happily live here in Dublin for the rest of my life.  People here have no difficulty conceiving of emigrating OUT, but they don’t assume others would want to immigrate IN.  That, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people did just that–move in–during the Celtic Tiger (and most stayed, happily).

After the Lecture Lights Dim (or, What’s Your Paradigm?)

The “Schools of Thought” lecture series is providing me lots of “food for thought.” It’s being conducted on Tuesday evenings by the fourth and fifth year Architecture studios at the DIT.

Last night Mark Price spoke. He teaches first year Architecture students to draw at University College Dublin (UCD). Create Ireland describes him as “an architect, teacher and writer. He works with the Save 16 Moore Street Committee, the Irish Anti-War Movement and the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”

At last night’s lecture, Mark spoke on the topic of the Architecture “Crit.” He discussed how unequal power relationships that are inherent in the Crit format both define and limit our profession.

Overall, he was quite critical of the way Crits are conducted.

I am fascinated by this particular topic–I’ve done some research on students’ view of assessment activities like the Crit.  I did this work with Michael Seymour at the University of Mississippi, who just won a national teaching award. The paper we wrote, Assessment Formats: Student Preferences and Perceptions was published in the International Journal of Learning. It even won a research award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

During Q&A session that followed Mark’s lecture last night, DIT lecturer Dominic Stevens argued in favor of the Crit format.  I chimed in about what Michael Seymour and I had found.  I was trying to contribute ideas for giving students feedback in more humane ways. These are techniques that my colleagues and I use at Hampton University–and that our students responded very positively about when surveyed for the Assessment Formats paper.

After the lecture wrapped up last night, a group of us headed to the Black Sheep Inn “for a pint” and to continue discussing philosophy, architecture, and revolutionary politics.

Mark Price, Dominic Stevens, and Jim Roche deep in discussion at the Black Sheep Inn. Brian Ward and I chimed in, too!

What I have found in Ireland is that the political center is quite farther left than at home in the States. This holds true off campus as well as on.

I also find that I enjoy hearing these divergent points of view.  It’s a refreshing change to our two-party, little-choice state of affairs in the USA.

The biggest difference among those gathered over ale last night is that I typically conduct my research from the interpretivist (and sometimes constructivist) paradigm–an observational and participatory stance–whereas the other folks I met with are quite active politically.  They are working hard to change things and make the world a more just place. They want to create big-scale change in the world and they are critical of the way things operate.

A professor at the University of Western Cape explains my stance: “Epistemologically, an interpretive researcher is empathetic in nature. The researcher would put him/herself in the shoes of the participant in order to comprehend more effectively. The researcher seeks to recognize the participant’s understanding of situations (Henning, 2005).” This is what I am trying to do in my research project for JEE.

Danna Carballo describes their stance: “Critical theories share some ideas of the interpretative paradigm, but what makes it different is that critical paradigm focuses on oppression. …They believe there are some groups who benefit from oppressing others, so their main jobs are to point out the existing contradictions, in order to help people be aware of what is really going on, and create new forms of language that will enable predominant ideology to be exposed and competing ideologies to be heard.” Mark definitely took this stance in his lecture. His point was that the Crit format oppresses students and reinforces traditionally-desired power arrangements.

With that, I can clearly agree!