The profession of architecture and that of librarianship have two core aspects in common: that they are both rooted in the legacy of Western-centric epistemologies and resultant knowledge production and dissemination systems; and without key interventions and commitment to action, will not change rapidly enough to be relevant to current and future students. These issues are locally embodied in the Illinois School of Architecture (ISoA) in its curriculum, and Ricker Library of Architecture and Art in its collections (and perhaps just as significantly, in how it represents its collections). Rather than work in isolation, we propose to collaboratively address these challenges, in order to create something more inclusive, student-centered, and sustainable.
What we will accomplish is twofold:
- Strategically partner with faculty to proactively implement diverse case studies, precedents, and authors into key courses in the curriculum.We are starting with core required courses in the architecture curriculum across undergraduate and graduate courses in order to strategically infuse the curriculum with diverse and inclusive case studies and precedents. The initial set of courses combine a number of different topics and levels of learning, which will allow us to experiment with pedagogy as well as build a rich and comprehensive suite of resources. We plan to expand this service to other courses once this pilot phase has ended and we have a strong foundation from which to build.For each course, we will collaborate with the faculty in question to identify resources and develop course-specific guides that will help students learn the course content, while providing more recommendations for further self-driven pursuit of knowledge. For example, Global South architecture could be discussed in architectural history classes, non-Western ideologies of perception may be integrated into a drawing and modelling class, or anti-racist research methodologies may be drawn from for a research methods class.
- Convene public conversation around decentering the canon. In partnership with existing events hosted by ISoA, we plan to engage our community in open-ended discussion about what it means to decenter the canon, and why we might want to do so. This reinforces the pedagogical aspects of the curriculum, while providing a broader dialogue around philosophical and pragmatic implications
We believe that these actions should be accomplished in conjunction, so as to create momentum and urgency, while generating feedback in real time so as to further integrate our community’s interests and areas. See below for more detail about each action.
The two-pronged strategy we have outlined will advance innovative ideas and services in support of the communities it serves. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives can be difficult to get off the ground and sustain. This project will provide a co-creative model that builds audience, sustainability, and future-oriented thinking into its scaffolding. Further, it will provide a model for other potential areas to engage in similar activities, and lessons learned for Ricker and others to integrate into future planning.
Strategically Partner with Core Faculty in the ISoA Curriculum
We are starting with core required courses in the architecture curriculum across undergraduate and graduate courses in order to strategically infuse the curriculum with diverse and inclusive case studies and precedents. The initial set of courses combine a number of different topics and levels of learning, which will allow us to experiment with pedagogy as well as build a rich and comprehensive suite of resources. We plan to expand this service to other courses once this pilot phase has ended and we have a strong foundation from which to build.
For each course, we will collaborate with the faculty in question to identify resources and develop course-specific guides that will help students learn the course content, while providing more recommendations for further self-driven pursuit of knowledge. For example, Global South architecture could be discussed in architectural history classes, non-Western ideologies of perception may be integrated into a drawing and modelling class, or anti-racist research methodologies may be drawn from for a research methods class.
Once the changes in ARCH courses are deployed, we plan to convene a panel of faculty to discuss their experiences, so as to encourage other faculty to consider similar approaches, and we can attract new partners for the next phase of library/curriculum integration.
In order to fruitfully develop these resources in a way that builds audience and integrates into the academic community, we have targeted specific courses within the ISoA curriculum required of the major and touch critical points of the discipline:
- ARCH 171 Concepts and Theories of Architectural Design
- ARCH 172 Drawing and Modeling
- ARCH 210 – Introduction to the History of World Architecture
- ARCH 171 and 172 (taught as a two part series) and ARCH 210 are required courses for freshmen, and thus provide an opportunity to embed a more diverse and inclusive sense of what it means to practice architecture from the beginning of ISoA students’ careers
- ARCH 577 Theories of Architecture
- ARCH 517 Architectural History
- ARCH 577 and 517 are required for all M.Arch. students
- ARCH 563 Social and Behavioral Research in Designed Environments n the Health and Wellbeing track
Convene Public Conversations
As a project in the evolving initiative of #FromMarginToCenter, the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art will host a discussion series entitled the “Future of the Architecture Library” in Spring and Fall 2021. We will bring our collective attention to the intersection of architectural studies and marginalization, and more specifically, how we would like to position the architecture library within architectural research and education.
This aligns with the intellectual trajectory laid out by the 2020/2021 Illinois School of Architecture Lecture Series, which centered on architecture and politics, and architecture and the future. The year’s speakers have been provocative, cutting edge, critical thinkers and practitioners who push the boundaries of discourse while encouraging architecture faculty and students to imbue in their explorations more imaginative, transformative and open ideas to expand their understanding of ‘architecture.’
Drawing inspiration from such non-conformist and anti-dogmatic streams of thoughts, Ricker Library will take this opportunity to deeply, honestly, and reflectively consider:
- How do we imagine “the architecture library” of the future?
- How can we reconsider the ways “the architecture library” works with, of, and for its constituents?
- How can we collectively design an architecture library that is open, inclusive, and inviting of the ‘other’?
By grappling with these complicated, complex questions, we can collectively name, address, and move forward in committing to continuing exploration of strategies and actions.
It is crucial to invite thinkers and makers to our community to engage in a series of conversations around this topic, in order to generate discourse that opens up these issues to creative and critical perspectives. Many roles touch upon the architecture library’s essential mission: educators who convene spaces for ideas to take shape; architects who realize ideas in form; publishers who document these ideas for posterity; curators who bring ideas together to ask new questions. All these activities touch upon the library and its purpose, and new voices can provide critical perspectives in intellectually co-creating the architectural library anew.
Our first event on Tuesday March 23rd, “Decentering the Canon in the Architectural Library,” will feature:
- Charles L. Davis II, Assistant Professor of Architecture History and Criticism, University at Buffalo, SUNY
- Aneesha Dharwadker, Assistant Professor Illinois School of Architecture + Department of Landscape Architecture University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Leila Anna Wahba, Deputy Director & Culture Curator, Architecture + Design Museum, Los Angeles
This initiative is spearheaded by Emilee Mathews, Head of Ricker Library, and Soumya Dasgupta, PhD. candidate in Architecture (History and Theory), and supported by the University Library Innovation fund and the Humanities Research Institute, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Karen Barad, “What Is the Measure of Nothingness: Infinity, Virtuality, Justice, in 100 Notes, 100 Thoughts,” from Documenta 13
Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Libraries and the Enlightenment. Los Angeles, CA: Library Juice Press, 2012.
Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Arturo Escobar, Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.
Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe: Minor Compositions, 2013.
Sylvia Harris, “Searching for a Black Aesthetic in American Graphic Design,” Notes on African American Style in American Graphic Design, 125-129.