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Letter from the Dean

Columbia GSAPP Dean Amale Andraos

Today—in full recognition of the entangled future of our cities, buildings, environments, and livelihoods—GSAPP’s commitment to engaging the crucial issues of our time across all of the scales of the built environment is stronger than ever. From climate change’s total recasting of the foundations of architecture to the radical transformations that data and technology are effecting across country and city, and from the alarming shortage of affordable housing to the increasing migration of people across national boundaries, the built environment sits at the heart of every challenge and opportunity facing the planet today.

Central to the capacity to engage the seemingly disparate yet increasingly interconnected forces shaping the world is the question of scale: should climate change be considered at the scale of infrastructure and territory or should it be engaged at the scale of the building and the materials that constitute it? Should we evaluate a material’s environmental footprint on the basis of its formed state or should we consider its entire lifecycle and embodied energy as a temporal scalar measure? To these “this or that” questions, the school responds “both/and”: that we must think and design relationally, across spatial and temporal scales.

Taken together, GSAPP’s programs are doing exactly that. They are engaging and speculating on the past, present, and future of the built environment—not as disparate approaches to the investigation of the built world but as a single and simultaneous practice. GSAPP is dedicated to pushing the limits of its various disciplines today and to exploring new Scales of Engagement: to reconnecting the scale of a brick to that of a building, a city, or a territory; to making visible the vast resources and interdependencies mobilized by the design and building of each of these scales; and to collapsing the immediate scale of our lived human experience with the scale of geological transformation, which climate change has already begun to do for us.

GSAPP has, over the past five years, put forth new forms of pedagogy, new kinds of research, and new approaches to practice through the varied, critical, sometimes messy but always ebullient production that makes GSAPP the urban condenser of ideas it strives to be. Dedicated to the exploration of new Scales of Engagement, the School aspires to inspire and to foster an open and generous intellectual environment in which each one of us is invited to think, design, and practice new forms of collectivity and collaboration, new experiences and material realities, and new productive intersections and exchanges between the disciplines and practices of the built environment—all with the aim to generate a more equitable, sustainable, and creative future.

—Dean Amale Andraos, September 2019