December 22, 2022
Dear GSAPP Students, Faculty, Researchers, and Administrators,
I’m writing at the conclusion of a year of transitions at GSAPP, and to take this occasion to congratulate all of you for the high level of achievements during this semester and to thank you for your many contributions to the School. The quality, inclusiveness, expertise, and critical engagement with unavoidable contemporary issues were outstanding in the final projects, presentations, and studio reviews held across our spaces in recent days.
Since the School-wide welcome luncheon in early September – a special moment when we collectively gathered in the shared space of Avery Plaza for the first time in a long time – I’ve had the opportunity to meet with students from all of our academic programs. Thank you for taking the time to share your impressions, concerns, and ideas with me! I appreciate the openness of these meetings and look forward to continuing the conversations throughout the coming months. As evidenced by the fact that the possibility for us to even keep meeting in Wood Auditorium depends on our capacity to care for the water streams we literally stand on, we are living in a time when our disciplines transition to practices of care, when depletion and segregation are confronted worldwide. This is a momentous and exciting project that requires a broad spectrum of knowledge to be experimented with, mobilized, developed, and enacted. This engaged experimentation is in GSAPP’s DNA, and that is why it is such a good moment to be part of our School. It is also an opportunity for GSAPP to keep growing in collaboration across fields both within the School and beyond the disciplines of the built environment in order to address questions that can only be resolved with the convening of different expertise, sensitivities, and perspectives.
I’m grateful for Mario Gooden’s leadership of the Master of Architecture program throughout this year of transition, and I am happy to confirm that he will serve as Director of the program for a three-year term to be completed in the Fall of 2024. The year that ends now marks as well the launch of the new Computational Design Practices program, which expands on our own commitment to critical engagement with technologies and activist design ideas, and I’d like to congratulate Laura Kurgan and her inaugural cohort of students on this exciting and important addition to GSAPP’s academic environment. This semester we also had the opportunity to welcome new members to the GSAPP faculty who have already contributed tremendously both inside and beyond the classroom: Tom Slater, Anthony Vanky, and Jenna Dublin-Boc in Urban Planning, and Patricia Anahory in Architecture.
After nearly five decades of teaching at Columbia, Professor Richard Plunz is retiring at the end of the semester. Richard has shaped GSAPP and the fields of Architecture and Urban Design in lasting ways and we are grateful for his immeasurable contributions and ceaseless dedication to students. Richard directed the MSAUD program for many years, launched the Urban Design Lab at Columbia to engage questions of ecology and climate change, and collaborated across the University including as a professor at the Earth Institute. His housing research reflected in the seminal publication History of Housing in New York City will continue to be foundational in shaping our discussions and understanding of the subject.
The excellence and expertise of our faculty is regularly recognized, and I want to take this opportunity to mention a few achievements if you missed them earlier: Mabel Wilson will co-direct the Columbia Commission on the History of Race and Racism; Weiping Wu won the Jay Chatterjee Award for Distinguished Service to Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning; Hilary Sample is the recipient of a 2022-23 Rome Prize; Reinhold Martin received an Honorable Mention for the Columbia University Press Distinguished Book Award for Knowledge Worlds; Jorge Otero-Pailos and Lola Ben Alon each won HP Campus of the Future: Emerging Technology Grants from the Center for Teaching and Learning; among many others. Please be sure to visit the GSAPP News page for an extensive listing with more information.
Adding to your work in the classrooms, studios, and labs, we’ve had a lively semester of events and activities spanning lectures by such guests as Eyal Weizman and Raven Chacon to discussions on Saiydia Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection, a day of film screenings by Beka & Lemoine, conversations on Architecture and Land organized by the Buell Center, and much more. If you missed any of these events, I encourage you to catch up on these important conversations by watching the recordings during the coming break. I also want to acknowledge the work many of you a doing through student organizations, hosting lively events and starting new initiatives that are an invaluable part of the life and culture of our School.
In the Spring Semester we look forward to welcoming the second cohort of Community Fellows, Malika Khalsa and Fernando Ortiz. You can learn more about them on our website, and I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with Malika or Fernando during the semester. I also want to reiterate earlier messages you received regarding the Common Circle. We will inaugurate the Spring Semester by setting a school-size circle of chairs at Low Library’s rotunda, to think together about the evolution of our disciplines. Additional workshops in January and March 2023 will extend the anti-racism efforts initially outlined in 2020 by further embedding anti-racist teaching and practices across the School’s pedagogies, practices, and scholarship. Together, we will work to create a lexicon to be published as the Common Circle Web – a set of shared terms and images we can collectively reference and acknowledge in order to address and confront racism, colonization, anti-racism, and decolonization in the built environment. Please mark your calendars for the January 17 session. It is required for all first-year students, while second- or third-year students are also encouraged to participate by registering here. With this unique event, we will elevate the mission that was previously taken by the Anti-Racism Task Force to the entire school. I want to thank all faculty members that served in the Anti-Racism Task Force for their transformative contributions to their School.
I wish all of you a restful break and invigorated start to the New Year, and look forward to seeing you in January!