by James Way
Visiting foreign countries has been an important part of education, whether study abroad means the Grand Tour, hitting the road on spring break, short-term foreign study programs, or semester-long exchanges. Universities offering organized programs provide additional enticement to potential students. Universities are capitalizing on this by sending satellite campuses into the field. Some join conglomerate organizations such as Education City in Qatar, which boasts seven institutions under its umbrella. Others, such as Yale and NYU, are establishing their own campuses abroad, while Columbia is sending students overseas on shorter, more focused excursions. Each faces its own challenges of context, program, and politics.
Jeffrey Lehman, vice chancellor and CEO of NYU Shanghai, set the evening’s tone, via recorded video, by reminding us that while politics and trade have been international, global campuses are relatively new. He suggested institutions should facilitate multi-culturalism without a dominant host. By “working as an outsider in another culture” we can learn “code switching” to better engage a global society. While bolstering foreign exchanges helps, the few universities that can lead should build an international campus to facilitateinteraction.
Mariko Masuoka, AIA, LEED AP, principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and Jamie von Klemperer, FAIA, principal at KPF, presented buildings they designed for two such institutions that have embarked on this challenge: Yale University and NYU, respectively. Masuoka’s design for Yale builds on a master plan by KieranTimberlake and Pfeiffer Partners Architects for a 10-acre outpost in Singapore. While she was able to refine the plan to take advantage of atria and wind portals as the design developed, von Klemperer’s NYU satellite was already an established form on a site in Shanghai’s business district. He revealed that they felt they were “sporting a brand” that could only be developed in programming and section. The two schools are inverted reflections taking unique advantage of their conditions. Yale’s ensemble is a series of structures that engage the landscape with walkways, pavilions, and courtyards, while NYU becomes a vertical campus with a large central atrium with staggered gathering platforms.
An entirely different tactic is Studio X. Operating in varying degrees of autonomy from Columbia University, the studio has five bases and several smaller units dispersed globally. Rather than merely rush through locales as architectural tourists, students investigate and develop a project. Some students return two to three times through the year to continue their research, and hopefully strengthen relations with their respective neighborhoods. By breaking away from the main Columbia campus, Mabel Wilson, chair of the Studio X Committee at Columbia’s GSAPP, said this allows students to escape the formality of the campus and its pedagogical structure into a more liminal space.
Each of these practices encourages students to meet foreign students, places, and cultures head-on. Some in the audience characterized the activities as colonizing and academic imperialism, and others asked how the respective institution’s pedagogy would engage the host culture. “Like the buildings themselves,” indicated moderator Jill Lerner, FAIA, 2013 AIANY President and principal at KPF, “we look forward to post-occupancy examinations.”
James Way, Assoc. AIA, Marketing Manager at Dattner Architects, has contributed to Tokyo Art Beat, The Architect’s Newspaper, and eOculus.
Event: (Re)Orientation: Global Campus
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.02.14
Speakers: Mabel O. Wilson, Chair, Studio X Committee, Columbia University GSAPP; Jamie von Klemperer, FAIA, Principal, KPF; Mariko Masuoka, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; Jeffrey Lehman, Vice Chancellor and CEO, NYU Shanghai (via video); Jill Lerner, FAIA, 2013 AIANY President, Principal, KPF (moderator)
Organizers: AIANY Global Dialogues Committee