Werner Seligmann set the school's course in the late seventies and built its international reputation.
Professor Bruce Coleman studied under Seligmann at Cornell, worked in his architecture office, and followed him to SU. He believes his mentor elevated the program to new heights. "He pushed and pushed and pushed faculty and students to do their bestthough not always with a lot of tact. He emphasized design, but insisted that everything students designed must be eminently buildable," Coleman says. "Werner took this school from a program with a regional reputation to one with an international reputation."
Robert Stark '83, a partner with Macon Chaintreuil Jensen & Stark in Rochester and Buffalo, says Seligmann made SU a very challenging place. "He was a very warm man who really cared about students," Stark says. "But if you didn't really care about architecture, you didn't want to run into him."
In 1990, Seligmann resigned as dean and turned to full-time teaching at SU, interspersed with prized visiting professorships at Harvard, Yale, ETH Zurich, and the University of Virginia. This year, he received the highest award in American architecture education, the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the American Institute of Architects.
BALANCING DESIGN |
Nearly a decade after Werner Seligmann resigned as dean, the programs he developed or endorsed continue to define the School of Architecture. Design remains central to the school's mission, but is balanced by a capstone course in technology that other schools often emulate. The courseAdvanced Building Systemsrequires students to virtually dissect an actual building and dramatically boosts their professional preparation.
The Florence program, often called "the jewel in the crown of the architecture curriculum," continues to generate "immeasurable benefits," says Korman, who helped establish the program under Seligmann in the early 1980s. "Werner had an abiding belief in the cultural and architectural values embodied in European cities and felt there was no substitute for living in one of these cities," explains Korman. "The Florence program is strategically positioned between the third and fifth years of undergraduate study. When students return after one or two semesters in Florence, they are transformed. They've reexamined their values. They've been exposed to European concepts of style, and they come back and approach their final yearand their thesisas very cultivated people."
A visit to Palladio's Villa Rotunda is a regular part of the Florence program.
SU has since replaced those workstations and PCs, and installed a new $100,000 CAD studio in Slocum Hall. "That's why computing is called the black financial hole of higher education," sighs Coleman. "Fortunately, our dean is vitally interested in this area, and the University administration supports our needs."|
SU architecture students don't take computing courses until the third year of the program. "This gives them time to learn something about architecture first," Coleman says. "The picture is still very blurry about whether computers help students learn any better. We know computers make things go faster, but speed is not a concern at this level.
"Computer courses aren't mandatory, but I'm confident we're 100 percent covered," Coleman adds. "Ninety percent of our students take our computer courses, and the other 10 percent arrive with those skills. In the past year alone, we saw a 400 percent increase in students using computers for coursework."|
Professor Richard Jensen, who uses computers extensively in his architecture practice, cautions students to keep them in perspective. "Some people naively believe that computers think for you," he says. "The computer is like a pen. It may be faster and more precise, but it's just another tool. At SU the emphasis is still on teaching students to design and think manually."|
"I understand that computers are absolutely necessary in this profession, so I've taken CAD and I use the computer for my technical classes," says Sara Felsen '00. "The computer can do amazing things, but I personally like to design by hand. Computer drawings look dead to me; they're always just right. I think the little distortions you add when you hand-draw give your designs life."
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