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New Directions in Teaching

06/18/2014

Projects that received 2050 Fund backing envision RISD’s role in the larger world.

Academic Affairs has announced that six faculty members will work on four collaborative new projects this fall thanks to support from RISD 2050 Fund grants. “The essential goal of the RISD 2050 Fund is to imagine our future and stimulate the landscape of possibilities for art and design education, while always recognizing RISD’s core values of critical making and critical thinking,” says Assistant Dean of Faculty Tracie Costantino. 

As any Lost in Space fan can attest, there is little more fascinating about the future than the evolving role of artificial intelligence. Assistant Professor of Architecture Nathan King ­and Assistant Professor of Foundation Studies Stefanie Pender MFA 09 GL have teamed up to propose the RISD Glass Robotics Laboratory (GRL). Last year King, a lead researcher in the Robotics Group at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and Pender, an accomplished glass artist, worked with robotic equipment on loan from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to combine emerging design robotics technologies and computational tools with traditional glass-forming techniques. Thanks in part to the 2050 Fund grant, they are able to purchase the equipment needed to continue their exploration this fall and offer state-of-the-art workshops to RISD students.

“The ability to apply innovative and experimental applications to robotic technology will be driven by RISD’s unique position of promoting tacit sensibility within material and process,” King and Pender explain in their proposal. “GRL will position this emerging technology as a design tool that can inform and realize novel opportunities in glass making that go beyond contemporary practice in design robotics.”

Another cross-departmental faculty team is using the new funding to consider “how art, design and the liberal arts can play a leading role in maintaining a healthy planet and a sane world.” Associate Professor Damian White – who heads the department of History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences, along with the newly launched Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies concentration – and Professor of Architecture Anne Tate are leading the initiative, which they describe as “a community-wide conversation on critical and ethical making in a global context that considers global supply chains, social and environmental justice and democratic empowerment.”

With a wide range of courses during the 2014–15 academic year focusing on these issues, the 2050 Fund grant will enable faculty involved to meet regularly and discuss themes, facilitate joint programming, galvanize student engagement and create a website and blog in order to draw in the larger community. The team also plans to engage with the Better World by Design conference in the fall, organize a daylong symposium on ethical making in the spring and build on RISD’s longstanding relationship with Brown University and the Watson Institute for International Studies.

Colleagues at Brown will also play a significant role in a third project to receive 2050 funding this summer: RISD 2050 Writing+. Proposed by Professor of Literary Arts + Studies Mairéad Byrne, the new graduate-level course will focus on making imaginary and imaginative models for writing. “Through reading, writing, making, discussion, collaboration and exchange, students will build conceptual, material and virtual bridges to points far into the 21st century,” notes Byrne.

The class, which will feature a series of guest lecturers, was inspired by a 2011 study conducted by Microsoft in collaboration with graduates of the Royal College of Art in London, who researched the many ways that technology may affect authorship in the future. Byrne was intrigued by their findings but felt strongly that “RISD students could do better!”

RISD in the World, the fourth project to receive 2050 Fund backing this round, goes beyond campus, country and continent to piggyback on Professor of Architecture Gabriel Feld’s A Moveable Studio series, which received 2050 funding earlier this spring. Professor of Architecture Peter Tagiuri is launching the project this week as he joins Feld for an alumni-led workshop in Seoul, South Korea. There he’s beginning to develop a network of Korean alumni to mentor RISD students and host an experimental semester-long study abroad studio in the spring.  

“Seoul is a marvelous city, a locus of modern Asia and home to RISD’s largest group of international alumni,” Tagiuri explains. Focusing on a fascinating neighborhood in Seoul – Gang Nam Gu – the studio will be taught in collaboration with Kate Cho BArch 09 and a cross-disciplinary team of alumni mentors. “Our alumni mentors can play an essential creative role,” Tagiuri adds, “helping to guide RISD’s international programs toward greater cultural vision and depth.”

Simone Solondz

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tags: academic collaborations, Architecture, Brown, faculty, Glass, global, innovation, History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences, research, Literary Arts + Studies

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At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.