Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday A&AA!

I guess I haven’t been paying attention because the University of Oregon’s announcement of its planned celebrations marking the School of Architecture and Allied Arts 100th anniversary came as a surprise to me. That’s right—my alma mater is a century old. Amazing! 

A&AA has organized a yearlong set of special events, lectures, symposia, and exhibitions to mark the milestone. Fittingly, the school scheduled the kickoff on Homecoming, which is next weekend, October 17-18. It all begins on Friday, October 17 at 1:00 with a 100th Birthday party, complete with a birthday cake, an open house to visit galleries and studios, and an all-school photo shoot. The school wants everyone who’s been a part of A&AA’s history to attend and enjoy the festivities. It’s urging all alumni and friends, current and emeritus faculty members, staff, and students to join in the festivities. I’m certainly planning to be at Lawrence Hall for the commemoration. 

The history of A&AA is richly fascinating. The website My School of Architecture features an excellent accounting of the school’s early beginnings, particularly the Department of Architecture: 

The University of Oregon School of Architecture and Design was founded in 1914 by Ellis Lawrence. From the beginning, the school was unique among its contemporaries for its non-competitive, individual approach to learning and for its affiliation with the allied arts (painting, crafts, sculpture, etc.), rather than with engineering. 

When W. R. B. Willcox became the architecture curriculum head in 1922, he developed a program that became a prototype and eventually led a reformation in American architectural training. Willcox believed that architecture, along with other arts, is an expression of the values, aspirations and character of the society that produces it. Therefore it is incumbent upon the architect to have a broad understanding of culture and society, and, beyond this, to be an influence in forging those values, aspirations and character. 

Oregon’s long tradition of non-competitive, individualized education places great emphasis on student self-direction and motivation. Willcox stated these goals in writing an article for the AIA Journal in 1923: “In education, the aim, it would seem, should be the development of one’s own endowments, and not to surpass another, merely, who strives for the same goal. What higher motive than the first can there be, and why should a lower one be accepted as a necessary stimulus? With such an aim, the goal is open to all at the same time; it is not an arbitrary fixed standard of excellence, but a relative one. Its attainment can be measured only with respect to growth, not with respect to another’s attainments.” 

The department still sees its educational mission as rooted in Willcox’s visionary realm of ‘freedom and responsibility.’ The curriculum is design-centered. Comprehensiveness is available through introductory coursework in the subject areas and substantial breadth and depth in the advanced courses. The integration of subjects is aided by the design process skills’ courses and practiced in studio. The faculty has substantial freedom with respect to curricular innovation and research. Faculty are expected to maintain their area of expertise and share in the collective responsibility toward maintaining an integrative and comprehensive design program. This duality, perhaps only a contemporary version of the Willcox legacy, is often cited as the department’s greatest strength and key to excellence. 

The Department of Architecture faculty embodies the pluralistic intent of the School’s founders. No single background or philosophy dominates. Faculty are encouraged to maintain a professional practice and/or make regular scholarly or research contributions to knowledge in the field. Of the regular faculty members, most are registered architects or engineers; many are members of AIA and are NCARB certified. The interior architecture faculty are, likewise, members of ASID, IIDA and/or IDEC. 

As part of its centennial commemoration, A&AA collected 100 Alumni Stories about alumni from all the decades of the school’s history and posted them online. Each story is unique and demonstrates the important contributions of alumni who worked or currently work with the built and natural environments, the arts and culture, and in public leadership and service. The inspiring stories showcase the accomplishments of individual graduates and convey the values rooted in Ellis Lawrence’s unique approach to design education. 

Be part of the historic moment and join the party. Visit to see special events, news, and the 100 Alumni Stories---all part of the yearlong anniversary activities. 

What:      A&AA's 100th Birthday Party
When:     Friday, October 17, 1:00 p.m.
Where:    South entrance, Lawrence Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene


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