Last fall, it was announced that the California College of the Arts (CCA) received funding to create the M. Arthur Gensler Jr. Center for Design. On Saturday, the new organization will host its first event: Climate as Praxis, a symposium organized on the topic of how the social and environmental impacts of climate change shape the concerns of contemporary architects. The event will include speakers Chris Cornelius, studio:indigenous and University of New Mexico; Billie Faircloth, KieranTimberlake and University of Pennsylvania; Kate Orff, SCAPE and Columbia GSAPP; and Boonserm Premthada, Bangkok Practice Studio and Chulalongkorn University. The event will take place from 1:00 until 6:00 p.m. in the Nave Alcove on CCA’s San Francisco campus, and a reception will follow.
As announced last fall, the M. Arthur Gensler Jr. Center for Design was funded to support “the academic and professional success of students from diverse backgrounds through tuition scholarships, mentoring, and career development support,” according to press materials. Named in memory of the late Art Gensler, a longtime supporter of CCA who served as chair of its Board of Trustees, the initiative is funded by a $1 million gift from the Gensler family and $1 million from Gensler, the office founded by Art in San Francisco in 1965 that now works from 52 locations worldwide. The initial cohort of Gensler Center scholarship recipients received awards during the 2022–23 academic year.
The Gensler Center will be led by Keith Krumwiede, dean of architecture at CCA. Krumwiede told AN that about 40 percent of the overall $2 million gift will directly go toward supporting students through scholarships. The initial cohort of Gensler Center scholarship recipients—three individuals, from graduate architecture, undergraduate architecture, and undergraduate interior design programs—received awards during the 2022–23 academic year. Krumwiede shared that CCA is the 25th most diverse college in the country, and many students are first-generation college attendees, so supporting their educational experiences helps shape tomorrow’s architectural leaders.
The Gensler Center will also begin a research fellow program this summer which will pair a recent alum or current student with a faculty member to conduct research for a three-month session. Additionally, it will offer development grants to faculty for curriculum development and pedagogical innovation. CCA’s Architecture program includes four research and teaching labs: Urban Works Agency, led by Janette Kim, Neeraj Bhatia, Antje Steinmuller, and Christopher Roach; Digital Craft Lab, led by Jason Johnson and Negar Kalantar; Architectural Ecologies Lab, led by Adam Marcus, Margaret Ikeda, and Evan Jones; and History Theory Experiments, led by Irene Cheng and James Graham. These grants will allow faculty from across these specializations to explore their interests, which will then impact what—and how—they teach. “The best way to support the students is to support the pedagogy,” Krumwiede said.
Part of the planning for the Gensler Center includes the ambition to bring renowned practitioners and scholars to engage with students. Krumwiede said that, like other academic leaders, he found that lecture series could be conducted via Zoom in a cost-effective manner, but what was missed is the direct contact with students. Moving forward, the plan is for the Gensler Center will fund a single event each semester where guests can be present for a few days or a week. “When we’re bringing folks in, we want them to actually spend some time here and do a bit more with us,” Krumwiede offered. “If you’re trying to be attentive to the environment, it’s not responsible to fly someone across the country to speak for an hour when you can do that part on a screen.”
CCA’s 2022–23 lecture series has the theme of climate/justice, which is “the most pressing thing in terms of the work that our architecture needs to participate in doing,” Krumwiede stated. Saturday’s symposium is “both a capstone to the year-long series and also a public announcement about the kinds of things that we will be supporting through the Center.” Attendees will hear from four presenters who explore how “working on climate change can also address questions of social justice more broadly.” Faircloth and Premthada are paired together on a panel titled Materials and Tools, and Cornelius and Orff share a panel titled Land and Territory. CCA faculty will respond as interlocutors.
The event is free and open to the public with registration.
AN plans to follow up with a review of the symposium.