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Sept. 27, 2014 / Barbara

From T-Square to Techstyle Haus:

A Presentation and Panel Discussion on Design at Brown

It’s always intrigued me that my alma mater, Brown University, has produced many design practitioners even though it is not known as a ‘design school’. I would meet people in the design field in New York to discover they also went to Brown and had taken classes with my mentor, Professor William Jordy. We were all here in New York and connected by design but unaware of the common experience of our formative years. If we were more connected, the potential for collaboration or even just information and enrichment seemed like a real possibility.

So over the last 5 years, I have developed and moderated a number of panels on design based on the Brown design community in New York. One panel several years back on “Design Thinking” also featured designers from RISD, Brown’s art school neighbor in Providence. In September, I took this interest in design connection back to campus for a panel that was part of alumni weekend and Brown’s 250th celebration.

This is a very exciting time for design, and especially for design within academic communities where the notion of “Design Thinking” is being fostered as a valid approach to problem solving for non-design issues. This panel was to be a look back at traditional educational paths to careers in design as well as an acknowledgement of the current direction in design as a cross-disciplinary, collaborative and entrepreneurial discipline. The panel focus was on a project called Techstyle Haus, a sustainable house design entered into the International Solar Decathlon competition by a group of students from Brown Engineering and RISD Architecture programs.

The TechstyleHaus project was the very essence of cross-disciplinary collaboration, providing the ideal catalyst for a discussion on the nature of teaching design, what designers learn from non-designers, the different approaches to problem solving from a scientific point-of-view or an aesthetic one. As a sustainable and energy efficient house, the project had a set of technical and also social innovation requirements which led to an expansion of the typical notion of a design education. The entrepreneurial side of design, where design is valued as a valuable commodity was also explored.

Participants included current students Gareth Rose ’16 and Isabelle Lubin ’16 (Solar Decathlon team; faculty members Dietrich Neumann, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, and Derek Stein, Associate Professor of Physics; and Alumni Steve Glenn ’87, CEO, LivingHomes;Susan Yelavich ’72, Associate Professor of Art and Design Studies and Director, MA Design Studies, School of Art and Design History and Theory; Parsons The New School for Design.

From T-Square to Techstyle Haus: Neumann & Rudy