New University college unites disparate fields

Some say landscape architecture and retail are too different to combine.

Vincent Staupe

After the College of Design debuted in July, some rumblings of dissatisfaction echoed through the architecture department, according to some students.

The College of Design was created from the merger of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the College of Design, Housing and Apparel. It is one of three new colleges formed as part of the University’s plan to become one of the top-three public research institutions in the world.

Architecture senior Rosalind Tao said there was some initial concern about whether design and architecture students have enough in common to be included in one college.

“You can’t really associate yourself with one thing like clothing design or architecture,” Tao said. “I think they should have just kept it separate.”

University administration addressed questions about differences between departments such as landscape architecture and retail merchandising even before the July 1 merger, according to a report submitted by the task force assigned to creating the new college.

“As disparate as these fields may appear, there are myriad connections among them,” stated the Feb. 3 report.

The report also added that “the college will conjoin disciplines that engage varied methods, media and scales.”

Katherine Solomonson, College of Design’s associate dean of academic affairs and co-chairwoman of the task force, said the role of interdisciplinary education was one of the reasons behind the merger.

“Basically, there’s a point of connection between architecture, interior design and product design,” she said.

Solomonson said a “commitment to sustainability” is one of the fundamental values that linked the departments.

“Our goal is to be able to give students experiences in interdisciplinary design that they just wouldn’t be able to have otherwise,” she said.

The task force also collected data from 10 major design colleges in the United States, including Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley.

Architecture junior Nick Hafele said after transferring from Iowa State’s design college, he was surprised that the University lacked a more centralized design school.

“It brings the college more to a place I expected it to be,” Hafele said. “That was how I thought it was supposed to be.”

Stephanie Olson, a housing studies senior, said she thinks there is enough of a similarity between the departments that make up the college.

“(The college has) all the disciplines that probably should be together,” Olson said. “I think they’re so interconnected.”

Graphic design junior Patrice Soehnlein said she thinks the union is beneficial, since her department is no longer under the College of Human Ecology.

“I kind of got sick of people asking why we were in the College of Human Ecology,” Soehnlein said. “That didn’t make any sense.”

Solomonson said she wants to hear any criticisms students might have.

“If architecture students expressed concern,” she said, “they very quickly are also going to be discovering the ways that being part of an interdisciplinary college like this will really enhance their education and experience.”