MIT Launches Morningside Academy for Design for Interdisciplinary Education, Research and Innovation

The MIT Morningside Academy for Design will be housed in the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). The Metropolitan Warehouse, a large brick building in the center right, is being renovated and will be the new headquarters for the Department of Architecture and other SA+P units. Credits:Photo: AboveSummit, Christopher Harting

CAMBRIDGE, MA – MIT President L. Rafael Reif today announced the creation of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design, a major interdisciplinary center that will build on the Institute’s leadership in focused education. on design and will become a global center for design research, thinking and conception. entrepreneurship.

The new academy, which aims to foster collaboration and innovation on campus, will be housed in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Scheduled to launch in September 2022, it will create and administer academic and research programs throughout MIT, particularly between the School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Engineering. It provides a hub that will encourage design work at MIT to grow and cross disciplines between engineering, science, management, computing, architecture, urban planning, and the arts. The academy will enhance MIT’s ongoing efforts to address pressing issues of global importance, such as climate adaptation, public health, transportation, and civic engagement.

The academy was established with a $100 million gift from the Morningside Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the TH Chan family.

“At MIT, we sometimes describe our work as ‘inventing the future,'” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Beyond the technical, scientific and analytical strengths of the Institute, this mission requires a deep humanity and imagination – the ability to listen carefully and think broadly, to reframe old problems in unexpected ways, to crystallize new bold visions, to weave the wisdom of different disciplines and voices into new and human solutions are essential strengths of design thinking.

“The MIT Morningside Academy for Design will amplify the impact of MIT’s existing world-class design programs. This will greatly enhance our ability to promote design education on our campus and elsewhere; to support our faculty and students in their bold endeavours; and to work with others to develop compelling solutions to humanity’s great challenges. We couldn’t be more grateful for this transformative gift.

Gerald L. Chan, Trustee of the Morningside Foundation, says, “Design is a disciplined way to practice creativity, and design education complements traditional STEM education. If science and engineering education gives students technical prowess, design education gives them the process to innovate with their technical prowess. MIT is the perfect place to merge design education with STEM. »

By further integrating design into education and research, and helping to bring creative, humanistic thinking to society’s greatest challenges, the academy aims to create new educational experiences in design for MIT students, to build research capacity in creative fields and attract top students. and professors in design disciplines. By connecting to a global network of industry, educational, civic and government organizations, the academy will nurture a new generation of socially responsible entrepreneurs.

“Gerald Chan is a visionary who sees the profound impact design education has on technology and society, and not just on traditional design fields, but on STEM education more broadly,” says Hashim Sarkis, Dean of the School of Architecture and Urbanism. “That’s why it’s an academy for the whole of MIT and not a design department.”

Given the broad goals of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design, its founding support will include funding for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, professorships, opportunities for undergraduate students, and new prizes for design competitions. entrepreneurship. Additionally, the academy will offer an array of public events, including symposia, lectures, and exhibits, to engage and welcome a broader community to the MIT campus.

“The creation of the Morningside Academy is an incredible step forward in our vision to elevate and strengthen interdisciplinary design education, research and innovation,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, Dean of the School of Design. engineering and Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. . “We are excited to play a part in this shared vision and to collaborate with others to shape the future of design at MIT.”

Bridging Disciplines and Global Challenges

Two MIT faculty members, John Ochsendorf and Maria Yang, worked extensively on the formation of the academy, holding planning discussions with faculty, students, and staff, which resulted in a series of recommendations in April 2021. Ochsendorf, the Class of 1942 teacher and a professor of architecture and civil and environmental engineering, will be the founding director of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design. Yang, associate dean of the School of Engineering and Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will serve as associate director.

The academy was developed from the outset with the idea that interdisciplinary collaboration, often a point of pride among MIT researchers, can be broadly applied in design. As Ochsendorf notes, the nature of pressing societal problems means that many of these challenges can best be solved through creative interdisciplinary approaches.

“Many big problems facing the world today cannot be solved with one discipline alone,” says Ochsendorf. “We need thinkers who can not only be analytical in the best MIT tradition, but who can make connections and thus find unexpected solutions. Fundamentally, it’s about encouraging people to take risks across disciplines, to think both creatively and synthetically.

Additionally, Yang observes, “Intrinsically, designing something means you have to be creative, and that usually means you have to work with other people. Our vision is that the MIT Morningside Academy for Design will help students and faculty explore the frontiers of design while bringing people together and unleashing that power of multiplication. It’s a good time to bring people together in this way.

Yang adds, “One of the main goals of the academy is to help our students make a social impact as designers and to give them that direction in their work.”

The MIT Morningside Academy for Design will be housed in the Metropolitan Warehouse, a premier campus building being renovated from 2022 to 2025 to become the new home of the Department of Architecture and other units of the School of Architecture and planning.

The Metropolitan Warehouse — the “Met,” for many in the campus community — is intended to be a multi-purpose space, with research labs, design studios, lecture halls and collaborative classrooms, meeting spaces, and more. creation such as Project Manus, exhibition areas and space to engage with community and industry. A portion of the foundation gift will be allocated to complete renovations of the area of ​​the building which will be dedicated to the MIT Morningside Academy for Design.

“The academy will be the catalyst that brings together the elements of the Met to create a design center,” says Sarkis. “Strategically located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street, it will also animate the new center of MIT’s expanding urban campus.”

A new chapter in MIT’s design tradition

The establishment of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design reinforces MIT’s longstanding commitment to design education. MIT is home to the nation’s premier architecture program, and the School of Architecture and Planning has also developed design courses and research through its Department of Urban Studies and Planning; the Media Arts and Sciences program; the arts, culture and technology program; the MIT Center for Real Estate; MITdesignX; and a major and minor in design. The Freshman Office recently launched the DesignPlus learning community for undergraduate students interested in design at MIT.

Design work also looms large in the Institute, housed in places like the Department of Mechanical Engineering, which offers a project-based design program and design-focused degree concentrations, and MIT D- Lab, which focuses on global poverty and helped pioneer the participatory design field with low- and middle-income communities. This broad interest in design can also be found in many areas of the humanities and sciences.

“Many of our students consider themselves designers, whether they are mechanical engineers, urban planners or composers,” says Ochsendorf. “The MIT Morningside Academy for Design is creating a new community for us to elevate design across MIT and share best practices. At MIT, we’ve always had a strong tradition of prototyping: If you have a design idea , you make it, break it, get feedback, and iterate on it.The Academy builds on our many strengths in design, including the tradition of maker culture at MIT.

Ochsendorf adds, “No matter what you study at MIT, you can come across creative design ideas and use them to bring technology to bear on big world problems, which we hope to do.”

(Source: MIT News)

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