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Best designed by doing: radical hybrid thinking across disciplines

The complexity of the world around us demands equally sophisticated ways of designing and building for this environment. Yet, considering the rapid pace of progress in individual fields of research and the challenges of working beyond them due to differences in language and practice, making space for collaboration across diverse disciplines can be lost if not approached with intention. It was with this goal firmly in hand that the pilot studio between the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) and Cornell Tech was created to focus on intersections of design and technology in 2019. Three years later, Associate Professor Jenny Sabin, architecture; Associate Professor Wendy Ju, information science; and Professor Uli Wiesner, materials science and engineering, consider the impact of the pilot on both faculty and students; explore lessons in pedagogy, research, and hybrid thinking; and reflect upon the benefits and practical challenges of cross-college collaboration.



Can you start by explaining what inspired the creation of the pilot program, and what initially brought you together?

Jenny Sabin: The studio was launched as part of the new pilot collaboration between AAP and Cornell Tech. Since the fall of 2019, incoming M.S. Matter Design Computation (MDC) students have spent their first semester in residence at Cornell Tech. Together with Cornell Tech students across their various programs, we have piloted Design & Making Across Disciplines, Coding for Design, and modules related to Design for Physical Interaction. As part of a university-wide initiative, Wendy Ju and I are also cochairing a faculty task force working on the charge put forth on education and research at Cornell in areas related to design and technology. One part of this charge includes identifying opportunities for new undergraduate and graduate design courses and degrees, and developing a possible structure and road map for such an entity. The pilot studio is testing just that. In Design & Making Across Disciplines by colleagues, information science (Wendy Ju), biomedical engineering (Jonathan Butcher and Nate Cira), materials science and engineering (MSE) (Uli Wiesner and Marty Murtagh), and myself students are introduced to radical hybrid thinking in design and technology across disciplines.

Wendy Guang-wen Ju: We felt that our idea of bringing multidisciplinary and research-oriented input together and integrating it into the design process was best prototyped by doing it. One of the most exciting aspects of exploring the intersection of our disciplines in an education and studio setting is that we are really getting a chance to see how students we have introduced to all of our work synthesize these ideas into something new.

Continue reading on the Architecture, Art, and Planning website.

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