October 30, 2013

Lecture Brings Together Social History and Design

Professor Robert Cowherd discusses how humans move through various spaces

Before students can successfully meet challenges in the professional world, Professors Joanne Tuck and Robert Cowherd attest, they must face history and understand the physical spaces that surround them. The October 22 Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series aimed to illustrate the connection between the two worlds, as well as demonstrate Wentworth departments working together.

The series, now in its sixth year, brings together faculty from different departments to speak on a similar topic. Lecture attendees witness the school’s interdisciplinary approach firsthand.

Using powerful images, both visual and auditory, Joanne Tuck, professor, College of Arts and Sciences, began the lecture with her segment, “Ethical Education: The Social Impact of Facing History.  Tuck spoke of the Holocaust and other historical events to illustrate citizens who looked away when times were difficult, and those who conversely showed courage in saving lives and became “upstanders.”

Tuck cited Oskar Schindler, Marion Pritchard, Elie Wiesel, and others who stood up to unjust causes as upstanders.

“At Wentworth, we provide an excellent technical education,” said Tuck. “But we also have a responsibility to interject humanities awareness. We want students to have the ability to stand up against unjust authority."

Cowherd took the podium next for his lecture entitled “Body Politics: Designing for People and Power.”

“Many students are concerned with how the human body moves through space,” said Cowherd. “Architecture frames all space, so there must be a way to get at that answer through architecture.” More specifically, he says, the answer lies in sociography, the study of the spatial operation of social forces.

“We’re rediscovering things about urban form creating a stage in which human drama plays out,” he continued, citing as examples the upstander at Tiananmen Square in 1989, or how director Steven Spielberg conveys drama in Schindler’s List through the use of people desperately rushing in and around buildings in Krakow, Poland.

Cowherd additionally made note of Adolf Hitler’s love for his architectural model of the City of Berlin, Welthauptstadt Germania. The model was to project the Third Reich’s future and is the type of thing that neither Cowherd nor Tuck want people to forget. “It’s an important reminder of the role that architecture and urban form play in history,” Cowherd said.

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