Donald F. Gatzke's three-dimensional education April 19, 2013
By Robert Francis
The University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Architecture has just completed its second annual David Dillon Symposium, a program that has brought new attention to the school and given it more of a public face than in previous years.
This year’s featured speaker was Chicago architecture historian and critic Robert Bruegmann, considered a bit of a contrarian in the sometimes refined air of architecture. For one, he kind of likes urban sprawl or at least understands it.
“Most in the development, design and architecture sectors see sprawl as something of a dirty word,” Donald F. Gatzke, dean of the UT Arlington School of Architecture, said before the program. “Bruegmann is provocative and controversial. I’m sure we’ll have great debate.”
For Gatzke, the symposium gives UT Arlington’s architecture school the chance to interact with other professionals as well as the public.
The public face of the school may well be the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, established in 2012 as an initiative of the school of architecture to honor the legacy of the longtime architecture critic for The Dallas Morning News. As part of a partnership with the Morning News, author and editor Mark Lamster recently was named architecture critic at the newspaper. Lamster will join the faculty of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, where he will teach a graduate seminar on criticism and critical writing as well as provide architectural features for the Dallas daily.
But while that effort may be the most public, that is hardly the only new project for the architecture school, which typically has more than 800 students enrolled in its programs. The UT Arlington School of Architecture offers professionally accredited degrees in architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture. The school also offers a graduate-level certificate in property repositioning and turnaround strategies.
“The school is very oriented towards professional practice – preparing students to enter the profession and to become the next generation of leadership,” said Gatzke, who has been dean since 2004. “It’s critical to think in terms of 10 to 20 years out, not just trying to create brand-new entrants [into the profession], but to be prepared to take over a practice at some point.”
In 2009, with almost perfect timing at the beginning of the recession, the school added Michael Buckley, a nationally renowned real estate educator most recently from Columbia University, to the team. His hire allowed the school to offer a Certificate in Real Estate Repositioning and Turnaround Strategies.
Buckley also heads the School of Architecture’s Center for Metropolitan Density, which examines ways to accommodate urban and suburban growth.
While the school is looking forward, it has also looked back. One of its first graduates, Ralph Hawkins, and his wife recently made a $1.5 million commitment to support the School of Architecture. Part of those funds will be used to develop a strategic vision for the school. Hawkins, a 1973 graduate of the school, is now chairman and CEO of Dallas-based HKS Inc., a worldwide architectural firm best known for designing sports venues around the globe, including Cowboys Stadium.
“I received a tremendous opportunity at UT Arlington, and I want others to share those opportunities,” said Hawkins, when announcing the donation last August.
Some of those funds will be used to support research to determine the next steps for the school, said Gatzke.
“We’re in pretty good shape, so this is an opportunity to stop and take a breath and figure out where the future is for us,” he said.
There are changes in the profession, changes in education and other factors than should be examined, he said.
“When Newsweek puts on its cover asking, ‘Is higher education a lousy deal?’ it makes you stop and think. If you’re in this business, you realize that could change the fundamentals of what we do,” he said.
There are other changes resulting from technology. Some design features that could once only be done by artisans can now be done with computer technology using digital fabrication methods.
“These new technologies are changing architecture and design,” he said.
The dean is confident the school is on the right track, but he knows the future is challenging for architecture schools and for those in the professional world.
Gatzke is sure of one thing. Despite all the changes in the profession and the addition of technological resources, he wants students at the school of architecture to understand how to draw.
“That’s the way we communicate. That’s fundamental,” he said. “I don’t see that changing.” T