One of the most salient points of the speech is that we have the ability to choose how we see the world, but it is often the most obvious things around us that we do not view critically or even at all. According to Wallace, one reason for this is our default setting that we are at the center of the world. A good education can adjust this default setting by developing the ability to see from another perspective—to have empathy. Writing this introduction close to final reviews and after a lot of discussion of how it was to teach remotely for two months, I am struck by how embedded this default setting is within our academic culture. How often in reviews do you hear “my site” or “my building”? Even with faculty, we hear “my class,” “my studio,” and “my students.” Administrators are guilty as well. It is “my program” and “my school.” In many ways, this makes criticism and praise very personal. But, as Wallace made clear, we do have a choice.
As educators, how do we “adjust our default setting”? How can we teach students to do the same?
History is a good place to start. Understanding why some buildings are significant, how meaning has changed over time, and how values have also changed allows students to see the world and their world in different ways. It is important that our contemporary prejudices, and those of our historians, are recognized and that we can synthesize multiple histories around the same building. In this way, we challenge what we know to be certain. I would argue, like Wallace, that this ability to understand another’s point of view is really the value of an architectural education. But of course I think that; I teach history. What about studio?
There are a lot of ways to teach studio, but the historical model of one faculty member and twelve to sixteen students, each working on an individual project, persists. What if a studio were not a collection of autonomous acts of singular genius but a radical act of othering? How might we rethink our studios to focus less on the individual project and more on skills of reframing problems, collaboration, and listening—all of which will help recent graduates navigate their first jobs just as much as will a solid knowledge of Revit. I would propose further that empathy, the ability to listen, and the ability to ask good questions are all as valuable, if not more so, than “being a good designer.”