Dean Monica Ponce de Leon Interviewed in AIArchitect

As she discusses her goals for Taubman College and her ideas about architecture education, Ponce de Leon states the need for a move toward interdisciplinarity and diversity within architecture education and the industry. Here is a glimpse of her conversation with writer Heather Livingston: What drew you to the position of dean at the Taubman College? I thought of this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The University of Michigan is a public university that has a tremendous reputation and history, especially in architecture and urban planning. It’s very large and very heterogeneous. It has a great, diverse faculty and student body.

I am interested in examining the state of architecture in education and in reinventing the way that we educate architects, and I thought that the University of Michigan would be one of the few places in the U.S. where I could do that. In particular, I’m interested in educating architects by bringing together different disciplines. When architects talk about interdisciplinary work, they usually talk about architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and planning, but the opportunity here is to work with experts in engineering, the arts, and the environment so that you actually bring different disciplines that are integral to architecture and have the field be enriched by working directly with them.

The University of Michigan has a very strong School of Natural Resources, where they’re looking at human impact on the environment from a scientific point of view. I think that as architects, when we talk about sustainability we leave out science as opposed to having the science be really integrated. This applies not only to the scale of buildings, but the scale of the materials that compose our buildings and also how our buildings are placed on the landscape and impact sites.