Mark L. Gardner, Director of Parsons Masters In Architecture, speaks about culture, diversity, and his vision for his student's educations.
Director, Master of Architecture Program, The New School Parsons
Mark is a principal at NYC-based Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects (J/GA), an award-winning design practice and studio that works across scales from product design to interiors to buildings. Mark has led many of J/GA’s design initiatives, and works to best understand the role of design as a social practice. The firm has won an AIA National Honor Award and numerous AIANY design awards. The practice recently worked with a non-profit partner on a Honey Bee Study Center in Dodoma, Tanzania. Mark is currently an Assistant Professor of Architectural Practice & Society. He had been teaching part-time at Parsons, specifically courses in Construction Technology and Professional Practice in SCE. He previously taught Professional Practice at PennDesign (2007-2012).
He serves on the Advisory Board of MathMinds, 21st Century Schools Partnership, an afterschool program created to expose high school students of color to college coursework in engineering, computer science, and tech entrepreneurship. Mark is also Advocacy Chair for nycobaNOMA, the New York chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects; and past co-chair of the AIANY Diversity & Inclusion Committee. He is co-chair of the Van Alen Institute Program Leadership Council and a Member of the Board of Trustees, and a Fellow of the Urban Design Forum. Mark also serves on the Board of Overseers at University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. He has a M.Arch from University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Georgia Institute of Technology.
I believe they should be observant and sketch the city around them. I tell them to get to know all of the Frank Ching books. We read "In Praise of Shadows" by Tanizaki, "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino, "The Tell-tale Detail" by Marco Frascari. and the book, "The Working Drawing" by Annette Spiro and David Ganzoni. We do readings from "Design With Nature" by Ian McHarg and Bill Mckibben's, "The End of Nature".
I think we are in an emergency, a climate and cultural crisis. I believe that our profession should be representative of our society. I believe that the idea of Diversity that people and groups throw around is an outcome not a process. We have to attune our language. The process to Diversity must be about Inclusion, We must identify the problems and not fall back on the comfort of what we believe we know,
The difficulty in Architectural Education is opening/expanding the idea of Architecture to its future capacities and competencies. We must be more aware of the communities we work with and the histories and stories of those communities and treat them as our own, because they are our stories too. We must be more responsible stewards of the environment and learn that each of these, community and environment, are fundamental to each other.
I think our program is uniquely positioned in a school of art & design with programs around environmental education and issues of social justice. We are in a midst of a crisis that will require new ways of thinking, imagining and problem-solving. We teach with all the tools at our disposal, whether sketching or writing, Virtual Reality or Augmented reality platforms and full scale prototyping.
At Parsons School of Constructed Environments, we have truly interdisciplinary programs- Lighting Design, Interior Design and Industrial Design. Our view of Architecture is an expansive one, which includes collaborations with these programs, with scientists and activists. We have resources across the New School- The Healthy Materials Lab (HML), Tishman Environmental Design Center (TEDC) and Our Making Center.