The Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is launching a new type of class in the Fall 2015 semester to provide students and professors a more immersive learning environment.

Called Master Classes, these new environments will consist of short professional and skill-based training workshops focused on addressing current problems in modern architectural design. During the workshops, which focus on experiential learning and completing experimental projects, students will have the chance to work with both national and international architects.

The classes will be funded through the University’s Third Century Initiative, which aims to engage students in innovative educational experiences that extend beyond the classroom.

Ellie Abrons, Adam Fure and Andrew Holder, assistant professors at Taubman College, said they founded the project to bring more relevance to the traditional studio classes used in architecture.

“The studio classes are very intensive, where a small group of students work with a single faculty member to cultivate their own ideas into how designs should work in a building,” Holder said. “They project their private visions about what a building should like into their work. However, they fail to engage with contemporary issues of social and political significance.”

Instead of replacing the conventional methods used in studio classes, Master Classes will continue using the techniques of intensive studies that professors have found most successful.

Additionally, Master Classes will provide numerous opportunities for students to learn from experts with different perspectives. A greater number of students will participate at the workshops, which will be styled in the format of a hackathon to increase competition and teamwork between students.

“Instead of students individually engaging in a project, they will now be able to work with the master practitioners to tackle issues of social significance,” he said.

Holder also highlighted the efficiency of Master Classes compared to studio classes. In studio classes, students work on a single building design over the course of an entire semester or academic year. With a Master Class, the course’s key component is a three-day intensive workshop designed to embody the competitive spirit of a hack-a-thon. During the workshops, students work with visiting experts to work on a design project related to the professional’s own work.

Holder said he hoped that the Master Classes would be eventually implemented in various other fields, particularly in science and medicine, which require laboratory work.

“We think that the way architects work and think about problems can be applicable to such fields,” Holder said. “For now, we want the Master Classes to keep on changing and getting bigger so that we can soon incorporate these methods into other fields.”

The classes will also focus on giving students first-hand experiences, drawing from infrastructure present around campus, Ann Arbor and Detroit. Holder said he hopes by working on real, local projects, students will better see the impact of design.

“Architecture is a very social aspect,” Holder said. “Everyone is affected by it. And that’s exactly what Master Classes hope to do.”

Holder said interacting with these local issues will also provide students the chance to interact with bigger architectural ideas as well.

“Master Classes will bring the community and the large scale issues into the University institution,” he said. “Students can then address them as academic problems as well.”

Taubman student Dustin Murphy said in an e-mail interview he is excited about the new classes, as they will provide him with numerous opportunities to work outside the studio and gain valuable experiences in the field.

“The workshops will provide me with new spaces to explore my place in architectural discipline,” Murphy said. “I will able to try new things that are outside of my typical design sensibilities and discover new methods of working.”

Murphy also said he hopes the workshops reach a large number of students.

“The workshops encourage an interdisciplinary approach to architecture and require critical thinking that actively engages the discourse,” Murphy said. “Students should utilize this great opportunity and engage with the discipline at the level provided by the workshops. In that way, they will be able to consider their place in architecture, as well as the role of architects in the world at large.”

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