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Andrea Frank
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Jan Wampler
Professor of Architecture

What are you working on?

I have several goals I am working toward but I would say the main one is to try to convince MIT that the resources we have here ––throughout the entire Institute––could be used to better both the environment and people’s lives. Right now, work of that nature is occurring in various departments. Certainly, I’m doing that in my department. But if we could coordinate these efforts, then MIT could be known as a place where the vital issues of the world are being effectively addressed. My concern is that we are too isolated from one another. So what I’m working on, primarily, is trying to involve other departments in the projects I do. I believe you get better solutions by having more people involved from different disciplines.

I think there’s something interesting about us architects. We’re taught to be individuals, and that’s great, but on the other hand, most projects we do are with groups of people. We have to depend on somebody else in order to accomplish something, yet we don’t really know how to work together. And I think that might be true of all of MIT. Everyone is off in a corner doing his or her research. We need to learn how to work together. Recently, I gave my students a project for a temporary homeless shelter. They had to work in teams, and while I feared that it might be a disaster, they loved it. It was a great surprise to me. I didn’t expect that. They produced good solutions and they worked off of each other. It’s a new idea of the artist. The historic notion of the artist is often of someone doing his or her own thing and not caring about anyone else. But that’s not really the way it works because, even as artists, we have to talk to each other. So I’d like to investigate ways to help make that happen.

Also, I believe very strongly that we should be teaching people how to be leaders and how to think creatively. It doesn’t matter whether they are in architecture or any other field. To know how to do something is important, of course, but we must always think about what we are doing. I think architects are especially guilty of this. We generally take a problem and solve it, but we often don’t think about it in its full complexity. That’s why we have such ugly, terrible places outside. So, I keep telling my students, “Yes, you have to learn how to draw and build models and design, but more importantly, you have to question everything you are doing. What is the context of a project in relationship to the larger issues of society and culture? Can you not only see the
reflection of society in the work you do, but also look more deeply and see something that society doesn’t see?”

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for full text see VISIONS - MIT Interviews book

Andrea Frank