Fall 2020 in the MIT Department of Architecture

Dear all,

Like us, we’re sure you’ve been watching closely as MIT as a whole develops a plan for this coming fall. On Wednesday, President Rafael Reif shared a letter with the community outlining the Institute’s path forward and giving us a framework for our own planning process. We write today to follow up with more specific information about how these Institute-wide plans may affect the Department of Architecture and your experience with us. This information may be particularly useful in making your own important decisions — including how close to be to campus next year.

While, as President Reif explains, “Everything that can be taught effectively online will be taught online,” we have all learned over the past spring that it can be challenging to deliver architectural and design education in this way. 

This summer, we are working to study and improve our online teaching methods. But we are also working carefully to plan some access to physical spaces in the department for graduate students present in Cambridge, and undergraduates invited to return to Campus by MIT.

Our plans for limited physical access to studio, lab and workshop spaces, as well the careful planning of other socially-distanced possibilities for interaction, are being developed this summer in conformance with Institute guidelines. The department committee considering these questions includes program directors, faculty, and staff and student representatives. This work is going on in parallel with Institute-level efforts to potentially plan for limited access to libraries and other shared and non-teaching spaces, including offices. It is important to remember that any plans will also be subject to changing circumstances throughout the summer and fall.

Potential access to physical space will be designed to strategically supplement and support experiences and resources that can’t be readily provided online. Yet, access to physical space will not be a substitute for a substantially online mode of learning. Equally, exclusively physical modes of making and learning on-campus will not be a required portion of any curriculum. Students with concerns on travel or health that would limit their ability to access campus will be able participate fully in our classes and studios, and we will offer support in making and prototyping to students working remotely as well. 

As our incoming and returning students, we realize that you will want to know as much as possible about our plans so that you can make a decision whether or not to be physically present in Cambridge. As we actively develop fall 2020 plans at MIT SA+P, and determine possibilities for access to physical spaces on campus, we will continue to provide updates throughout the summer.

Your own participation will be an essential part of this planning process. Please look for surveys and other opportunities to provide feedback in the next few weeks. As our plans move forward, we also look forward to convening as many of you as we can virtually to clarify and discuss all the challenges and opportunities that face us at the moment. Finally, we reassure you that, while our modes of communication with each other will be transformed, your funding and support from us will remain unchanged.

We have learned a great deal about the creativity, resilience, and strength of spirit of this community in the last several months. While none of us would choose the current circumstances, what our students, and larger community, has chosen to do with them has amazed us. We look forward to welcoming you into this community in the weeks and months to come — and continuing to support your work and careers for many years to come as well

We are all ready to answer your questions, and look forward to staying in touch,

Nicholas de Monchaux, Head of Architecture
Ana Miljački & William O’Brien, Jr, outgoing/incoming Directors, Architecture & Urbanism and the M.Arch program 
Timothy Hyde & Sheila Kennedy outgoing/incoming Directors, SMarchS program 
Skylar Tibbits, Director, BSA/BSAD program
Cristoph Reinhart, Director, Building Technology
Larry Sass, Director, Computation
Kristel Smentek, Director, History, Theory, Criticism
Rafi Segal, Director, SMarchS Urbanism Program
Andreea O’Connell, Administrative Officer

Sent via email to the MIT Architecture Community on June 20, 2020