Announcements, News

Middlebury’s Architectural Studies program focuses on a defining principle: that architecture is for everyone—not just for the privileged few. More importantly, it is for all who use and inhabit individual and communal spaces.

The Christian A. Johnson Memorial Building, renovated by John McLeod’s Middlebury-based architecture firm, will play host to conference speakers and feature an exhibition of the work of Marlon Blackwell Architects, Susan T. Rodriguez, Turner Brooks, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

Faculty and staff have built the program around that mission by adding programming and partnerships with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, through which students design, secure permits for, and help build affordable, net-zero housing in the local community, according to Pieter Broucke, director of Architectural Studies.

“As we’ve grown into a large major, we’ve been able to develop an ideological identity that views architectural design as a way of solving problems for all members of society,” says Broucke. “The way we teach design is never about the proportions of a window, but about how architecture can actually help people.”

The Symposium

The Architectural Studies program is hosting a symposium, “Architecture for All,” April 22-26, at Dana Auditorium and its newly-renovated home in the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Building, with the goal of exploring that mission with world-renowned architects who share its philosophy. The week-long symposium, funded by the Cameron Visiting Architect Program and the Museum and Visual Arts Council, features speakers known for practicing architecture in service of places and people using modest materials for clients often on shoestring budgets.   

“This is an unusual opportunity to have nationally-renowned architects and local practitioners gathered here in Middlebury to discuss the role of architecture in society with students, the local community, and all of Vermont,” said John McLeod, associate professor of architecture and principal of McLeod Architects. “The symposium exemplifies what our program is about and strives to become.”

The Speakers

One of the featured speakers, Marlon Blackwell, professor at the University of Arkansas, and winner of the 2020 AIA Gold Medal, the profession’s highest honor, has produced iconic and award-winning designs across typologies, scales and budgets. He will share insights into his architecture and design process through the lens of “radical practice,” which he describes as “architecture in the place, of the place, and for the place, for anywhere, and for anyone with dignity, wonder and joy.” 

Billie Tsien, founding partner of the New York-based practice Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects + Partners, is the first woman and Asian-American chair of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, appointed by President Biden in 2021. She will speak on how buildings represent a belief system, exemplified by the way they contain and nurture the events and people inside. 

Other speakers include internationally-recognized designers such as Susan Rodriguez, principal of Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture and Design in New York City, and Turner Brooks, principal of Turner Brooks Architect in New Haven, Connecticut, who has Vermont ties, having established his firm in Starksboro, Vermont, in 1972. Highly-regarded local architects will also be participating, including Middlebury-based Megan Nedinski and Andrea Murray of Vermont Integrated Architecture, and John McLeod of McLeod Architects.

Students in the Architectural Studies program, now the largest major in the arts and humanities at Middlebury with over 90 majors, will meet with symposium speakers for informal discussions over lunch and for reviews in the design studios. 

The Exhibition

The Johnson Memorial Building, renovated by McLeod’s Middlebury-based architecture firm, will feature an exhibition of the work of Marlon Blackwell Architects, Susan T. Rodriguez, Turner Brooks, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The exhibition also highlights some of the ways Middlebury students have designed and built “architecture for all.” This includes the Architectural Studies’ collaboration with the Habitat for Humanity Chapter of Addison County that so far has resulted in the design of 10 homes, six of which are completed and built. Other examples include McLeod’s Design Assembly summer program that pairs a group of students with an architect and builder team to design and construct small community projects across New England, and the Solar Decathlon—an international design and build competition for students building net-zero sustainable housing.      

Visit Architecture for All for logistics and further information about the symposium.