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Inspiring Innovation

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.746.1 - 15.746.11



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Paper Authors

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Sinead MacNamara

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Clare Olsen

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Laura Steinberg Syracuse University

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Samuel Clemence Syracuse University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Inspiring Innovation

1. Introduction

This paper describes a course at Syracuse University that brings together architecture and structural engineering students for a joint architecture and engineering design seminar. This course forms part of a larger NSF funded project aimed at increasing innovation and creativity in engineering curricula. The principal aim of the overall project is to find strategies to foster and reward creativity in engineering students. The principal aim of the trans-disciplinary course under discussion here is to investigate the degree to which the integration of architecture and engineering pedagogy is successful in producing desirable outcomes for either group of students. Given their different but potentially complementary skill sets, engineering and architecture students are a natural fit for investigations into creative pedagogy. In fact, the practices of both disciplines are intimately related and, yet, students whose careers may be so closely linked, rarely have opportunities for cross-disciplinary interaction in their formative years, least of all in design contexts where dialogue and collaboration could be so productive for both.

2. Background

Engineering is the discipline of innovation and creativity. But engineering education has lost sight of this central value, one that the pioneers of the discipline (the designers of the great Roman aqueducts, Thomas Telford, the Wright Brothers) so clearly understood. Some of engineering’s most recent innovators famously did not finish college (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell), in part, because they did not see the relevance of a normative engineering education to their work and their creative technical passions. There is no doubt that both academic and practicing engineers continue to be creative every day in their labs, their jobsites, and their workshops and offices, but engineering education does not consistently address innovation, address its relationship to research and design, or explicitly integrate it into an undergraduate student’s training.

On the other hand, creativity in structural engineering design is celebrated in the architectural design curriculum. History courses and design studios study works of recent and contemporary structural engineers such as Peter Rice, Cecil Balmond, Ted Happold, Jorg Schlaich, and Mutsuro Sasaki are well known to architecture students and faculty. These engineers’ capacity to integrate technical innovation and aesthetic merit in either their own design projects or collaborations with prominent architects (such as Toyo Ito, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima, and Renzo Piano) is widely acknowledged. In this Digital Age, architects are continually pushing the limits of design through the use of new technologies and materials, thereby relying on the innovation and expertise of their engineering collaborators.

Although the curricula of both architecture and engineering have required “design” courses, the content and pedagogical goals for these are usually quite different. The traditional “studio” is the core of architectural pedagogy at Syracuse University (as at most schools of architecture). The studio joins faculty with students for 12 hours per

MacNamara, S., & Olsen, C., & Steinberg, L., & Clemence, S. (2010, June), Inspiring Innovation Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16812

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