These days architecture is both a weapon and a victim of intolerance. Historic buildings are destroyed for what they symbolize, and there are calls for the building of walls and the construction of refugee cities. These actions are symptoms of the global preoccupation with fear of others and the attempt to keep people “out.” The Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) community rejects these injustices and has built the architecture department on the principle that the purpose of architecture is to support the social good.
MassArt has a long history of working for social change, and at different times this has been at the forefront of curriculum development. In fact, the school was launched back in 1873 as the first public art college for the express purpose of training students to draw so that they could go on to schools of engineering with the same level of skill as students from private colleges. It was open to women from day one and graduated the woman who would go on to be the first registered female architect in the country. Supporting diversity has always been part of our mission and it relates to architecture because architecture is a social art. How we build determines in large part how we interact with others. At its best, the built environment is the means through which we share social experiences and yes, support diversity and inclusion. If done correctly, architecture creates opportunities to engage with people of other generations, cultures and physical abilities, which is how MassArt approaches teaching design.
MassArt graduate students—across nine majors—come from many backgrounds, but they share a common interest in learning through making and a strong commitment to improving our collective experience through art, design and art education. Architecture students enjoy the benefits of learning about design in the context of these other creative disciplines and Massachusetts College of Art and Design continues to provide affordable access to students who seek an education that focuses individual creative development and cross-cultural experiences.
International students make up almost fifty percent of the graduate architecture department and all of our students’ areas of research suggest a generation of designers who will reaffirm architecture as a discipline focused on social, cultural and economic equity. Indeed, many of our faculty’s professional careers focus on social equity work such as affordable housing, childcare facilities, and schools in underserved regions. These values have been with MassArt from our beginning and remain as the core of our mission.