This summer, The University of Texas at San Antonio announced it would be combining its College of Architecture, Construction and Planning and College of Engineering to create the College of Engineering and Integrated Design (CEID). Three additional departments are also housed under the new CEID title, including biomedical and chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical and computer engineering.
More than a year in the making, this reorganization was inspired by the cross-disciplinary collaboration that was already taking place in UTSA’s study abroad programs, where architecture and engineering students were brought together for integrated senior design projects. When Provost Kimberly Andrews Espy visited the program in Urbino, Italy, she wondered why the school was not fostering this sort of collaboration on its own campus. The dean of the new college, JoAnn Browning, who comes from a civil engineering background, said that, over the six months she was interim dean of the College of Architecture, she “grew to love and appreciate all the perspectives that the architecture, construction, and planning faculty and students brought that engineering students need to be exposed to on an everyday basis.”
The new CEID aims to reinforce this interdisciplinary approach while pooling resources by integrating the two colleges under a single umbrella. Parallels could be drawn to European models of technical universities, although this was not the expressed aim of the change. Rather, an organization taskforce was created over the previous year to research various academic models and find an approach that would position UTSA well into the future.
The Integrated Design Initiative Taskforce was charged with finding ways to “leverage scholar expertise across architecture, construction, planning, and engineering; to optimally position UTSA on the cutting edge of transdisciplinary research and academic programming; and to forge innovative partnerships that facilitate growth and success.” The year-long process was conducted in three phases by the taskforce, which was made up of around 30 faculty members, administrators, and students from the colleges. During the first phase, they researched other programs and solicited input both internally from the UTSA community and from the broader design community. The group then proposed notional models and discussed implementation strategies.
The new name for the program is as much about trajectory as it is about specific changes to the curriculum. Due to National Architectural Accrediting Board requirements, much of the integration will occur within the existing course framework, with more emphasis on cross-disciplinary overlap on individual projects. The biggest challenge to this collaboration is the fact that the architecture facilities are located at UTSA’s downtown campus, whereas the Engineering and Construction Management school operates at the main campus 15 miles away. Time will tell if the new integrated model can overcome that physical distance as the university begins to shift back from remote to in-person classes.
Cameron Kraus, Assoc. AIA, is a technical designer for Gensler in San Antonio.
I love seeing news of this effort and it’s a great start! Disintegration between architects and engineers has menaced and intrigued me for the decade I have worked as a public agency architect. However, I think I notice a collective consciousness gaining momentum. The CEID is great evidence of that. I do think the physical distance will be a challenge as studio life is key to making architects of us, it would make for an amazing studio to mix the two, and engineers would know how much fun they could have with their brilliant minds.