LOS ANGELES, CA, August 12, 2017 /24-7PressRelease/ — Practice, critical thinking and making.
These elements, says Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, AIA, Dean of Woodbury University School of Architecture, must form the foundation of an architecture program.
The subject of a new, extended Archinect “Dean’s List” interview, Wahlroos-Ritter extolled the importance of economic diversity and the School of Architecture’s commitment to egalitarian and practical education.
“I am inspired every day by our students, by my colleagues who are a splendid collection of critical thinkers and distinguished practitioners, by the optimism that infuses our School, and by our shared belief in the power of design to address urgent, contemporary issues,” said Wahlroos-Ritter, who previously taught at Yale University, Cornell University, UCL Bartlett School of Architecture and SCI-Arc. She is Director of WUHO (Woodbury University Hollywood Outpost), a venue for exhibitions, installations, and public dialogue, and has served as a Director on the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design Advisory Board.
Excerpts from the discussion follow:
On cultivating a unique design voice. “An architecture program should enfold practice, critical thinking and making. Woodbury School of Architecture does this by empowering students to ask questions, to weigh alternatives, to continually reframe new problems, and to challenge the status quo. This balance between practice, scholarship, critical thinking, and making has allowed us to cultivate a very balanced pedagogy that helps us cultivate a unique design voice that’s equally committed to practice, theoretical discourse, formal and technological inquiry, and social equity. We are a really optimistic school. That is something I hear a lot–that we share an optimistic belief in the power of design to address urgent contemporary issues.”
On diversity. “Our school is a role model for the direction in which the profession is heading in improving economic, gender, and ethnic diversity among its members, and reaffirming the importance of ethical conduct and social responsibility. One of our hallmarks is our diversity and economic–and economic is really important here–ethnic, and academic backgrounds of our students that reflects Southern California itself. We pride ourselves on this diversity so it makes it difficult to generalize. We also like to say that we are an engine for upward mobility.
“When I think about diversity, I think not just about gender and ethnic diversity but also about multi-dimensional teaching methods and promoting diverse approaches to design and alternative practices. I’m excited about continuing our conversation about the multiple ways in which diversity can express itself in academia.”
On architect-citizens. “Our former dean, Norman Millar, liked to say that we cultivate architect-citizens, and that what unites our community is the desire to make a difference. Students come here recognizing our optimism and hopefulness about the power and possibilities of design to change the world. So, when we talk about architect-citizens, we’re thinking about architects as leaders that are actively participating not only in the day-to-day activity of designing buildings and environments, but also leading the discourse through entrepreneurial collaborations, helping change policy at the urban level, developing government initiatives and pushing the boundaries of architectural practice. We want to draw that type of optimistic leader to our program.
“Our students take it to heart as much as our faculty does, this idea that as architect-citizens, we hold a responsibility to the larger public. We are one of the few disciplines that weaves together multiple conversations and connections: engaging with governmental agencies, talking to the industry, communicating with clients. We’re weaving together an ethical imperative that reaches all these different constituents and communities.”
On architecture education. “Ultimately, [architecture education] is speculating about change and we do a great job preparing our students for change. And not just thinking about change, but actually being agents of change. We prepare students to participate in the conversation about how the profession is going to evolve.”
Wahlroos-Ritter has more than 20 years of academic experience. She joined the Woodbury faculty in 2005 and has served in multiple administrative assignments as part of her full-time faculty position including Associate Director, Undergraduate and Graduate Architecture Chair, Associate Dean and Interim Dean before being named to her current post. During this time, Wahlroos-Ritter was a leader in many successful initiatives, including the creation of the WUHO gallery, the establishment of a digital fabrication lab, and the launch of graduate programs in architecture and landscape architecture. These achievements underscore her value in supporting a broad-scope of architectural inquiry.
Her expertise as a facade consultant specializing in the experimental use of glass continues to shape her teaching, academic leadership and her own professional practice. An influential figure in the field, she contributed to the book Architecture: A Woman’s Profession, where she advocates for design innovation derived from non-biased collaborative practices. In her many capacities as practicing architect, educator, academic administrator, gallery director and head of multiple initiatives, including Woodbury’s Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) Program, a project launched by former Dean Millar, Wahlroos-Ritter works with a wide range of constituencies to bridge the gap between practice and education.
About Woodbury University
Founded in 1884, Woodbury University is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California. The university ranks 15th among the nation’s “25 Colleges That Add the Most Value,” according to Money Magazine, and is a 2017-18 College of Distinction. Woodbury was a finalist for the General Community Service Award, a part of the 2015 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognition program. With campuses in Burbank/Los Angeles and San Diego, the university offers bachelor’s degrees from the School of Architecture, School of Business, School of Media, Culture & Design, and College of Liberal Arts, along with a Master of Business Administration, Master of Architecture, Master of Interior Architecture and Master of Science in Architecture. The San Diego campus offers Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture, Master of Interior Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture degrees, as well as a Master of Science in Architecture, Real Estate Development. Visit woodbury.edu for more information.