Each year, President Paula Wallace awards many deserving SCAD professors a Presidential Fellowship for use during scheduled breaks or during spring and summer quarters. The program supplements opportunities for travel, conference support, sabbatical grants and professional development and advancement. SCAD recently spoke with five of the 14 professors whose Presidential Fellowship experiences occurred over the summer.
Today we learn about Christine Wacta, architecture professor at SCAD Savannah, who spent her fellowship in France studying urban design and the specifics involved in creating future cities.
Architecture professor at SCAD Savannah
D.P.L.G., Ecole d'Architecture de Paris-La-Défense, Paris, France
Dip. Arch., Ecole d'Architecture de Paris-La Défense, Paris, France
SCAD: Your SCAD Presidential Fellowship was awarded for a project titled “Urban Body/Urban System: Exploring a Procedural Modeling Approach on Toulouse and Paris, France, as a Promising Way to Address Urban Planning Using Esri CityEngine and ArcGIS Pro.” Tell us more about it, and why you chose this subject.
CHRISTINE WACTA: The Presidential Fellowship took me to Paris and Toulouse where I worked in collaboration with EVCAU lab, focusing on how to use the computing power of the 3-D applications in the urban design process. I participated in an ongoing project using a handful of applications, namely ArcMap, ArcScene, QGIS, sDNA and CityEngine, to explore a more comprehensive and global approach that treats the city as a complex ensemble. The metaphor of the city as a living organism was explored in ways that highlighted performance and systemic function in urban design. Spatial analysis was created to evaluate environmental, functional, economic and sociocultural aspects. Additionally, case studies were made to expose the behavioral and intelligent capabilities of a procedural approach to urban design in order to suggest specific solutions to given urban issues.
My interest in this subject came from students, who, over the years, asked me a very simple question that I was unable to answer: “What software do you think I should use to work on my studio project?” As simple as that might sound, I found myself unable to help the students as I struggled myself to find a single software that does it all — until I discovered CityEngine.
SCAD: How do you predict the knowledge and experience gained through your fellowship will influence your future work and inform your goals as an educator at SCAD?
WACTA: The knowledge and expertise gained through the fellowship has already been tested in my summer classes. I held an informed discourse in my classes, one that relied on fact and testing rather than utopia and hope. I taught the summer Rising Star class and discussed with the students all of the right tools available out there for design. In fact, I had a very long and exciting discussion with a Rising Star student’s parent, whose daughter is interested in urban planning as well as architecture.
This fellowship has definitely allowed me to redirect my future goals. I am furthering my knowledge and skills in computational and procedural design. I have since started training in Python (coding), a tool that I believe every architect, designer or planner must master in order to be best equipped for the challenge ahead in developing future cities.
SCAD: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what advice would you give yourself? Is there anything you would do differently?
WACTA: Think globally, seek multidisciplinary collaborations, and look beyond the barriers of your own field. The one thing I would do differently would be to gain skills in coding and computational design, and to seek more collaboration in the field, such as interactive media, geography, mathematics, geology and physics.