Perhaps the greatest takeaway from the past year is that the past is prologue, the present is precious, and the future is uncertain. More clearly than ever, we have seen the central and essential function of the built environment as a source of survival and cultural meaning, beauty and comfort. In our COVID year, architecture was the framework for healthcare, national identity, social justice, and personal safety.

Historians all, we'll bring our experiences and reflections of 2020 to bear on how we experience our world and anticipate what is next.

Inevitably, our next steps will involve architecture, and we have an opportunity to consider more closely how we choose to live, in the privacy of home and in the collective environment of campus and city. In other words, study of architecture is not only an intellectual pursuit, but it is also part of our human toolkit, a means of living better as individuals and as a society.

This seminar—the kind of intellectual endeavor that A.D. White advocated at a time when lectures and recitation were the norm—brings focus to select aspects of the built environment.

Each day is a foray into a theme that has broad application but can profitably be considered in the context of the Cornell campus (because it is additive and stylistically diverse, campus is a three-dimensional text of architecture and planning history).

We'll look at great buildings and landscapes, set out ideas and issues, and hear from members of the Cornell community involved in learning, living and remembering, moving and surviving.

To supplement presentations and discussions, we'll consider some good (and at times confusing) writing that seeks to get at the meaning of design, structures, and spaces.

I look forward to our future forays together.

– Roberta Moudry