Schools of Thought - Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture

Schools of Thought

Schools of Thought: Rethinking Design Pedagogy

A conference organized by the University of Oklahoma Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture​

March 5-7, 2020​

In the Spring of 2020, the University of Oklahoma (OU) will host “Schools of Thought: Rethinking Architectural Pedagogy,” a conference designed to bring together scholars, architects, and designers to explore questions about how we teach design. Beatriz Colomina, Howard Crosby Butler Professor in the History of Architecture at Princeton University, and Joan Ockman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania will serve as keynote lecturers. The symposium will coincide with the exhibition Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. The conference is made possible with support from the Bruce Goff Chair of Creative Architecture.

“A new school, probably the only indigenous one in the United States” is how the architect Donald MacDonald characterized the School of Architecture that developed at the University of Oklahoma (OU) in the 1950s and ‘60s.1 At the time, architectural curricula in the United States either followed the French Beaux Arts model centered on the classical tradition or the German Bauhaus model centered on abstraction and materiality. The University of Oklahoma College of Architecture stood apart from these two trends and developed an authentically American approach to design. Under the leadership of Bruce

Goff (1904-82), Herb Greene (b. 1929), Mendel Glickman (1895-1967), and others, OU faculty developed a curriculum that emphasized individual creativity and discovery. Students were taught to look to sources beyond the accepted canon of western architecture and to find inspiration in everyday objects, the natural landscape, and non-western cultures such as the designs of Native American tribes. As MacDonald described, at OU there emerged “a truly American ethic, which is being formulated without the usual influence of the European or Asian architectural forms and methodologies common on the East and West coasts of the United States.”2

While OU students developed a keen awareness of global architectural history, when they arrived in the design studio, they were instructed: “Do not try to remember.”3 Do not begin with classical column capitals and proportional systems or modernist pilotis and grids. Do not begin by imitating the designs of your instructor. Instead, begin fresh. Begin with the natural context: the slope of the land, the quality of the light, and the local materials. Be earnest in attempting to respond to the program. Sincerely listen to the needs and desires of the client. Most importantly, students were taught to begin by trusting their own creative instincts. Today, we find aspects of the American School approach resurfacing in architectural pedagogy and practice. Designers are again considering how to be materially resourceful, design sustainably, and work sincerely with clients and sites. Design-build programs are once again celebrated as a means for students to learn firsthand from the labor of construction. Digital fabrication technologies have led to a renewed interest in organic forms.

More than 70 years after Goff’s arrival at OU, the “Schools of Thought” symposium seeks to extend the American School tradition of reconsidering how and what we teach our students.



1 Donald MacDonald, “Preface,” Architecture + Urbanism 81:11 (Nov. 1981) :18.

2 Ibid.

3 Bruce Goff, “The School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, 1947-56,” Architecture and Urbanism, no. 11134 (1981): 12.

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Propose a Paper

Paper proposals are invited for the following sessions:

“Do not Try to Remember”: Pedagogy in Transition

Chaired by Winifred Elysse Newman, Professor and Director of the Institute for Intelligent Materials, Systems and Environments at Clemson University, and Lee Fithian, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma

Participatory Design and Community Engagement

Chaired by Justin Ferguson, Assistant Dean at Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning, and Shane Hampton, Director of the OU Institute for Quality Communities

Decolonizing Architectural Pedagogies

Chaired by Harriet Harriss, Dean of Architecture at Pratt Institute, and John Harris, Director of the OU Center for Peace and Development

Engaging Design-Build Pedagogy

Chaired by Christian Dagg, Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University, and Hans E. Butzer, Dean of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture

Propose a Lightning Talk

Submit Here

“Schools of Thought” invites proposals for 5-minute lightning talks highlighting innovations in and critical questions about contemporary design pedagogy.

Just starting to flesh out an idea? Have something important to share, but not enough time to prepare a full conference presentation? Want to get a new conversation started about design pedagogy? Looking for feedback on an emerging project? Consider submitting a proposal for a 5-minute Lightning Talk. Lightning talk submissions should include a 200-word abstract and 100-word scholar bio.

Propose a Poster

Submit Here

The University of Oklahoma invites architects, scholars, and designers to reconsider how and what we teach our students, this time for the 21st century. Poster submissions may highlight innovations in design pedagogy regarding a wide range of questions. ​

For example, poster submissions may ask about the critical practices, daily rituals and habits an aspiring designer must learn in order to master the art of designing buildings. What role should the new technologies of design and fabrication play in shaping architectural curricula? Moreover, what is the ideal relationship between teacher and student—master and disciple, mentor and mentee? What do we need to do better to foster a more inclusive and diverse culture in design schools? And what role should history play in the design studio? Poster submissions should include a 200-word abstract, 100-word scholar bio and a PDF draft of the 24” x 36” poster.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions are due on August 30, 2019. To submit a proposal, follow the link corresponding with your preferred session, found above. Authors will be asked to provide the following during the submission process​:

Paper Submission

  • Paper title
  • 300-word abstract
  • 100-word bio(s)

Lightning Talk

  • Talk title
  • 200-word abstract
  • 100-word bio(s)


  • Poster title
  • 200-word abstract
  • Poster file (PDF), formatted at 24” x 36 (portrait)
  • 100-word bio(s)

Keynote Speakers

Beatriz Colomina, Howard Crosby Butler Professor in the History of Architecture at Princeton University | Read more

Joan Ockman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania | Read more

Session Chairs

Hans E. Butzer

Hans E. Butzer, Dean of the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture | Read more

Justin Ferguson, Assistant Dean, College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University | Read more

Shane Hampton

Shane Hampton, Director of the Institute for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma | Read more

John Harris

John Harris, Director of the OU Center for Peace and Development | Read more

Christian Dagg, Head of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University | Read more

Lee Fithian

Lee Fithian, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma | Read more

Harriet Harriss, Dean of Architecture at Pratt Institute | Read more

Winifred Elysse Newman, Professor and Director of the Institute for Intelligent Materials, Systems and Environments at Clemson University | Read more


First time in Oklahoma? Join us on Saturday, March 7, 2020, for tours of some special sites. Please indicate your tour preference during registration.

Herb Greene's Prairie House

Prairie House

Norman, Oklahoma

Designed by Herb Greene

Completed 1961

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Designed by Hans E. and Torrey Butzer

Completed 2000

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The “Schools of Thought” conference will be hosted in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, with some events to be held in Gould Hall and Gaylord Hall, on the University of Oklahoma Campus in Norman, Oklahoma. View the tentative schedule here.


Please check back soon for information about accommodations. For more information about visiting Norman, click here.

About the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture

The Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture, whose oldest program was established in 1916, supports a future in which all communities are designed for resiliency and empowered to maximize their social, economic and environmental well-being. The Gibbs College of Architecture educates more than 600 students through undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs across seven academic units in Architecture, Construction Science, Environmental Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Regional and City Planning.

About the University of Oklahoma

Established in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a doctoral degree-granting university and leader in research, health care, and academic activity impacting the state of Oklahoma and global community. The Norman campus enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City enroll more than 3,000 students and the OU-Tulsa campus enrolls more than 1,000. Of the 4,385 incoming freshmen in 2018, the average ACT score is 26.2 and is one of the most diverse and inclusive groups of incoming students in university history. OU began a new focus in 2018 to double research efforts in the next five years, promote OU Medicine as the health care provider of choice in the State of Oklahoma, and grow the university in northeastern Oklahoma.


Please contact Angela Person ( with questions about “Schools of Thought.”