Noted Boston-area design firm helps to establish multidisciplinary design program at Syracuse University
Noted Boston-area design firm helps to establish multidisciplinary design program at Syracuse UniversityJanuary 09, 2002Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Syracuse University alumnus Gianfranco Zaccai, president and CEO of the Boston-area Design Continuum Inc., has built one of the most successful design and development firms in the country based on the notion that the best solutions are those that are arrived at through the collaboration of people from a wide range of professional disciplines.
The concept that is the cornerstone of Zaccai’s firm is now the focus of the new Synergy Project at Syracuse University thanks to a generous gift from Design Continuum to the University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Zaccai is a 1970 graduate of the college’s industrial design program in the School of Art and Design and he holds a degree from the Boston Architectural Center. The goal of the Synergy Project is to address some of the salient issues facing Central New York using the combined resources of the University and local community, business, government and nonprofit organizations.
“We believe that one of the biggest contributions we can make to the University, and to our future recruiting potential, is to provide sponsorship for a program that would aggressively recruit students and faculty from throughout the University to concurrently explore problems from all their professional sensibilities,” Zaccai says.
“We want students to step outside of themselves, to both grow within their profession and to learn from other fields as well,” Zaccai adds. “Most of all we want both the students and faculty to develop a deep understanding of all the issues and opportunities of an area of focus. Synergy will provide an interdisciplinary educational experience reflective of the way the corporate world is moving, where humanistic, technological and economic issues are considered concurrently. It is reflective of what we at Design Continuum call holistic and strategic design.”
Collaborative design is one of the four spires of the University’s multi-year Academic Plan, developed under the leadership of Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund.
Faculty members from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the School of Architecture and the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science worked on a syllabus for the project last summer and launched the Synergy Project as an independent study class during the Fall 2001 semester.
“The Synergy Project is about idea generation,” says Don Carr, professor of industrial design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “We plan to look at problems-and opportunities-in the Central New York community in new and unique ways, come up with viable proposals and take those proposals into the local community. If some of the ideas take hold in the region, then Gianfranco’s vision will be complete.”
Carr is coordinating the Synergy Project with the assistance of Amos Kiewe, director of the Department of Speech Communication in the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Christopher Gray, professor of architecture in the School of Architecture; and Samuel Clemence, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
Participation in the Synergy Project is limited to juniors and seniors, regardless of their major, and requires a two-semester commitment. The 2001-02 class consists of 12 students who spent the fall semester learning how to think about problems in multidisciplinary ways and to offer solutions that integrate different paradigms and different ways of thinking.
The students also explored a variety of issues facing Central New York, including the proposed expansion of the Carousel Mall, the cleanup of and potential for Onondaga Lake and the challenges facing downtown Syracuse. The students also explored potential areas of opportunity in the region. They visited the windmills in Madison County that were installed by the Atlantic Renewable Energy Corporation. It is the largest use of wind power east of the Mississippi River. They also learned how local companies, such as T.C. Timber in Skaneateles and Stickley in Manlius, prosper because of the region’s abundance of hardwood.
During the spring semester, the students will undertake a more in-depth study of some of the topics they looked at in the fall and attempt to develop proposals that would address social, cultural, economic and political issues surrounding the topics as well as the urban design and architectural challenges posed by the subject areas.
Zaccai says: “We believe Synergy is such a ‘cool’ thing to be a part of, that the very best students and faculty of the University will clamor to participate. In fact this is clearly already happening after only one semester. This project provides an interdisciplinary educational experience that only a multifaceted university like Syracuse can provide. The outcome will reflect well on the community and provide material benefit long after the projects are completed.”