simon_chicago_with students
Chicago Field Study, 2014

If my students walk away remembering only two things from my teaching, it would be that Charles Darwin mentions “love” many more times than “competition” in “The Origin of the Species” and that many of my current freshmen students will retire around the year 2070… I want them to wonder, what type of world will exist then?… How should we prepare for that future? And how can we work together to imagine and realize that future today? With that in mind, my teaching philosophy pushes students to work collaboratively and to design for the future – to see him or herself as part of a wider community, as a key piece of a complex and constantly changing system, and as a powerful change-maker.

This is no easy task. At times students find my design studios exhaustive and arduous. In emphasizing layered processes over outcomes, I charge students to critically frame problems through rigorous analysis and to experiment with new media. I encourage students to approach composite built and natural systems through layers of study and with pragmatic problem-solving agenda, and in doing so, hone students’ skills in more effectively communicating their argument and vision for solving those problems. In mirroring those expectations for my students, I provide clear, career-focused learning outcomes for every assignment that identify specific skills needed for professional practice. While I actively support my students, whether they excel or struggle, I ultimately push them to move beyond the unfamiliar toward techniques and experiences they once thought were beyond their ability. Each studio I teach is supported by additional grants that I seek, often from real clients, and my studios have led to numerous student awards including from the King Student Medal form the Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC) the Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the Honolulu Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

My studio teaching approach is focused on three goals: 1. To offer learning outcomes from study that will provide strong and applicable skills for professional practice. 2. To critically engage students with exemplary design work and emerging technology. And 3. To impart a sense of creative urgency in students as they prepare for a future in the design of the built and natural environment; a constantly evolving context that is impossible to predict.

Edible Schoolyard, Nicaragua 2008

The prevailing themes in my teaching and advising include:

Design with process: To encourage experimentation with numerous design methods by promoting their application in a variety of contexts, scales and areas of disciplinary focus. I teach students to build arguments through critical inquiry and with key pieces of design evidence to ensure that their final product is a consequence of a process.

Design with layers: To motivate and teach students to espouse competency in layered critical thinking and multifaceted problem solving as it applies to composite built and natural systems. I teach students critical analysis skills, framework development, and ultimately how to execute alternative solutions.

A return to design fundamentals: To pursue transformational learning through the adoption of increasingly complex design tools; transference of foundational technical skills through practical application. I teach students to search for self- discovery through rich experiential learning methods including study abroad, not simply through imitation.

Centering resilience: To demonstrate the potential impact that landscape architects can have in our changing world through ecological principles of design.

Interdisciplinary collaboration: To offer exposure to diverse project types, studio environments, methods and techniques by exploring a wide range of design professionals and their work; encouraging students to understand how complex built and natural systems can be designed, built and maintained through the interrelationship between various allied professions.

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