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Thoughts on Kent Kleinman

Although we may yearn to be architectural geniuses, we're not. So we have a hard time assessing the implications of Kent Kleinman being named the new dean for the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning.

Thankfully, the Internet is not without chatter on the topic, and ArtUpdates.com has offered some insight:

-- I've never met Mr. Kleinman but judging from the comments I think that he already sounds like a better fit than Mohsen - it sounds like he will click much better with the older faculty, which, to be honest, are the heart and soul of Cornell. I'm pretty glad that we didn't get another flashy figure, and instead someone who seems like he is serious about doing some good. Even though I won't be around much longer to see the changes (abroad + thesis), I'm looking forward to being in school under his deanship.

-- I am glad to hear the good stuff about Kleinman. It's true, Cornell is a good place for a genuine intellect - but the dash of fashion can be good for it too. They need someone to toot their horn to the NYC crowd, I think. To push them to publish and get the name out. Mohsen was very good for that. It would be sad to see Cornell lose the intellectual strength that is its real value (in contrast to the vapid star system elsewhere), but a bit of flash was very good for the reputation of the school. Just my humble opinion.

-- He was at Michigan for one year while I was there. The man is a spectacular intellect and a really genuine guy. Dean is the perfect position for him - I would reckon a far better fit than Mohsen, who has always been better at networking and self-promotion than working for the good of a school. Just my opinion.

-- It'll be sad to see Kent leave NYC. Let the maddeningly drawn out dash for the next available "NYC" Dean position begin.

So it seems like the search committee has done well, but time will only tell. And given the tumultuous decade that AAP has had, AAP will certainly need strong, wise leadership from here on out.

The last time Cornell had a new dean of AAP, Mostafavi scrapped Barkow Lieblinger's perfectly fine plan for Milstein Hall and brought in Rem Koolhaas. Will Kent do the same? Part of us just wants to get the damn building built, but I think most would agree that the building is less than ideal, from the silly cantilever over University Ave. to the way it imposes its modern self upon the traditional Arts Quad. Even Olin Library echoes shades of Boardman Hall.

So our vote? It probably won't happen, but let's get a new architect for Milstein Hall. We still have time, as ground isn't set to break until October 2008. And could we please get William Henry Miller as the architect?

Otherwise, what else would we like to to see Kent do with the school? Well, obviously, a focus on the undergraduate program is paramount. And while Mostafavi's connections to New York and the international scene were not unwelcome, Cornell also needs to focus on retaining its own unique role in the architectural world.

It's interesting to note that Kent is with past Upstate connections, having served at the University of Buffalo for over a decade. Personally, I would love nothing more than to see the College develop more linkages to local and Upstate architecture. Students can spend a semester in Rome, but can they spend a week touring Buffalo viewing some of the country's most significant architecture from the first half of the 20th century? Similarly, planning students have been quick to fly down to New Orleans to help out with the virtually unapproachable Ninth Ward, but what is to happen to inner-city Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica?

Additionally, we have always felt that the College of AAP needs to develop more linkages across the University. Programs in design and textiles in Human Ecology, materials and civil engineering in Engineering, and international labor and agriculture need to interact with AAP programs. There is every reason for them to be interconnected.

Good luck, Kent.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on July 11, 2008 (#)

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