The Texas A&M College of Architecture’s 16th annual faculty research symposium, “Natural, Built, Virtual,” took place Oct. 27, 2014 at the Langford Architecture Center on the Texas A&M College Station campus.
The daylong event showcased college faculty research on issues relevant to the natural, built and virtual environments in a series of fast-paced lectures abbreviated from talks previously delivered at scholarly gatherings around the world. The symposium included invited or refereed presentations and papers from the 2013-14 academic year.
"The individual sessions comprising the symposium displayed a wide range of scholarship with respect to people and place," said Louis G. Tassinary, executive associate dean for the College of Architecture. "Fundamentally, the sessions reflected themes that have emerged in the work of the faculty and research staff over the past year."
Approximately 40 presentations grouped into diverse categories were delivered in several concurrent sessions throughout the day.
In addition to faculty presentations, Sandra Richter, co-founder of the startup, Changing Environments, which develops smart, solar-powered public spaces catering to mobile devices users, presented the symposium's keynote address in Preston Geren Auditorium, "Deploy or Die: Public Spaces as a Test Platform for Designers & Entrepreneurs to Invent Future Cities."
One of her company's creations, the Soofa, is solar-powered park bench that charges cell phones, monitors noise levels, air quality and weather and wirelessly uploads the collected data to the in Internet. So far, seven Soofas have been placed in public areas in Boston.
A Soofa was touted by the Wall Street Journal as one of the highlights of a June 2014 exhibition of tech inventions hosted by the White House. At the event, Richter provided a demonstration of the Soofa’s capabilities to President Obama.
“We’re all from Germany, where solar energy is very popular,” said Richter, the startup’s chief executive. “We were thinking about how we can change public opinion to accept more solar … and start a dialogue about air quality and renewable energy in cities.”
Jutta Friedrichs, another Changing Environments co-founder, led a workshop for student entrepreneurs in the Technical Reference Center.
The college’s annual symposium was established to underscore the influence of research on teaching and practice. It also serves as a catalyst for research-informed teaching in the College of Architecture's degree programs. And, because many of the presentations were originally delivered at scholarly venues abroad, the event also showcases the global influence of research conducted by college faculty.