Design–what makes for a good one
“Frimness. Utility. Delight.”
Written on a plain white card placed on our lunch plates were these words by ancient Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, quoted by another architect, Tobias Guggenheimer, the new academic dean of the School of Fashion and the Arts.
These three words are basically “shorthand to represent what a design needs to be successful,” said Guggenheimer. “Firmness means it has to be structurally sound. Utility, of course, is its usefulness; and delight, its beauty.”
With these values Guggenheimer plans to reinforce SoFA’s fashion and interior design curriculums, to focus on building up students’ critical thinking in the design and creative process, before moving on to develop their technical and business skills.
Over dessert, Guggenheimer engaged media in a casual, classroom-like discussion at SoFA’s new campus in Enzo Building on Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati.
‘Prima donna’ of classes
The first part of SoFA’s curriculum, or the “SoFA Method,” happens in what Guggenheimer called the “prima donna” of classes—the Design Studio. Comparing it to the popular fashion design challenge show “Project Runway,” this course, a requirement for every semester, will have students critiquing each other’s finished works.
We start with design theory, culture and concepts, drawing and representation,” he said. “So we find the ideas, then we translate those ideas through practical courses.”
To add substance to students’ design concepts, one portion of the curriculum is devoted to General Education courses.
“Design is a cultural value, ultimately,” said Guggenheimer. “It represents ideas, community, economy, health and welfare. In order to be a designer, you have to somehow be able to challenge your preconceptions.”
One example he cited is the study of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” which he said could be viewed from a more material perspective.
Finally, there are SoFA’s business and marketing courses, to give students a “sufficient set of skills and a level of aggression… to enter the global market.”
Aside from his architectural experience, running half of his firm here in the country (the other half in New York), Guggenheimer has taught at Parsons School of Design and Pratt University. He’s been teaching since 1991.
“It’s extremely rewarding to be in an academic environment because of the tremendous sense of optimism and enthusiasm,” he said.