Thursday, March 22, 2018

Q&A: Vincent Canizaro, UTSA Department of Architecture

Q&A: Vincent Canizaro, UTSA Department of Architecture

Vincent Canizaro has conducted extensive research in regionalism, sustainability, design media and process, landscape and site-specific design theory.

(March 2, 2018) -- Vincent Canizaro joined UTSA in 2001 and is an associate professor in the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning. Canizaro has conducted extensive research in regionalism, sustainability, design media and process, landscape and site-specific design theory. The UTSA professor has published the book Architectural Regionalism with Princeton Architectural Press, authored book chapters on sustainability and regionalism, and numerous articles in publications such as Texas Architect, the AIA San Antonio Guidebook to Architecture and the Journal of Architectural Education. As a practicing architect, Canizaro focused on site-specific, sustainable and residential architecture.

We sat down with Professor Canizaro this week to learn about his research in sustainable design and landscape.

You always have lots of projects going on at once. What’s exciting you the most these days?

I think sustainability as a discourse has its deepest roots in regionalist thinking. This means that true sustainable work and sustainable processes are best understood at the scale of the region in which a community wishes to maintain/sustain itself. In the end, sustainability about is everyone understanding where they live, living in concert with what is needed in their region, and living in participation with their place. This is what I am most concerned about and excited to help students and others understand.

Specific to San Antonio, this means we all need to be concerned with water, a limited living resource, solar energy as a de facto easy source of energy, and better transportation-oriented living patterns so we can have a pedestrian-friendly, socially-engaged community.

How has your personal journey influenced your work?

I lived in many places when I was a child: Dallas, Texas, Mercer Island in Washington and Chappaqua, New York. I believe that being able to live in different states has a lot to do with my appreciation of place and people’s attachment to the places and people where they live. Also, both Mercer Island and Chappaqua had rather unique landscapes full of undeveloped land and forests. I grew up away from sprawl, highways and strip centers, which helped me appreciate the natural world as a valued part of one’s community.

What’s your favorite architectural landmark and why?

These days, it is Exeter library by Louis Kahn located in New Hampshire. It is a remarkable space that is both impressive and intimate at the same time. Kahn’s designs are deceptively simple and radically complex at the same time. More so, you have to experience them to really understand them; pictures and drawings don’t represent his buildings really at all.

What’s the one thing going on in your field that nobody’s talking about?

The importance of biophilia in sustainable design, or seeking connections with nature and other forms of life. It is being talked about, but I think it is undervalued.

I believe, in this day, most emphasis is given to reducing the energy demands of buildings and other technological achievements, but so much about buildings is about being in them, around them and how they are integrated into the local environment and ecosystem. This experiential piece is so central, I think it is often overlooked.

What do you think is the biggest challenge researchers in your field are facing?

Overall, it is the scarcity of both funding and venues for research publication in non-scientific realms of architecture. The scientific work is a relatively small part of what we do.

Part of that challenge is that we are a professional school that trains students to be future practicing architects. Research is emerging as more important to the profession yet most of our mission is still the basic education of designers.

What drew you to UTSA?

I was attracted by the opportunity to help build the program we have today. I arrived at UTSA at the time when we went from being a division of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts to our own school of Architecture and finally becoming the UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning. Once the full transition was made after moving to the Downtown Campus, student enrollment ballooned in size to about 1,000 students at one point. I think I had a different office every year for the first five or six years during that crucial transition.

What would you say to a student who is interested in pursuing a career in architecture?

To always remember that design is about helping people to live, work and play better. Designers are inherently optimists, and we get to help make things better by creating new and enriching places. Learning how to do this is not easy, but the rewards are many.

- Ingrid Wright

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