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    The Newness of Nowness

    Summer 2013

    Marcia Faye

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    Wiel Arets
    Photo: John R. Boehm

    With the spring semester just ended, S. R. Crown Hall is uncharacteristically quiet as Wiel Arets—architect, urbanist, and the new Rowe Family College of Architecture Dean Endowed Chair—suggests we pull up two whimsical yet sturdy chairs that his students exhibited at the college’s spring Open House. Wearing a tailored sports jacket and an expression that alters between intense and contemplative, Arets discusses a term some may consider to be as curious as the chairs: nowness.    

    “Nowness is our approach at the college because I believe we have to start again every single day,” says Arets. “Nowness is the moment we are living in, but our eyes constantly see new things. Every day the city of Chicago and IIT starts anew.”

    The timeless concept of nowness is the bedrock for “Rethinking Metropolis,” Arets’s strategy behind the college’s new curriculum. He says this metropolis encompasses more than the big city and can represent at times suburbia, the world as a whole, or even a new city type; students learn to examine daily life in all its aspects and the role of the architect in shaping the metropolis of tomorrow. Arets believes the word “metropolis” will eventually need to be redefined as society changes its perception of the city.

    “Wiel Arets will bring to IIT College of Architecture the necessity of widening discourse,” says Phyllis Lambert (M.S. ARCH ’63), founding director and chair of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. “A man of conviction, he will establish a very much needed direction, not of form but that of an open society honed by research, debate, confrontation, innovation, scale, imagination, and a commitment to doing well by this.” Lambert is uniquely qualified to assess Arets’s qualifications. In 1954 she tapped Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design New York’s Seagram Building, in collaboration with Philip Johnson.

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