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Finding Meaning in Architectural Design

Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Dr. Robert Meden, professor of Interior Design, and Meg Konkel, assistant professor of Interior Design, co-teach the Discover 101 course “Federal City: Symbol and Myth.” This semester, to prepare their freshmen to look at the architecture of Washington, DC, with a critical eye, they asked them to tease out the meanings in the design of Marymount’s logo and several campus buildings.

Jennifer Castellanos, one of only two Interior Design majors in the class, wrote that the trefoil cross that tops the cupola in Marymount’s logo shows that “the University is committed to its Catholic background.” Samer Abdallah, a Politics major, noted that the cupola itself “stands tall to show strength and pride within the Marymount community, the kind of strength that isn’t easily broken.” He also observed that part of the cupola “is hidden in shadow, while the rest is illuminated by the light, representing a change in the student’s personality and intellect after attending the University.”

Looking at campus buildings, several students focused on the use of columns on the Main House and Lee Center. Edward Rosenberg, a History major, observed, “The columns of Marymount are not placed simply for beauty and engineering; they represent the strength of the University – the strength in a fine system of education that is passed down year after year from teacher to student.” He added, “They also represent the strength of the school’s ideals that date back to 1950, when it was founded.”

As the freshmen moved on from consideration of design elements at MU to those in the nation’s capital, they were prepared to look with a discerning eye and think critically about what they were seeing. Ms. Konkel says, “I’ve been impressed by the students’ research questions and how they have delved into them, grappling with the meaning in architectural design.” Dr. Meden adds, “They’re making the connection. When they went to the monuments on the National Mall, one student remarked on how controlled the vistas are, saying, ‘I wouldn’t have noticed that before.’”