Jan 15, 2017

In her Education essay in the January edition of LD+A, Alyssa Humphries Stewart, assistant professor of architectural and lighting design and director of the Center for Lighting Education at Texas Christian University, describes the steps taken by TCU to revamp its 20-year-old lighting minor. An excerpt follows here:

Texas Christian University is home to the Center for Lighting Education and an 18-hour undergraduate lighting minor founded by Professor Emeritus Fred Oberkircher in 1996. I began teaching lighting design at TCU in 2014 and in 2015 was given the opportunity to re-envision the lighting program. This task included the overall focus of the program, curriculum and recruiting. The first phase would be to concentrate on the curriculum. The second phase would be to address the pipeline of students and educators. I began by reviewing our peer institutions for architectural lighting design (ALD) and asking questions, such as: 1) Are their programs undergraduate or graduate? 2) Do any institutions offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in ALD? 3) Are other institutions offering minors in ALD? 4) Do they have lighting courses offered strictly as electives?

IALD’s Learn2Light website is a great resource for finding which courses and program types are being offered. I found that of the 24 institutions offering ALD courses, 10 are in the U.S. Of these, two are certificate programs and three offer graduate degrees in ALD. Other institutions have between two and 13 lighting courses as part of a related major such as engineering or architecture. There are no four-year undergraduate institutions where you can major in ALD. TCU’s lighting minor is the only offering of its kind in an undergraduate or graduate program. To put these numbers in context, there are 49 undergraduate and 104 graduate architecture programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

The lighting minor at TCU previously specialized in lighting for retail. Rather than taking a start-from-scratch approach, the plan was to build on the existing foundation but expand the focus of the curriculum to encompass and reflect the project types on which the majority of lighting design firms collaborate. They include commercial interiors, healthcare, residential, hospitality, retail and exterior/urban planning. I then set out to identify the design skills an entry-level lighting designer would need before starting his/her first job.

Essential to building those skills would be the creation of an environment that fosters exploration of the creative, scientific and technical aspects of design. This can be achieved by having courses that teach these aspects concurrently in order to illustrate how these interdisciplinary studies influence and inspire each other. An advantage of keeping the ALD program at TCU as a minor as opposed to transitioning into a four-year major is that we are able to collaborate with related majors and draw from their student populations. This, in turn, allows for students to explore various majors in design or engineering fields while providing a foundation in architectural lighting design.

The new curriculum for TCU’s ALD minor begins with a Fundamentals of Lighting course. This lecture with integrated lab covers topics ranging from understanding and evaluating the quality and quantity of light, to basic luminaire design, as well as hand calculations, daylight modeling and analysis, and issues of health and sustainability. The wide range of topics covered in the course allows the students to see how broad and far-reaching the field is and ultimately should inspire them to enroll in more in-depth courses.

With an eye toward innovation, four new courses have been added to the minor to develop previously unstudied areas of ALD at TCU:

The last course a student takes in the minor is the Senior Thesis in Lighting. Over the course of their last semester, students will spend five weeks researching a topic of their choice while being mentored one-on-one by a professor. During the second half of the semester, students transition their research into an evidence-based design project.

Other Disciplines
As part of the minor, students have the opportunity to take related interdisciplinary courses. For example, Photography allows students to hone their skills in composition and learn how to document their future projects. Theatre and Dance Lighting courses create opportunities to explore the blend of artistic and technical aspects of lighting design in another medium while expanding their understanding of three-dimensional space, composition and color theory.

The university approved the re-envisioned curriculum this past May, and students began enrolling in these courses during the Fall 2016 semester.

January 2017