On Friday, January 20th we had the opportunity of engaging Gary Gaston, executive director of the Nashville Civic Design Center (NCDC), in discussion as part of the CoAD Colloquium series. Gary spent the hour detailing the history of the NCDC and the many projects it has undertaken and is currently undertaking. Among the main points of discussion were the center’s guiding design principles and ideals, all of which shared the common theme of being helmed by public participation. As a nonprofit organization, the NCDC acts an advocate for “public health and welfare” and as such actively engages the public in design decisions. Gary mentioned that over the course of roughly two and a half years the center had engaged the public in over 50 design meetings and charettes. This level of engagement is practically unheard of in most publicly funded design/planning offices, let alone in private practice.
One thing above the level of public input that the NCDC receives is the amount of outreach and educational engagement the center puts back into the Nashville community and its surrounding suburbs. The center’s plans to role out their Citizen Planner and Design Your Neighborhood curriculums is of particular interest to me due to my background in education. As a science intern at Oak Ridge High School I found the available curriculum on engineering and architectural design to be surprisingly lacking. What was more was the fact that architecture, urban planning, and architecture were viewed by faculty as non-compatible with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum. In reality this is not the case. Design professions of the 21st century are heavily rooted in the STEM disciplines and should be treated as viable STEM careers for aspiring professionals. I hope that the new curriculum developed by the Nashville Civic Design Center can address the lack of design professions in current STEM standards.