New environmental design minor launches

March 17, 2014 •

CU-Boulder’s Program in Environmental Design is launching a new minor, to begin this fall, with three possible tracks: design, history and theory, and planning.  

The Environmental Design minor is open to all students on campus and provides a foundation in theory, history, and methodology employed in fields such as architecture, planning, landscape architecture and related design disciplines.

The idea to start an ENVD minor was initiated from students in various programs around campus requesting it, according to JoAnn Silverstein, the director of the ENVD program and a professor in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.

“Many architectural engineering students have requested an ENVD minor in order to get more experience in the aesthetics of design and will get credit for ENVD coursework already required for their major,” Silverstein said. “We have also had requests from students in environmental studies and the Leeds School of Business real estate certificate program since some of them, like architectural engineering students, are already taking courses in ENVD.”

One of the goals in offering this new ENVD minor is to expose students to the varied benefits of design education, according to ENVD faculty member, Georgia Lindsay. 

“Students from all disciplines on campus can benefit from environmental design’s interdisciplinary and hands-on approach to learning,” said Lindsay. “Our students often work collaboratively in teams and have to think creatively and critically to address complex issues in the built environment. They must then communicate and present their ideas effectively. These skills are beneficial to students no matter what they plan to do after college.”

While many students who major in environmental design go on to work in traditional design fields of architecture and planning, some take their design education foundation and excel in other professions. 

This January, two ENVD alumnae gave a lecture to current ENVD students on how their design-based education benefited them in their current professions. Local artist Jen Lewin creates interactive public art and, on her website, credits her training as an architect in ENVD for “pieces that are often the scale of buildings and rooms. She creates experiences and environments that are both part of, and integrated into, a physical space."

Her co-lecturer Eric Schweikardt started a company that makes robot construction kits for kids called Modular Robotics and he also credits his background in design for his success. 

“In architecture school, I think I learned about complexity and when I talk about complexity I mean systems that are comprised of lots of simple little elements that you understand that combine to create a larger emerging behavior,” Schweikardt said in his lecture. “What I’m doing with my life these days is building tools to help kids build complex systems of their own, manipulate them and design solutions to complex problems.”

Students may declare the environmental design minor beginning March 31.