The University Record, April 18, 1994

ITIC signals University’s transition to new age

By Kate Kellogg
News and Information Services

As the University enters the 21st century a few years early, “we see a shift from the preservation and transformation of knowledge, to the creation of knowledge itself,” in an age characterized by fiber optic highways of information unrestricted by time, space and reality, says President James J. Duderstadt.

To adjust to the ever-accelerating pace of change, the president notes, the University needs a place where innovation and creativity have no physical or disciplinary boundaries, a place that integrates technology with the arts and design.

The Integrated Technology Instructional Center (ITIC), under construction next to the Chrysler Center on North Campus, will be such a place, linking together the disciplines of architecture and urban planning, art, engineering and music in the context of advanced information technology.

Duderstadt and six deans who collaborated on the planning and design of the new center spoke of its impact on knowledge and those disciplines at a pre-groundbreaking luncheon April 8 at the School of Art’s Slusser Gallery.

Also speaking at the ceremony were Daniel E. Atkins III, dean of the School of Information and Library Studies (SILS); Peter M. Banks, dean of the College of Engineering; Robert M. Beckley, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Paul C. Boylan, vice provost for the arts and dean of the School of Music; Donald E. Riggs, dean of the University Library; and Allen Samuels, dean of the School of Art.

While Duderstadt and the deans spoke highly of ITIC’s facilities for accessing electronic resources, all emphasized the human element of the project as well—the people who envisioned ITIC and those who will create and learn there.

“ITIC is not just a resource, but a place to focus on the advancement of knowledge. It will embrace the entire campus and have participants throughout the world,” Duderstadt said. “Its success depends on the assembling of teams of extraordinary people challenged with some of the most perplexing problems of our time.”

To Atkins, the building will “extend the paradigm of browsing in a library to new opportunities... The center will enhance our ability to communicate, improve access to data and knowledge and relax the restrictions of distance and time on the transfer of information.”

Besides the challenge of mastering the new technology, scholars must gain an understanding of the socio-economic uses of it, Atkins said. ITIC will help the University “stair-step ourselves into a fundamental discovery of how this vast array of technology can be used.”

SILS will work closely with ITIC, he added, to produce a new blend of professionals who can manage these technologies for the university of the future.

By combining and focusing their respective tools, the disciplines of art, music architecture and engineering can create machines “that allow people to transcend space and time,” Banks said.

He admitted to being “sucked into different worlds for the duration of a quarter” at video arcades. ITIC promises a similar type of transcendence on different levels, he said.

“As a launching platform for a set of worlds we can’t see, ITIC will invite us to explore new modes of communication and thought ... worlds where we can improve upon the human condition.”

Beckley and Samuels momentarily turned the audience’s attention from grand technological capabilities to smaller-scale accomplishments in close proximity. The vases displayed on each table were designed and fabricated by students in the architecture, industrial design and graphics arts programs.

“We can promise to integrate all the technology in the world,” said Samuels, “but note that these centerpieces were made one at a time, by human beings using ordinary tools and materials.”

He hopes that ITIC will provide a balance of such dedication to art with the technologies that supplement human creativity. Artists and architects “need to know how not to betray our traditions—and how not to get stuck in them.”

Just as engineers give life and function to materials, said Samuels, so do artists “make visible what it means to be alive. What we have done individually is incredible. I ask you to imagine what we can do together.”

A highlight of the groundbreaking ceremony was a participatory installation/performance at the Chrysler Center. The project represented the type of collaboration that will mark other works and research undertaken through ITIC.

“Dark Matter,” created by Jamy Sheridan, a research fellow at the School of Art, projected computer images on a human scale onto a layer of sand on the floor of a darkened space. The Digital Music Ensemble accompanied the images with electronic music and the Dance Department provided the performance’s dance component.

The three-story, 300,000 square-foot ITIC, designed by Albert Kahn Associates, will include library/instructional computing facilities, production spaces, audio-visual resources, gallery space, design visualization/simulation facilities, and teleconferencing areas.