2017 Silver Circle winner Alexander Eisenschmidt
Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.
The work of Silver Circle Award winner Alexander Eisenschmidt, an architectural theorist and designer, is rooted in observations of the existing urban environment as he strives to investigate what he calls, “the productive tension between the modern city and architectural form.”
Eisenschmidt, assistant professor at the School of Architecture, teaches design studios — traditionally devoted to drawing and diagramming — and courses in history and theory, which are dedicated to writing, and tries to impart a connection between these aspects of architecture.
“My teaching challenges this traditional divide by emphasizing an intentional fluidity between the two strands,” Eisenschmidt said. “My design studios are equally grounded in a theoretical and historical context while my history/theory courses always involve visual and graphic analysis in addition to writing.”
He has lectured, chaired conferences and published extensively on the connection between the modern city and architecture, and his aim is to cultivate a way of thinking among his students that frees them to embrace the unknown.
Rather than relying on prescribed methodology, outdated canons and procedures, he designs his classes as platforms for focused learning, collaborative experimentation, and impactful research. Related to the topics that he teaches, Eisenschmidt strives to provide his students with an intellectual openness to an increasingly urban world, a curiosity in engaging it through the means of architecture, and an inquisitiveness that finds possibilities in the most unlikely of places.
“My goal is to create an informed architect who is neither solely a service provider nor an artist, but instead a public intellectual able to productively intervene in the world we live and to project beyond it,” he said.
His focus is on the intersection between architecture and the urban environment from the emergence of the western industrial metropolis in the 19th century to the 21st century city. He is especially gratified that after completion of his courses his students continue working on projects that they began during the semester.
Eisenschmidt, who received his doctorate in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and his master’s degree in architecture from Pratt Institute, said of the awards he has received during his career, the Silver Circle stands out for him.
“It’s one that is very precious to me, simply because it is given by the graduating students,” he said. “I am honored to know that my teaching contributed in meaningful ways to their education and I want the students to know that their inquisitiveness and curiosity has, in turn, greatly impacted my work.”