Out of the Box Thinking
“[College administrators] regularly talk about how important it is to look at things from a fresh prospective,” says Associate Dean and Professor of Landscape Architecture Art Rice, FCELA. “And, as designers [it is important] to question our preconceived notions and assumptions about things. But it is often difficult to translate this into our day-to-day operations. We are all designers, but we tend to forget, when we are being administrators, to think like a designer.”
Rice is sharing the reasoning behind a new accolade that was created, The Outside of the Box Award. The award celebrates and acknowledges a person who exemplifies a “willingness to challenge administrative and managerial assumptions and to think differently about attacking problems.” The College hopes to encourage others to think differently and “to break out of the mold from the past to generate solutions for the future and to look at taking and generating appropriate steps forward.”
The idea of the award developed as Rice and Dean Hoversten were thinking about the need and opportunity to have people evolve their thinking. “It could have been created earlier,” Rice admits, “but I think as we are facing challenges in higher education, and the growth and changes of the College of Design and the University continue, it is going to be less and less likely that we can continue to deal with the issues the way we have dealt with them in the past.” He believes that it will be imperative to challenge the perspectives and assumptions in place in order to push forward.
“[This award] is kind of an opportunity to have people evolve their ideas about ‘thinking differently’ and be willing to step out and break the box,” Rice says. Rice understands that there is risk involved and that “thinking differently,” can be uncomfortable, but also necessary. The award is a way, as Rice explains, “to celebrate someone who has broken the mold. I think we all can do that, but we don’t always.”
The first recipient of the Outside of the Box Award is Peter Krarup Kjær. Until his recent retirement in 2018, Kjær was the director of the NC State College of Design’s Prague Institute and professor of the practice in architecture since 2014. “His entire career and the way he is, has been anything but usual,” Rice says of Kjær. “I know Peter, and this is in his blood. He is not satisfied with keeping things like they are—he likes to push boundaries and ideas.”
Kjær has an impressive career path that crosses global boundaries. He has been an architect, a researcher, a consultant, a publisher, an academician, and an administrator.
Rice offers several examples of Kjær’s efforts to push boundaries that support his reasoning for selecting him as the inaugural recipient of this award. Kjær, Rice says, faced and resolved several complicated issues of transition when he took on the role of director at the Prague Institute. Kjær was able to quickly transform the staff and the programs offered at the institute. Additionally, Rice points out that Kjær questioned the location of the Prague Institue. The institute, Rice says, “had been located in a quaint historic building, and we all believed it was the perfect place, but Peter realized it could be better.” Kjær sought out additional locations, and in 2017, there was a move to a new site that offered more space, flexibility, and numerous advantages that others had not anticipated. “Without his willingness to question these assumptions, this advancement of the institute would never have happened,” Rice notes. Kjær has also been instrumental in the transfer of the Prague Institute from the College of Design to the University and its evolution to the NC State European Center.
This Outside of the Box Award is just one way that the College of Design is working to push boundaries and propel the College forward.