Prior to retirement, architecture professor Anne Munly reflects on career | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
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Anne Munly attributes her interest in architecture to a friend who once brought a T-square ruler with him to high school. At the time, girls were discouraged from pursuing fields such as architecture, but the explanation her friend gave of the T-square intrigued her.
“I said, ‘Well, what do you do with that?’ And he explained, ‘For drawing,’” Munly said. “But girls weren’t allowed to take those classes, so it was kind of mysterious to me.”
When it came time to choose a college, Munly selected the University of Virginia with a major in architecture. She was unsure that it would be the right fit — but it was. After graduating from UVA, Munly earned her master’s degree in architecture from Princeton University and worked at an architecture firm before returning to Princeton as a professor.
When Munly moved to Syracuse, she wanted to focus on practicing architecture instead of teaching. But the dean of the Syracuse University School of Architecture at the time, Werner Seligmann, convinced her to join the school’s faculty.
Since then, Munly has spent more than 30 years as an architecture professor at SU, a career that she will retire from at the end of this semester. Throughout her time at the university, the architecture program and industry experienced significant changes as digital platforms became incorporated into the work. The style of teaching in the architecture school has also changed.
Outside of the classroom, Munly is impacting SU in one last way. For her final year as a professor, Munly designed “Exhibition Interrupted.” The exhibit is in the Marble Room in Slocum Hall and features a practice she has been honing for several years: taking a flat medium — like stainless steel or wood — and changing it by cutting patterns into the surface or bending it.
The pieces are also designed to reflect on the pandemic’s impact on art and architecture and the distance it has created by “keeping things at bay,” Munly said. The project is on display both in person and virtually, and it consists of large wooden panels installed around the gallery. The exhibit will be on display until May 25.
Throughout her time as a professor, Munly encouraged experimentation both with her students and in her design process. Lawrence Davis, an associate professor and the undergraduate chair of the architecture program, said Munly is a professor who pushes creativity instead of following a stricter approach.
“The point is that architectural design was not a formula, that it was a search for somehow fitting into solving a set of problems that even might emerge as you’re designing,” Davis said. “She was part of the group of people who brought it to the school, and I’m grateful for it, that’s for sure.”
Munly has taught a variety of classes in the program, one of which being the introductory studio course that architecture students take in their first semester at SU.
Sophomore architecture major Isabella Bai, who took her introductory course with Munly, appreciated how she guided the students as they learned the work, rather than more directly telling them what to do with their designs.
“She was very loose with everything, and she wanted to see you try your hand at coming up with your own way to design and not enforcing her ideas on your designs,” Bai said.
Munly has also had a substantial role with SU Abroad’s architecture programs, and the strength of the Italy program was part of what attracted her to SU. Since joining the faculty, Munly has spent several years both working at and directing the Florence architecture program. She also has directed the London program and helped start the program in Japan.
Munly considers the abroad programs “a hallmark and a strength” of the school. To her, being able to get architecture students out into the world to see buildings and urban spaces firsthand is an important aspect of being able to really teach architecture.
After retiring, Munly hopes to travel once the pandemic is no longer a concern and focus on her practice, which does everything from smaller-scale commercial work to residential projects.
“I’ve been teaching for a long time, and I can have more time for my practice and for making things and doing things,” Munly said. “The teaching and the committee work takes a lot of time, and it’s not time that I ever regretted.”
Published on May 4, 2021 at 10:47 pm