Greetings from the New Director

11 Jul, 2016

Greetings from the New Director

We are delighted to welcome Nicholas de Monchaux to his new role as Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media. Nicholas is an Associate Professor of Architecture & Urban Design and brings a deep awareness of the transformation of media in our environment. Below, Nicholas shares his thoughts on the future of BCNM.

Dear Friends of BCNM, Dear Colleagues

I’m delighted to greet you for the first time in my new role as Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media.

My own, abiding interest in the influence of new media on how we shape the world dates from the early renaissance — not in my direct experience, of course! But rather as the landmark moment when architects ceased to direct works directly on the building site and began to design and act on the world indirectly, through drawings and contracts. While these media have changed over the resulting centuries — from parchment and ink to databases and code — we live in a world literally shaped by media, and its transformation.

Since coming to Berkeley in 2006, I have found BCNM to be a thriving, profoundly welcoming community, and instrumental in my own work. And so it is a particular pleasure to help serve and sustain such a community as Director, and to offer my particular thanks to those previous directors — David Bates, Ken Goldberg, Yehuda Kalay and most recently Greg Niemeyer — whose diligent and creative efforts, alongside that of our core faculty and Executive committee — have allowed this community to survive and thrive in a transforming university, and world.

My goal most of all will be to help ensure BCNM remains the welcoming, ambitious and creative community that I have found it to be over the last decade, and to continue to engage and serve my colleagues in the center — students and faculty both — whose work pushes the boundaries of critical, and creative practice. This is an essential mission—not just for BCNM, but for the wider university and communities it seeks to serve.

For today, of course, there is a perhaps even more important way for an architect to regard new media; the growing, real-world collision of the landscape of media and the landscape of buildings, cities, and lived experience. As a result, from Virtual Reality to Autonomous Vehicles, we must negotiate, and sometime re-negotiate, the fundamental questions of privacy, equity, diversity and openness that define our universities, cities, and society at large. And we must engage these questions within the larger, existential threat of global poverty, urbanization and climate transformation that threaten our own future on this planet. Like many of you, I believe we must harness the subtle, enormous power of our transforming media to shape more just, sustainable, and resilient human communities in the decades to come.

I congratulate my predecessor Greg Niemeyer in particular for his leadership in thinking and acting through these questions over the last three years, and I look forward most of all to helping engage them, with you, in the years to come.

Nicholas de Monchaux
Director, Berkeley Center for New Media
Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design