At the intersection of who we were, who we are and where we’re going is a common denominator: a deliberate focus on design and its impact, rural to urban and local to global. The origin is here, in Lexington, at this place of pedagogy, legacy and invention. Our vision is bold: new programs, new partners, new identity, all infused with Kentucky's indigenous spirit and its imprint on our unfolding story.
The Dean Distilled
38°84° is more than a logotype or mark. While it symbolizes this moment forward for the College of Design at the University of Kentucky, it is also a specific place. The beautiful feature of coordinates is that they make every point in space real. These representations point to tangible topography – elevation, texture, color and history. 38°N, 84°W is Lexington, which sits inside a diverse Kentucky landscape of limestone with water that cuts through it producing the industries of the Commonwealth – from ruralscape to urban space.Read the full letter
About the College
Like many institutions of higher learning, the College of Design has experienced several evolutions in its time at the University of Kentucky.
The School of Architecture is the oldest program in the college, with its origins in the 1920s as an architectural option in the College of Engineering. Professor Charles P. Graves joined the Civil Engineering faculty in 1958, charged with converting the architectural option to a professional degree program. The curriculum changed from a mathematical and applied science concentration to courses in the arts, science, humanities, architectural design and history.
The School of Architecture was established in 1965 with Professor Graves as Dean. That year, the program also received its first accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The School became a college in 1967.
In 1971, Professor Graves resigned, and Professor Anthony Eardley became the second Dean in 1972. Prior to coming to UK, Dean Eardley served as a professor at the Architectural Association, London, England; Princeton; and The Cooper Union. In 1986, Professor Jose' R. Oubrerie became the third Dean. Dean Oubrerie previously worked as an associate of Le Corbusier and as a professor at Columbia University. David B. Mohney became the fourth Dean in 1994. He had served as Associate Director of Education, IAUS, as a visiting critic at Harvard University.
In 2002, the School of Architecture merged with the School of Interiors and the Historic Preservation Program to become the College of Design.
In 2008, Michael Speaks became the first appointed Dean for the College of Design. Dean Speaks was the former director of the Graduate Program and founding director of the Metropolitan Research and Design Postgraduate Program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles.
In fall 2015, Mitzi Vernon joined the College of Design as its new Dean. She is a former professor of Industrial Design in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech. Her career spans 29 years of practice and teaching in industrial design, engineering and architecture.
Today, its mission is a re-imagined College of Design, infused with Kentucky’s indigenous spirit. The vision is bold: new programs, new partners, new identity, all built upon our history and its imprint on our unfolding story.
This new vision is encapsulated by a new tagline: 38°84° the power of place. These coordinates hone in on its geographical location, and with it, what this region brings to the conversation of design. “Kentucky is a place with an unsung song,” said Mitzi Vernon, dean of the College of Design. “There is great opportunity here to build something new onto a rich history of place."
The college’s mission is to celebrate Kentucky and its historical role in the study of design, and new plans are in place to share its story.
There are those who argue whether Kentucky is in the North or South (mind you, we checked the “neither” box when it came to the Civil War, so it’s hard to call). But it’s really irrelevant at this point because the Bluegrass State has carved out its own niche outside the boundaries of a compass. The place? We are at 38°84°, but who we are is where it gets really interesting.
Many of our attributes precede us: our world-renowned skills at crafting bourbon, our legendary horse farms, and our national champion UK basketball team. But that’s like saying New Orleans has some kickass jazz, but that’s pretty much it.
There’s a whole culture, a fluid lifestyle that sets the pace here in Lexington. It draws a younger crowd, with the median age in Lexington-Fayette County being 33.9 (compared to the national average of 37.3 years old). But on the flip side, Time magazine ranked the city as one of the top five places to retire.
That’s right, Lexington embraces its inner yin/yang.
Art is a big part of life in Lexington, and supportive endeavors like LexArts and Community Supported Arts (CSA) by the Lexington Art League exist to promote local artists and help share their work. But business is drawn here as well, with Forbes voting Lexington #16 in the 2015 Best Places for Business and Careers.
This is a city with a great deal of complexity for only having around 625,000 residents. But it’s the quality of life here that helps Lexington keep racking up the media nods. While small in stature compared to some other college cities, Lexington offers an urban feel with an easy escape to appease the wanderlust in us all.