Dipu Guptais a world-renowned set designer and architect who is based in New Mexico but has come to the San Joaquin Valley to teach for one year. He arrived in time for the beginning of the 2008-09 academic year and dove right into a schedule that included two classes per semester, one on set design and three on architecture.
“Even though there are no majors in either subject yet, they are considered upper division classes,” said Gupta, whose classes are offered through the
School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. “It is an interesting situation; my students have many different backgrounds, some have a little art experience.”
As older students, they are mature and able to manage a higher level of learning, he said, “But at the same time they are not familiar with the process of learning art in an art class in an art school, so that has to be taught at an introductory level. The class also has to be very introductory in terms of subject matter.”
His architecture classes introduce basic concepts and exercises, and then he takes the focus to urban design and modern housing. Gupta has a personal interest in sustainable design, another factor that drew him to UC Merced, where sustainable design is the watchword for all planned growth.
“It is a pretty amazing experience to be around when the university is just beginning,” Gupta said. “In one class, we are looking at urban design in the context of sustainable design. As an architect, it is a very unique experience to be able to teach about growth while it is happening.”
This spring, Gupta will present a symposium in conjunction with his class regarding sustainable urban design, and invite university staff and faculty as well as members of the Merced community to participate in a discussion in no small way stimulated by topics chosen by his students.
“I find the university expansion exciting; what the university plans for the next 20 to 25 years, the development and scale, is pretty amazing. It truly is intelligent planning; no sprawl, mixed-use buildings, multiple options for getting around. It’s going to be a small city,” Gupta said. “It makes specific discussions possible, and the students are very interested because it’s not abstract, it’s going on around them.”
As a set designer, Gupta has worked primarily on classic operas and theater productions. Examples of his work were featured in an exhibit, “Visualizing the Word: Scene Design and Drama” at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center in February.
Gupta believes in the intrinsic value of introducing a subject like his that is unrelated to a student’s major. “It is unlikely that any of my students will go out and become architects or have careers in urban planning, but it is important to understand that everyone is a citizen with the potential to make decisions about where they live.”