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Now and Then : The Upside of Evolution

Michael Rotondi's Alumni Talk for SCI-Arc Graduation 2012

Good afternoon everyone – My name is Michael Rotondi aka Roto

Parents, relatives, friends, my colleagues, Director Moss, Board of Trustees, and especially all you in the Class of 2012 _ The 40th Graduating Class of SCI-Arc, congratulations.

I represent the first Graduating Class___1973___there were ten of us, all top 10. I have been a part of SCI-Arc for 40 years, in every capacity. A Student, a Teacher, a Director, a Trustee, and most importantly, a member of the Family.

Throughout, I’ve been a witness to a form of Creation Itself. A collective organism, conceived at the epicenter, where the counter-productive force of Anger transforms into the generative power of Creativity. Although it began as a revolution, SCI-Arc was a Love Child.

I am often asked – How do you compare, Now and Then? I think to myself, “Then is still Now, genetically.”

It’s a long story with a simple answer. From my point of view, what we see here now, embodied in this class of 2012, is without any doubt in my mind, The Upside of Evolution

Backstory in Perspective SCI-Arc‘s existence was as inevitable as the context from which it emerged. It exists because of you, and all that have come before. To put it in perspective I will go back a ways. This can be understood as fact and it can be understood as metaphor.

Trajectory 4.6 billion years ago planet earth formed, and soon became the place of more complicated processes that led to life in all it’s forms. Humankind added another level of complexity and behavior, 250,000 years ago, when our use of language and other symbols, began to introduce a new capacity for collective learning. Knowledge and skills accumulated non-genetically from generation to generation.

Collective learning gave us a history, making it possible for us to learn more, faster in proximity to others.

Collective Learning shapes the Evolution of Human Societies. Over time, humans became a highly networked and inter-dependent creatures.

In numbers we became a learning organism. Still true. Symbolic Language became a memory system – an external hard drive. Human societies marked a sudden and unexpected emergence of a new level of complexity.

SCI-Arc is Born 40 years ago an even more unexpected evolutionary event to place, the emergence of SCI - Arc, adding an even greater level of complexity to the Universe. A protean organism emerged - It was like a cloud with a core, always adapting to a changing world, and always conserving its’ identity and integrity. Change and Conservation.

It was a time of, _Boundless optimism _Extreme motivation _Intense conflict _Great learning, and _Immense fun

Our Comfort has always been in Proportion to Uncertainty. That is the way for Creative Types.

Now and Then is Now - the Past is still Present. SCI-Arc became a new laboratory, in many ways, becoming both a social and educational experiment. Students and faculty worked long and productive hours exploring a wide range of ideas and strategies to implement them. We worked like kids experimenting in the garage, taking risks without fear of failure. Our method was defined as trial and error. If we hit a dead end, we turned back to the fork in the road and went in another direction.

For the first time, we had discovered a life for ourselves. There was no other place we wanted to be. Without realizing it, we were already on a trajectory that was preparing us for the high adventure of creating our own world in the world beyond.

All of us with the great fortune to be present here at the beginning and now, have been a witness to, and a participant in a life being born, and reborn, standing erect, and growing to maturity, and taking it’s place in the world, not merely responding and adapting to it’s environment as Darwin might say, but defining it’s own world within worlds, constructing it’s own environment, always believing that anything imaginable is possible and eventually realizing that there was and still is, an advantage to being young and naïve.

An ethos began to take shape,

One that intuitively understood that cooperation is biological necessity, One that believed in the good.

‘Knowing what good meant, resulted naturally in doing it, and what is truly good, is best for all,’ Socrates had argued.

In moments of reflection we would ask the same questions you ask now. Why are we doing this? What will we achieve? What will our return on investment be? What are our guarantees for success? We have no definitive answers to these questions, but one thing we know in our hearts:

It is the right thing to do! This is Faith – believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. “As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and you will flow with them to your great delight and benefit. Faith is to believe what you don’t see, the reward will ultimately be to see what you believe” St. Augustine said, At this moment and in these times, the bad news will become the good news, if you sustain the courage that kept you searching all year for the answer to your teachers big question, “What is your Thesis ?” You must also sustain your faith in the Promise of Architecture.

What we have seen year after year and especially now in our 40th year, bearing witness to the extra ordinary work of this Graduating Class of 2012, presented in May and this weekend, I say, “Much has changed and nothing has changed. The original ethos is operating at a higher level.”

SCI-Arc is an evolutionary imperative.

You Graduates are SCI-Arc, You Graduates are both the parent and the child of SCI-Arc, perhaps, we are the only ones who understand this but I believe it to be true. SCI-Arc lives because of you.

So now, it is time for all of you to go into the world with all of your aspirations, and please call home once in a while, and continue to make the family as proud as we are at this moment. with love and admiration I wish you well.


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