A New Website for the UMass Amherst Architecture Program

Rationale

New A+D websiteIn 2004, the University of Massachusetts got approval to start a new accredited graduate-level Masters program in architecture. In the process of reorganizing the existing design program in the Department of Art & Art History into the new Architecture+Design program, a new website was needed.

The old one (at www.umass.edu/art/design/) lacked some basic functionality as well as expandibility. Also, the new web presence was to be moved to www.umass.edu/architecture/. The new Architecture+Design program is novel in its concept of being a fully interdisciplinary program. M.Arch. students attend classes in a wide range of disciplines (Art, Building Materials, Engineering, Mechanical Engineering) on campus and have access to resources both on campus and within the five-college system.

The website was intended to reflect this interdisciplinary nature while providing a clean, expandable platform for communicating program information.

Implementation

The design is based on two motifs: The strong horizontal shapes of the Fine Arts Center in which the program is housed and the square, which is meant to be a visual representation of the equal contributions of the interdisciplinary partners on campus (square = 4 equal sides). These motifs were implemented by using horizontal bands of color (albeit grey in most cases) and an always-present orange square. While the bands contain identification and navigation elements, the orange square is a navigational beacon that always shows the user where on the site he/she is.

The site was created in Dreamweaver using Templates since this provided a good means of protecting the design while allowing future administrators of the site to enter information easily. Higher-level graphic elements like Flash navigation were not implemented because UMass websites need to adhere to accessibility standards. Also, CGI capability was not (easily) available on the server, which did not allow the use of any site management software (e.g. Typo3).

Ultimately, it was decided that the simplest implementation is likely the one to survive the longest (especially under changing website admins) and the Dreamweaver Template method was ideal for this. To look at the site in its full glory, follow this link: New Architecture+Design Website My thanks go to Cecilia Valinotto, Min Jae Kwan and Ping Zhu for their help.

Screenshots