Spotted this on John Thackara’s consistently enjoyable and thought-provoking Doors Of Perception newsletter: sounds like a very interesting cross-disciplinary project.

AALTO UNIVERSITY: FOR LIFE, OR UNDECIDED? (TEXT OF TALK) A major new university is to be named after the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto. Aalto University, which opens in 2010, is the result of a merger between the Helsinki School of Economics (Finland’s top business school, with 4,000 students); the University of Art and Design (one of Europe’s top design and art schools, with 2,000 students); and Helsinki University of Technology (the main technical university, including the country’s principal architecture school, with 15,000 students). Four hundred people are already busy preparing the new university, but I was asked to speak at symposium in Helsinki called “Beyond Tomorrow” about what the new university should do, and be. The University has stated that it will will “make a positive contribution to Finnish society, technology, economy, art, art and design, and support the welfare of both humans and the environment”. I proposed that Aalto University should stand for something more precise than this: an unconditional respect for life, and for the conditions that support life. Read more at:

Another interesting educational institution that I hadn’t heard of until this week: the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. I met Cinzia Scaffidi, of Slow Food, at a meeting on plant science and crop diversity in Tunis this week, and she told me about this unique school which was founded in 2003. “Food is the meeting point of many disciplines,” she said. The objective is to create an international research and training center, working to renew farming methods, protect biodiversity and maintain an organic relationship between gastronomy and agricultural science.

I like the link-in this provides to the current debate in the U.S. about how to re-think liberal arts programmes, where there is a strong focus on bringing in areas like mapping urban food systems.