“Without financial aid, students from developing countries, like us, would not be able to attend prestigious schools like Harvard. Iran is full of talented architects, but they are at a disadvantage if they want to continue their education abroad. I hope that we are able to fill the knowledge gap and make a positive impact in our home country. I think that many people want the same, but to do so, they need the opportunity to expand their knowledge.”
— Zeinab Maghdouri MLA I AP ’24
Mojtaba and Zeinab first met as undergraduate students studying architecture at the Iran University of Science & Technology and bonded over their shared passion for sustainable design and urban planning. They married after graduating and co-founded Maze, a small architecture studio in Tehran. Despite their professional success, they both felt a strong desire to further their education. Newly married, the couple agreed that separating from each other for graduate school was not an option. To strengthen their relationship along with their education, they decided to apply to graduate programs in the U.S. with the commitment to attend together—or not at all.
Mojtaba: “When we were working in the professional field, we realized that in order to make meaningful contributions, we needed to continue our education. We knew that attending a school abroad would give us the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in the field and gain a fresh perspective on design.”
After considering multiple schools for their graduate studies, Mojtaba and Zeinab ultimately decided on the GSD. The decision was influenced not only by the school’s reputation, but also by the level of connectedness and community they felt.
Zeinab: “I saw my acceptance email at two in the morning, and the first thing we did was check Mojtaba’s. I started crying from happiness when I found out we both got in. A few hours later, we received a phone call from the GSD, congratulating us.”
Soon after receiving the good news, the couple faced an enormous challenge: navigating the process of traveling from Iran to the United States amidst the pandemic.
Mojtaba: “Since there is no United States embassy in Iran, Iranians typically go through the visa process in Dubai, Istanbul, Turkey, or Armenia. However, because of the pandemic, multiple borders were closed. So, Zeinab and I had to go to the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The trip ended up being three times more expensive than we had originally planned for. It was really hard.”
The couple’s journey to Pakistan was a difficult one that included multiple delays and flight cancellations. They had been told that they would receive their visas in two months, but Mojtaba’s ended up taking much longer to process, delaying their scheduled arrival at the GSD.
Mojtaba: “Making it all the way to the GSD was starting to feel impossible. We were about to give up and just apply to other schools the following year.”
Meanwhile, the cost of graduate school was looming. Iranian students are not eligible for student loans or scholarships, such as The Fulbright, that are supervised by the U.S. Embassy in each country, and money transactions from Iran to the United States are made difficult by sanctions. Fear and stress surrounding their financial situation began to set in.
Just when they felt that all hope was lost, the GSD reached out to Mojtaba and Zeinab and informed them that they would receive additional financial aid. After a year of hardship and uncertainty, the couple’s dream of attending the GSD was finally a reality. Eager and excited, they set off for Cambridge to begin the fall 2022 semester.
Zeinab and Mojtaba on their first day at the GSD
Zeinab: “I remember when we arrived at Logan Airport in Boston—our luggage had gotten lost, and we were exhausted and jetlagged. More than all of that, we were just so happy to finally be there. We went straight to Harvard housing to drop off our belongings and then headed to the GSD. I can still recall my first glimpse of Gund Hall. It was even better than we had imagined.”
Mojtaba and Zeinab were thrilled that, at last, they were able to pursue their passion for architecture—side by side in the trays. Of course, the transition to being full-time students in the U.S. was not without its challenges. This was their first experience speaking English while working with other professionals, and the assigned reading that first semester was, at times, overwhelming.
Mojtaba: “In Iran, architecture is still seen as a form of art, and having artistic skills, such as hand drawing, is highly valued. Clients would often expect us to be able to express our ideas through hand drawings. At the GSD, we quickly realized that designers in the West rely heavily on computers and even coding, which is different from what we were used to.”
Despite these differences in approach, Mojtaba and Zeinab believe that design is a universal language. Thanks to the emotional support from their professors and fellow students, along with financial aid from the GSD, they were able to successfully navigate the transition and make the most of their first year at Harvard.
Zeinab: “If the GSD wishes to maintain its position as a leading institution, it should strive to be all-inclusive. Financial assistance is vital, especially for students from developing countries, as it can enable students to learn and then contribute to their own nations. We believe that it is our duty to use the knowledge and skills we acquire here to help solve some of the problems in our home country through design.”
Mojtaba is pursuing a Master of Architecture in Urban Design with a focus on large-scale projects, such as public housing and mobility. Zeinab is a Master of Landscape Architecture student with advanced placement focusing on climate change and rising sea levels.
To most people, trash is just a mixture of discarded things without value. However, to Arthur Huang MArch ’04, trash represents a new beginning. Huang’s Taiwan-based company, MINIWIZ, home of the remarkable TRASHLAB laboratory, revolutionizes the waste and recycling industries through innovation, technology, and design. Essentially, MINIWIZ is on a mission to unlock the upcycling potential of this abundant yet deeply damaging resource, breathing new life into materials and contributing to a healthier—and more beautiful—planet.
In the TRASHLAB molecular kitchen, single-use plastic, metal, glass, and other consumer and industrial waste is repurposed into modular building materials, fixtures, furniture, certified medical-grade materials, and consumer products. In their quest to achieve the highest performance outcomes, Huang and his team soften and mix materials, invent new technologies, and build their extensive online materials database. The manifestation of Huang’s work can be seen in recent upcycling projects that range from transforming old contact lenses from Sarah Whiting, Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture, into a cell phone charger to turning plastic bottles into building materials used in global construction projects.
MINIWIZ creates sunglasses from old CDs and DVDs.
MINIWIZ exploits the unlimited potential of trash, morphing the process of recycling into the highest form of product engineering. One year after his GSD graduation, Huang and his partner, Jarvis Liu, founded MINIWIZ as a sustainable energy company that continues to evolve along with global consumption patterns. Today’s clients and consumers increasingly prioritize lower carbon emissions, which MINIWIZ automatically provides at levels 70–200 percent lower than existing methods. To the environment’s benefit, materials are locally sourced and removed from the carbon emission–heavy building and construction processes.
Huang’s groundbreaking work with MINIWIZ earned him the title of National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2016, gaining the attention of movie star Jackie Chan. On movie sets filled with explosions, crashes, and incredible amounts of generated waste, Chan grew concerned about the trash left in communities. As a form of redemption, he cultivated a passion for green technology. Chan enlisted Huang’s technical expertise in his quest to make a positive impact on the planet and offered to sponsor the next MINIWIZ project: TRASHPRESSO, the world’s first solar-powered, fully mobile recycling plant.
Trashpresso in Qinghai, China.
In the 2018 National Geographic Channel special Jackie Chan’s Green Heroes, Huang, his team, and Chan put the TRASHPRESSO and miniature circular economy to the test in Zadoi, China, located on the Tibetan Plateau. Even in one of the world’s harshest climates, Huang’s invention efficiently converted waste into locally usable building materials.
While MINIWIZ continues to deliver revolutionary technology to remote parts of the world, Huang showcases his range through eco-projects and partnerships with sophisticated consumer brands and firms. His ethos, emphasis on sustainability, and elegant designs attracted Nike, and MINIWIZ provided materials for the sustainable Flyknit sneaker fabric, made with at least 50 percent recycled content by weight. MINIWIZ also designed the aesthetically beautiful and high-performance NikeLab interiors in nine locations across the globe.
NikeLab interiors feature strong, modular and lightweight interior solutions, fixtures and installments, featuring MINIWIZ recycled materials such as Ricefold, a Polymer reinforced with Rice nano silica, ReGrind, a recycled material composite made out of discarded and recycled Nike footwear/apparel and various other material solutions created from e-waste such as motherboards and casings to hint the potential of re-used materials.
Recently, MINIWIZ joined Snøhetta, an international architecture and design firm, on the Airside eco-design project—a new mixed-use shopping mall on the site of the former Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong. MINIWIZ was commissioned to create a special fabric woven from plastic bottle fibers as the main interior feature, also serving as an insulation wall made of trash across the entire mall.
AIRSIDE commissioned MINIWIZ to create a special fabric for its interior space. The fabric, which is woven from fibers made of recycled plastic bottles, is an example of how the circular economy can be friendly to the environment.
Initially spurred by a “shift in mindset,” Huang addressed critical questions that arose throughout his design education. He grappled with the economic and environmental consequences of the building and construction processes on Earth’s climate and sought to design solutions for our future. On a trip to Rome, he observed ancient buildings rebuilt with on site recycled materials. It dawned on him that primitive practices—paired with today’s advanced technologies—could hold the key to a more sustainable future.
Huang arrived at the GSD eager to expand his horizons in design. Having studied architecture as an undergraduate at Cornell University, he broadened his understanding of the design process by enrolling in GSD courses and studios across disciplines and deepened his experience by working as a lab assistant in the Gund Hall Fabrication Lab. He envisioned sweeping impacts beyond form, creatively wrestling with his responsibility as a designer capable of improving our world in unseen ways.
Working in the Fabrication Lab proved transformative: Huang immersed himself in the world of machinery, materials, and hands-on experimentation, guiding others on-site models and innovating his own projects. He fabricated tables, created 3D interlocking models, and designed models for his landscape and urban planning studios. Learning to think like a planner was a pivotal part of his design education: he was encouraged to consider input and output, informing the socially and economically driven systems at play. While manipulating materials, Huang focused on their potential roles in the greater ecosystem, contemplating methods to holistically improve our built and natural environments.
Today, the MINIWIZ portfolio demonstrates the company’s far-reaching global impact, inspired by Huang’s dedication, wisdom, and deeply personal experience in design. At the GSD, he relished the freedom to explore design disciplines beyond architecture and gained a new perspective on the interconnectedness of design, building, and construction.
The MINIWIZ revolution mines value in the age-old issue of trash and introduces a new layer of education. Woven into each product, invention, interior, or building is the invisible yet enduring message that human actions affect our climate, today and in the future. What one may dismiss as having little use could be reimagined as something beautiful, useful, and beneficial to our world. Looking at trash anew prompts a change in perception, a necessary first step toward a future of sustainable design.
“Change will only happen if we include people that don’t come from hegemonic forms of power and influence, yet are disproportionately affected by structural outcomes.”
— Francisco “Pancho” Brown MDes ’20
We recently spoke with Francisco “Pancho” Brown MDes ’20. Pancho is a Nicaraguan designer and creative consultant with experience in humanitarian and commercial architecture, journalism, and research. Pancho is a co-founder of MICROPOLITAN Studio, an art and design collective connecting the built environment with human stories through design, architecture, and art practices. He has served on design juries at Yale University, CUNY, Boston College, the Michael Graves School of Architecture, and the Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he led an Interdisciplinary Studio in 2021. Currently, Pancho is the Director of Communications at Sage and Coombe Architects.
How did the Master in Design Studies (MDes) program suit your academic goals?
Before the GSD, I already had a Bachelor’s in Architecture and a graduate degree in Sustainable Architecture. I was working in the design field, which is the type of person the MDes program is often aimed toward. Essentially, MDes is a non-studio, research-based two-year program. Besides a couple of core classes, students are able to build their own curriculum. We had options to take classes at Harvard and MIT that were closely related to very specific interests. The diversity of classes gave us constant opportunities to collaborate with other students from different cohorts with overlapping areas of expertise. This multidisciplinary nature highlights how important it is for students to work collectively and to rely on different fields for their work, because that’s how they will practice in the field anyways.
How did you begin parsing out what courses you would select and what research you would pursue at the GSD?
I knew what I wanted to learn more about, and everything else came down to receiving guidance from my professors and making use of the available resources.
When selecting my courses, I was curious about understanding the relation of power dynamics in the US and design, in addition to learning about real estate, graphic design, and urbanism. I was able to take classes on storytelling and communication design that were fundamental to constructing and sequencing ideas. I took some classes focused around technology—I’m not a tech person, but I felt the need to understand the basics because I wanted to collaborate with really sophisticated and talented technologists.
For my research, I studied the relationships between existing buildings and co-working spaces, and the effect that WeWork and co-working culture has had on the digital environment, the real estate market, interior design, and retrofitting technology into culture. I worked with a lot of professors who had their own startups and research on monitoring people in offices.
What were some of the insights that you gathered from that work?
The aspects of the work spaces I studied were intentionally selected to perform in a particular way, responding to a very sophisticated bottom line and integrated system. Thanks to access to technologies like 3D scanning and BIM (Building Information Modeling), these coworking companies were able to retrofit office spaces very quickly. If retrofitting a regular office space in New York City took nine months to a year, these teams were able to do it in two or three months. It was really interesting how they utilized the latest technologies to deliver a functional, cheap, and relatively attractive product.
At its core, [I found that] the co-working business model was not exactly about sharing a single space, which was the origin of co-working spaces. From my research, I got the impression that WeWork and other corporate co-working spaces understood that they wouldn’t make money through the sum of their parts as a space, but through renting single “fishbowl” units. Therefore, the more subdivided a space was, the more money they would make. That’s why you ended up with these dense fishbowls looking like Starbucks designed by West Elm. In 2019, I was doing my research on WeWork when their IPO went out and then crashed, because it was grossly overvalued and due to the controversial behavior of its leadership. On top of that, the pandemic happened, so nobody was using these workspaces. During this time, I also struggled with my own mental health and time management to finish the research, which, in the end, became more of a graphic essay than a full-fledged research book.
This work opened my eyes to the future aspects of adaptive reuse and retrofit in architecture. Office space design has always been defined by current modes of production, technological advancements, and real estate, and these same dynamics are now changing and adapting to new office design landscapes across cities in America.
How has your experience been so far working at Sage and Coombe?
Working as the Director of Communications [at Sage and Coombe] is fascinating and challenging because I’ve always been attracted to the culture of architecture, especially public architecture. It’s exciting to be in a position to tell the story of how public design changes people’s lives for the better. We all feel very proud of our work, and with the idea that anyone can enjoy our libraries, parks, and public restrooms. Sage and Coombe is a small studio that specializes in civic and public architecture. For the last 30 years, Jennifer Sage AB ’78 and Peter Coombe MArch ’88 have been working on projects that were truly exciting to me, including The Noguchi Museum, which, in my opinion, is one of the best adaptive reuse projects in New York. They’ve also been working on a prototype of public bathrooms throughout the city. Projects like these are not only about how something looks, but how it performs—how they impact and affect their immediate communities and ecosystems and how they can mitigate the damaging outcomes that careless architecture has had in our city.
Working with Peter and Jennifer and a team of 20 architects, I learned how to tell this story of impact and being able to quantify that impact—all of these things have been fundamental in shaping my own practice. For example, we just won, together with EHDD, a public competition to design the new Hudson River Park Estuarium Research and Educational Center because of our extensive experience designing beautiful and sound public projects.
You also started MICROPOLITAN Studio with GSD alumni—how did that idea come to fruition?
We were all part of the MDes program in different concentrations. Jimmy Pan MDes ’20 was pursuing the concentration on Risk and Resilience, Delara Rahim MDes ’20 was doing her concentration on Art, Design, and the Public Domain, and I was working in Critical Conservation. Our paths never fully crossed through school, but we were good friends because two of us were neighbors. Then, we were all in the same place during the pandemic, and we realized that we were so different but had a willingness to help each other, so combining our skill sets made perfect sense.
It was an interesting time because we graduated in 2020, so everyone’s plans completely vanished. After wrapping up this amazing academic experience, we decided to open our own art and design collective using our design knowledge, our passion for public spaces and adaptive reuse, and our skills in technology visualization, data, and fabrication. A year later, we were selected to be part of the New Museum’s NEW INC cohort. Having access to the most incredible network of art and culture makers in the region was crucial for our growth as a collective.
We recently signed our LLC, so now things are feeling more real, and our dreams are slowly becoming a reality. As cliche as it sounds, in an environment like the GSD, meeting peers is really the best part. Students were always my biggest source of inspiration, motivation, and knowledge.
Do you think it’s important for alumni to remain a part of the GSD community?
Yes—it’s a gold mine of knowledge. I think the GSD, along with a lot of academic centers across the US, are working on changing the world. Investing time and being a part of the solution is why we’re all in this field.
You need a lot of hope to be a designer. The GSD in particular is full of people with very different backgrounds, most of whom landed there because they share a critical vision of change in design. Today more than ever, every design field must critically examine the structural problems with social and racial equity and climate change in our cities and communities. If we want to make changes to centers of power, like Harvard, we have to put ourselves in conversations, at the table, and so forth. Change will only happen if we include people that don’t come from hegemonic forms of power and influence, yet are disproportionately affected by structural outcomes.
How are designers leaders, and why is it important that designers continue to step up as leaders?
Design is a profession where you’re obliged to see things through multiple lenses. You need to think about things through performance and functionality and beauty and marketplace and fabrication. And then you need to collaborate with a lot of people to get things done.
Essentially, design is human: human culture, human functionality, human views, human accessibility, human friendly, human unfriendly. You can inflict an enormous amount of pain generationally when you redline cities that were designed a certain way, and you can undo [some of that pain] by pursuing design in ways that are extremely accessible and permeable and transparent to everyone. So for me, design leadership is having powerful and effective tools to reimagine and manifest a better world—especially for underrepresented communities and depleted ecosystems.
You can learn more about Pancho’s work and leadership below:
MICROPOLITAN Studio is currently in the process of preparing a group exhibition with NEW INC in June that looks at the relationship between risk and playground designs in the US.
“You can be an ambitious person who’s had a robust professional career, but also be self-aware enough to know when you need to take a break—because of whatever is happening in the world or in your life. The choice was clear to me once I sat down and really thought hard about what the best decision was, and I don’t want to be self-conscious or apologetic about that.”
— Corey Zehngebot MArch ’09
We are continuing to share conversations we have had with several of our alumni, each of whom pursued different areas of study at the GSD and have gone on to lead impactful careers in design.
We recently spoke with Corey Zehngebot, AIA, AICP, MArch ’09. Corey is an urban designer, architect, and planner. She has worked for the past 20 years in both the public and private sectors and remains captivated by cities. Most recently, Corey worked as the Director of Urban Design at Graffito SP, a consultancy that works with landlords, tenants, and developers focused on ground floor activation of mixed-use projects. Prior to joining Graffito, Corey worked as a Senior Urban Designer and Architect for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA, formerly the Boston Redevelopment Authority). Corey has also worked as a senior urban designer, architect, and planner for Utile in Boston. In addition, she has taught at Harvard and MIT, and served as a design critic at many area colleges and universities. She received a B.A. with distinction from Yale University and a Master of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Corey is currently a member of the GSD Alumni Council.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in design?
I wasn’t one of the people who knew from birth. I took a long, roundabout way to figure it out. In college, I double majored in behavioral neuroscience and history of art, but I was very interested in architecture. Also, I went to Yale, which has two of the best designed art museums in the country: The Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art—the latter of which, in particular, was one of the first buildings where I really understood how design can profoundly impact the way people feel about space.
After college, I got a job working in master planning and construction at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This museum is a classical stone civic building that sits in a park, not unlike The Met in New York City, and it was embarking on a large-scale expansion project. I was part of the in-house team that was working with the architects and landscape architects; I had always struggled to figure out how to combine the sciences with the arts until I had a front row seat to this design process. The proverbial light switch flipped on in my head, and I thought: “This might be something that I want to do.”
You studied architecture, but have gone more into planning, correct?
I’m both an architect and a planner. Ultimately, I consider myself an urban designer in the sense that I’m very interested in the buildings themselves, but I’m more interested in how they operate within the space of the city. My focus has been in urban design, meaning the space between buildings and the first floor of those buildings—the public spaces that most people in cities would occupy and interact with.
I could care less about curtain walls and detailing certain aspects of a building; I want to play a role in creating the space of the city. I like to think about how buildings meet the sky and how the buildings meet the ground, and if they don’t meet the ground in a way that is sensitive to a vibrant urban context, then they’re failures to me.
Is there a specific GSD experience that you look back on as significant in shaping how you practice now?
Exploring other curricular options in my final two years [at the GSD] was really important to me, which does mirror how I approach things today. I took two high-level option studios where I traveled to Mumbai and São Paulo. In both cases, I was very deliberate in not choosing to take an architecture studio. I took an urban design studio and a landscape architecture studio. My final year, I took a course called Real Property at Harvard Business School and a course on smart cities and transportation at MIT. [At the GSD] I took a Field Studies in Real Estate course with students in other disciplines. It was a team-based project, and I worked with people in the real estate program who built financial modeling for projects. In many ways, that course most closely resembles what I ultimately wound up doing.
Could you talk a bit about your practice or projects that you have worked on?
I left working at the city of Boston Planning and Development Agency to join a firm called Graffito, which is predominately a retail broker but was expanding its consulting practice into advising on early-phase development projects. I was advising developers, architects, and consultant teams that were working on large-scale development projects on the design of the ground floor and how it interfaces with the public realm.
I have pretty extensive knowledge of the city of Boston at this point, because I worked more than six years for the city. When you’re in government, you know all of the projects that are in the pipeline, many of which may not be publicly known. They’re still percolating in that pre-permitting stage. My approach to the work involved trying to connect the dots between projects that might be proximate to one another and to other city initiatives, while thinking about how best to create a well-designed, high-quality, consistent, and safe public realm. At Graffito, I was really able to get into the specific uses on the ground floor of these projects—both retail and, as the firm liked to call it, “non-retail ground floor active spaces.” Everything from libraries to COVID testing sites (at the time) to uses related to the arts. There are a lot of creative professionals like architects that prefer to operate out of a storefront location, as opposed to being in some commercial office tower way up in the sky. All of these uses bring vibrancy and life to the street. I would summarize the mission statement of the firm as “using ground floor space as a way to create value rather than revenue.”
How are you spending your time lately?
I’m taking a self-imposed sabbatical at the moment. I prefer the term sabbatical as it implies both intellectual pursuit and an endpoint. I’ve been working for 20 years, basically, nonstop, and I really needed a break. For me, it was more about the physical burnout than the mental burnout. Between two kids, working, teaching, and a global pandemic, I was exhausted. But I also had gotten to a point where I was reviewing development projects that I had seen earlier iterations of years prior because I had been working in government for so many years, and it was becoming difficult for me to get excited about some of these projects. That was another clear indication that I needed to step away.
Being on sabbatical has given me time to reflect and take care of myself, which was long overdue. I’ve done an enormous amount of reading about social injustice, race, feminism, and parenting. I have two young daughters; when they’re little, their needs are very custodial. But they’re getting older, and this time has given me an opportunity to recalibrate how I approach parenting.
What would you say to fellow alumni about your experience taking a sabbatical? Specifically, how has it been valuable for your life and career moving forward?
I don’t feel old or wise enough to impart wisdom, but I can offer my perspective, which is that my sabbatical has allowed me to see my career as a number of different chapters. I really subscribe to the notion of a nonlinear career path, and I think that my interest in design and cities is very broad; it’s become clear to me that I can enter the field from a number of different angles. To young people, I would say: The first job you have (or whatever job you’re currently in) is probably not going to be the only job you’ll ever have. I’ve found it’s a useful framework to think about the things you learn in school or on the job as seeds being planted that may not bear fruit for a long, long time, until the conditions are just right—even though that can be really frustrating.
I would like to note that I’m extraordinarily privileged to be able to make the decision to take a sabbatical. Architecture as a profession does not compensate people nearly as well as it should, and I know that there are many folks out there who are burdened by substantial loans and may not have the luxury of being able to take time off.
What happens to our society if initiative and progress in the design world stop moving forward?
As I said, I have two daughters, and I’m fearful that they’re going to grow up in a world where they have fewer personal freedoms than I did. On one hand, it’s important to advocate for and acknowledge how important design is to the world. But on the other hand, we’re living in a moment where many are realizing that the world’s problems are enormous and we’re all trying to put out fires left and right. I am a pathological optimist and don’t want to be dramatically pessimistic, but I worry that if the bottom falls out for a while, we’re going to have bigger problems. That said, I think there is much more awareness and acknowledgment about the value of design—certainly among sophisticated developers. They absolutely appreciate and understand the value of design, and they’re much more inclined to hire skilled and competent designers. “Value of design” is now a phrase that has infiltrated other discourses (like in business schools) and other spaces where that vocabulary didn’t always exist.
Do you see designers as leaders?
Absolutely. Designers have the ability to visualize tangible outcomes, which can inspire all sorts of people. They are trained to take in diverse information, synthesize it, and come up with a solution that’s tangible in the world. It is truly a remarkable skill set. I think that designers are recognizing that in order to show leadership, they have to speak multiple vocabularies and know how to operate in diverse contexts in order for what they’re saying to resonate with people.
The younger generation of architects has shown tremendous leadership around big issues like climate change, resiliency, and social justice—even with projects that are not generating money, or projects that people are pursuing independently because they feel that they’re important.
Tosin Odugbemi MArch ’24 often inhabits several spaces simultaneously, a skill and perspective that deeply benefits her study of the built environment. A child of two doctors, Tosin moved with her family from South Africa to Canada at a young age. She grew up in the prairies of British Columbia in a predominantly white neighborhood, with Nigerian parents at home who emphasized strength of character, hard work, and exceptional academics. Coming to Cambridge to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Design added another cultural shift, where Tosin’s experience as an immigrant and international student has made her unique and a valuable voice in the community.
“My past experiences as a visible minority in my hometown have trained me to be unafraid to embrace my idiosyncrasies, freeing me to bring new perspectives and actions to architecture,” Tosin said. “Growing up in a different country with immigrant parents means that there are issues that I can speak to, understand, research, and be passionate about that my peers and classmates might not relate to.”
Tosin was a highly academic young student who was passionate about art and excelled in math. Her parents encouraged her to research careers that dovetailed with her interests and tailor her extracurriculars accordingly. They floated the idea of architecture; 10-year-old Tosin latched on and pursued design in full force. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental design from the University of British Columbia, then applied and was accepted to the GSD.
“I wanted to have the freedom to pursue multiple avenues of a design career, including various modes of practice, entrepreneurship, and teaching, and I knew that Ivy Leagues and other prestigious schools would afford me the privilege to choose,” Tosin said. “Though I was blessed to receive acceptance into all six institutions I applied to, my decision to attend the GSD came down to culture, diversity, faculty, location, and funding. I had heard wonderful things about Boston and was attracted to the academic work produced at the GSD. The diversity of the student body felt more aligned with what I was looking for than in peer schools.”
Tosin added that financial aid played a large role in her decision about where to attend school. Fortunately, she was able to take advantage of the financial aid available at the GSD, including support from the John E. (Jack) Irving Fellowship Fund. Established in 2014 by John K. F. Irving AB ’83, MBA ’89 and Anne Irving Oxley in honor of their father, Jack Irving, the fellowship provides financial aid with a preference for GSD students from Canada. Those funds liberated Tosin to focus on her research and academic work, which explores how people interact with architecture on an emotional, physical, and neurological level and prioritizes the experience of the user in her projects.
“It’s been really helpful to have the support of this fellowship so I can pursue this degree,” Tosin said. “I’ve also been in situations where I had to move suddenly, and the GSD has been able to help through the Student Emergency Fund. I do have to work quite a bit, but I can focus on school and know the basics are paid for.”
There is a small percentage of Black people in design, so I want to be here and be a present voice. It means a lot to have representation and see a Black woman who’s studying and being academic, and has this type of career she’s building for herself.
Tosin is also heavily involved in the Black in Design Mentorship, a 10-week partnership program with design firm Perkins&Will for Boston-area Black high school students interested in design. As part of that program, Tosin has worked closely with Senior Director of Early Design Education Megan Panzano MArch ’10, calling her “a wonderful mentor” throughout her time at the school.
“She has truly made the GSD feel warm to me,” Tosin said. “Her allyship and advocacy for young Black designers are commendable, and I am blessed to know her. Instructors like Megan have sparked the joy of learning for me and kept me engaged in the GSD community, even when my instinct would lead me to retreat.”
As she approaches graduation this spring, Tosin is exploring how she can combine her practice of architecture with instructing the next generation. She hopes to teach future designers while taking the leap to start her own practice. After founding a boutique branding studio in 2020 to help small business owners with visual brand strategy and commercial interior design, she is already well on her way.
“There is a small percentage of Black people in design, so I want to be here and be a present voice,” Tosin said. “It means a lot to have representation and see a Black woman who’s studying and being academic, and has this type of career she’s building for herself. It’s helpful to these students, and it would have been helpful to me, too, to have that at that age.”
“I believe our role as designers is to think more systematically. It’s not just about designing the layout of the house, but understanding the impact of that house. What trees were on the land before? What species lived in those trees? We are beginning to understand that our role is not to design spaces and floor plans, but to think in systems in order to better our environments.”
— Ruben Segovia
Over the next couple months, we are continuing to share conversations with several GSD alumni, each of whom pursued different areas of study at the GSD and are now leading impactful careers in design.
We recently spoke with Ruben Segovia MArch ’17, co-founder of LS-LAB, an architecture and urban design practice. Ruben is the director of the master’s degree program in Architecture and Urban Design at the Tecnológico de Monterrey’s School of Architecture, Art and Design.
What drew you to apply to the GSD for architecture versus another area of study?
I was able to go to the GSD because there’s an alumni foundation here in Mexico called Fundación México en Harvard, that helps Mexican students pay tuition and cover costs associated with going to school abroad. They connected me with a network of alumni who were very encouraging and helpful with navigating the application process. Being able to sit down and talk with alumni here in Mexico helped me understand what the GSD is all about, and, ultimately, those conversations made me certain I wanted to attend. It was such a fundamental part of the process, which is why I’ve been doing the same for current students who are thinking about applying to the GSD [from Mexico].
I applied to and researched multiple schools, all around the world. Before [attending the GSD], I completed my bachelor’s degree in architecture at Tecnológico de Monterrey [in Monterrey, Mexico]. I was very immersed in architecture, meaning I thought it was the only discipline regarding design and having an impact on a city. Through my experiences at the GSD, my vision grew broader because I was able to take courses in different disciplines: architecture, urban design, urban planning, and landscape architecture.
Is there a specific course, professor, or experience that you look back on as the most valuable in shaping your career?
All of the studios were amazing and non-prescriptive. We were able to explore lots of different avenues in terms of design, creativity, and representation. Each studio was really different from project to project. You could be designing a hyper-specific building or object, or you could be working on a larger master plan for an entire region.
I took one studio in Ferguson, Missouri with urban planning professor Daniel D’Oca MUP ’02 where we went to St. Louis to learn about the impact of racial zoning ordinances. The project was to create a comic book that told the story of the various policy instruments used to orchestrate racial segregation. Each book was part of a series called Affirmatively Further. It was a unique, enriching experience and was completely different from anything I had done before.
Internationally, I traveled to Peru, South Africa, and Japan [for studios]. The best part of those trips was being able to connect with stakeholders and professionals who are regarded as leaders in their fields. My first studio was with a Peruvian architect, Jean Pierre Crousse. It was great because it was my first experience learning about interdisciplinary design. It was really interesting to see multiple approaches taken toward complex urban issues. I brought the more architectural solutions to the table, while others brought more landscape-oriented solutions, and we merged them into a singular vision.
How did learning about interdisciplinary design change your view of architecture?
Currently, I have my own practice, LS-LAB, in Mexico with my partner and wife, Delia Leal. Architecture is still part of the big picture, but we’re also pursuing urban design, territorial analysis, and landscape design. I’ve been inviting friends who I met at the GSD from the MLA and MAUD programs, and we’ve been working on many of these projects together.
At the beginning of my career, I was leading a lot of side projects: a house here or there for friends and family members. I wasn’t fully embedded in or committed to my practice. At the GSD, I took classes that taught me how to start my own office and practice, so I felt more prepared. Now, we look at larger dynamics in play. For example, we start with a housing project, but we also develop a larger system and a master plan for that project. This leads to another set of deliverables and new avenues that we can continue to explore—not just for that plot or piece of land, but for other projects to enhance the urban environments.
What are some similarities and differences you’ve seen in the way design is practiced in different countries?
In Mexico, we use a lot of the American design standards because they are well structured and defined in terms of how to approach a project and what the constraints are. What’s great about Mexico is that there’s more room to be an entrepreneur and to start your own practice. Our cultural heritage and territorial diversity allows for the exploration of different material implementations and vernacular design solutions. It’s not as if it’s easier to get projects started in Mexico, but there is a lot more latitude in terms of infrastructure. It presents a big opportunity and a lot of room for creativity.
You are the director of a master’s program in Monterrey. Can you talk about the program and your role?
I’m the director of the Masters in Architecture and Urban Design program at Tecnológico de Monterrey. It’s a hybrid program related to Vision 2030 for Tecnológico de Monterrey, where the Institute has identified global trends that are redefining education. Our program was designed to generate sustainable, resilient, healthy, and just cities. We are working to face the urban challenges of climate change, migration, inequality, and accelerated growth by focusing on the design and management of multi-scale projects that will positively impact the environment.
Currently, we’re in our third cohort and have around 50 students. My role is to help define the program and invite faculty. I’ve always wanted to come back and teach in Mexico, so it’s very meaningful that I have been able to do that.
I teach a few architecture history courses and lead a studio that is related to climate change. We’re working with GSD Loeb Fellows Alejandro Echeverri LF ’16 and Surella Segú LF ’18 [Chief Heat Officer at the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance], to develop sustainable solutions to decrease the temperature of the city—because Monterrey is one of the hottest cities in Mexico, and it’s getting hotter each day.
Tell us about your practice, LS-LAB. What have you been working on?
We have a base team of four and fluctuate between 7 and 10 total team members when we invite GSD friends to collaborate. Most of our architectural projects are located in the southern part of Mexico—schools, houses, apartments, and mixed-use. In northern Mexico, we lead larger-scale projects, like master planning and urban analysis. Our main goal when approaching a project is to practice systemic thinking. We are asking ourselves: What are the urban implications of an architectural project? What are the landscape implications?
Architecture has been changing because we are all trying to have less of an impact on the environment. How can we have more green spaces, more public spaces, and better mobility? There’s a lot of hacking when it comes to the existing rules and legislation. For example, we’ve been working with Urbanología, a local development team from Chihuahua, strategizing ways in which we can catch and reuse rain and gray water on new projects. Ten years ago, something like this would have been much more difficult to implement.
We are also working on two very interesting projects with Tecnólogico de Monterrey and C+LAB (led by Nélida Escobedo Ruiz). One is a master plan for Escobedo, a municipality north of Monterrey. The goal is to propose a plan for sustainable urban growth that will allow for improved relations between various programs and systems such as industry, housing, and the river network. The second project is happening with an NGO called Fundación FEMSA. We are leading various efforts including studio, research, and design projects that promote Caring Cities, and we have published manuals on good practices and urban strategies.
How has architecture changed in the last 10 years?
Technology to produce architecture has changed a lot. Ten years ago, we mostly used 2D-related drawing tools. And now, we are fully embedded in 3D tools. We’re also shifting with AI.
When we work with younger developers, they have these conversations about sustainability, resiliency, better materials, and low carbon impact. Right away, they understand that designing with sustainable solutions in mind creates more social, environmental, and economic value.
Why is it important that designers continue to assume the role of leaders across different fields?
Leadership, or the idea of leadership, is changing for designers. We are no longer the masterminds who draw a line and everything changes around that line. We’re learning how to be more malleable in order to adapt to new situations. We make a lot of very important decisions in terms of design, urban solutions, landscape approach, and architecture, but we also merge those decisions with input from other professions and with the communities that we’re working alongside.
Leadership is understanding that you don’t have the final say on a project; instead, it’s about recognizing everyone—engineers, social workers, designers, communities, and users—and taking their input into account.
You can learn more about Ruben’s work and leadership by checking out the LS-LAB website.
“Nature is changing, the climate is changing, and so we, too, need to change. We must understand that fixed definitions of nature from the past no longer apply in this era of uncertainty we are confronting. Climate change is causing cities to sink, and our current infrastructure is making us even more vulnerable to severe flooding. What if we could design cities to work with nature instead of against it?”
— Kotchakorn Voraakhom
Over the next couple of months, we are continuing to share conversations with several of our alumni, each of whom pursued different areas of study at the GSD and are now leading impactful careers in design.
We recently spoke with Kotchakorn (Kotch) Voraakhom MLA ’06. Kotch is the founder and lead designer of the award-winning landscape architecture and urban design firm LANDPROCESS, where she’s working to improve Thailand’s public spaces and solve urban ecological problems through landscape architectural design. During the spring 2023 semester, Kotch is also a design critic in Landscape Architecture at the GSD and is co-teaching the Option Studio BANGKOK REMADE with Niall Kirkwood, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
Kotch’s recent work spans a major urban ecological park at the heart of Bangkok and numerous innovative public landscape designs. She’s a Chairwoman of the Climate Change Working Group of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA World) and a 2018 TED Fellow. The United Nations honored Kotch as a winner of the 2020 UN Global Climate Action Awards: Women for Results.
How did you hear about the GSD and what drew you to apply?
In Thailand, I studied landscape architecture at Chulalongkorn University. After graduating, I got a chance to work in the U.S. for a couple of years—which is quite hard to do as an international student, so I was very lucky. My landscape architecture profession started in the U.S. at Sasaki. My boss at the time, Alistair McIntosh, is on faculty at the GSD, and my professor Pornpun Futrakul MLA ’77 had graduated from the GSD, so I heard great stories about their experiences. The GSD seemed like a commonality among many people I looked up to, which made me think, “If I really want to be a great landscape architect, maybe the GSD is the answer.”
Was there a certain experience that you look back on as being helpful in finding the right practice?
A huge turning point was meeting my peers at the GSD. We were all questioning our place within the profession, and six of us founded an organization called the Kounkuey Design Initiative. It felt like my dream job to work for those in need of our services, rather than those who hired us for services they wanted. So, we wrote a proposal for a grant through the Penny White Project Fund—and we got it.
This was around 15 years ago—it’s remarkable, looking back. It wouldn’t have been possible without the platform the GSD provided; it wouldn’t have been possible without meeting the right people, [who became] my colleagues and friends.
Why is it so important to learn about the various cultures you’re serving when trying to come up with new design solutions?
We’re designing for humans, right? If we want to understand the needs of the people we’re designing for, we have to go and listen to them. We have to experience their culture, their food, their language—even if it’s just for a short period of time. Each unique site is so specific, and every project can vary dramatically depending on the location.
That’s why the option studios were such a great learning opportunity [at the GSD]. They gave us the chance to learn about another culture through real hands-on experience. Culture, climate, and people can vary drastically, and something that works in one country might not work in another. I feel that is what’s lacking in much of our practice. We talk to our clients, or whoever is paying us, but we don’t talk to the real stakeholders, who are the people being impacted by our work.
What goals and objectives did you have in mind when starting your current practice, LANDPROCESS?
There’s no “land process” without “people process.” I am very excited about the possible solutions for climate-vulnerable communities. I’m excited for the challenges that my team and I will face, even though they are very serious. For example, I’m from Bangkok; Thailand is [one of the 10 most] flood-affected countries in the world. Every year, our land sinks and goes missing because of rising sea levels. New buildings mean nothing if entire cities flood and sink in the near future.
The point that we are at now is “adapt or die.” The work that we are doing is helping to shift cities to a carbon-neutral future by prioritizing livelihood and utilizing neglected spaces.
Utilizing neglected spaces—can you expand on that?
Forgotten and unused spaces, like rooftops, can present opportunities to make a city more useful for everyone. My team at Thammasat University, working alongside the surrounding communities, has achieved this. We created the largest urban rooftop farm in Asia. The idea for this project was derived from the wisdom of landscapes of the past, when people used rice terraces to harvest the rain from the mountainous area.
Our goals for the project were to relieve flash floods and turn the urban heat island effect into clean energy. One solution [for flooding] was implementing a flood roof, equipped with rainwater tanks that are designed to flood, allowing water to flow up and down. Solar panels on the roof create clean energy, pumping out water from the retention pond, and gravity slows down the runoff to prevent flooding.
What would you say is the biggest worry or concern you have in your field right now?
The biggest global concern is climate change, by far. Thailand has tried to tackle its flooding problems by building higher and higher dams, but this is not the right solution because dams will eventually cause more problems.
There are 7,000 fishermen in villages along the coast of Thailand. These Thai people are not allowed to stay in their country, because their homes have been built into what’s now the ocean. These villages are in the most dangerous part of Thailand, next to Cambodia, so the people who live there have nowhere to go. The government has forced everyone in the villages to be displaced.
My work now is addressing these problems by helping villages design viable solutions and negotiate with the government. We were able to get the government to commit to a housing credit with UN-Habitat [United Nations Human Settlements Programme]. Eventually, we helped the first village secure a permit to let us enter and address the [housing crisis]. This all happened right before COVID, and unfortunately, they only granted a permit for one local community. This problem is ongoing and is some of our most important work.
With these climate concerns, what do you see as the biggest opportunity for global designers today?
There should be more concern around how we manage resources. I feel that only thinking about structure in the traditional way of “fixing things” won’t get us very far in regard to sustainable design.
Nowadays, the world needs a nature-based solution, or an ecosystem-based adaptation, which is an open opportunity for landscape architects. I think we need to push for climate-focused design in all departments. If urban designers, planners, engineers, architects, and landscape architects all work more collaboratively, we will strengthen our cities in very significant ways.
Why is it important for designers to give back to the younger generations—whether it’s through teaching or being involved in the broader design community?
Education is best transmitted by human-to-human interaction. We need humans to teach and pass on their knowledge to other humans, to the next generation, whether it’s through experience, practice, or academia. The transmission of knowledge between generations is crucial. The next generation is full of energy and potential.
And for us as alumni, we are part of the GSD culture. Even if it was a brief two years, it was such an intense period that shaped who we are as designers. It’s important to be involved in the community as alumni because it’s such a gift that we’ve already received, and we get to share it with a new generation of designers.
How are designers leaders, and why is it important that designers continue to be leaders across industries?
When I graduated, I asked my professor, Niall Kirkwood, “Why did [the GSD] choose me as a student?” And he said, “Because of your potential to be a leader.” I had no clue what he was talking about because I didn’t want to lead anyone; I didn’t want to be the head of any defined organization.
Through my practice and experiences after the GSD, I started to understand the word “leadership” more and more. It’s not about a title or position, it’s about action and impact. It’s about what you care for. I’m a designer who cares for the future of humanity, my homeland, my people, and my community. That’s what “leadership’’ means to me.
You can learn more about Kotch’s work and leadership below:
Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) announces Grace La MArch ’95 as Chair of the Department of Architecture, effective July 1, 2023. La is Professor of Architecture at the GSD and principal of LA DALLMAN, a practice internationally recognized for work that integrates architecture, engineering, and site. La is the second woman to be named Chair of the Department of Architecture, and in 2013 became the first Korean American to be tenured at the GSD.
La succeeds Mark Lee MArch ’95, Professor in Practice of Architecture and principal and founding partner of Johnston Marklee, who was appointed Chair in 2018.
“I am very excited about Grace’s appointment,” says Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. “Her commitment to the core curriculum and focus on practice as a fundamental pillar of architectural education are at once timely and timeless for the School’s pedagogy. And as we welcome Grace into her new role, I am also deeply grateful to Mark Lee for his steady leadership of the department these past five years.”
“I am honored by the GSD’s trust and look forward to collaboration on the next chapter of this esteemed department,” La says. “As a highly negotiated art form, architecture remains at the vital intersection of culture and space. The discipline is also experiencing transformations in pedagogy, with opportunities to advance environmental expertise, social engagement, and artistry. I am thrilled to work on this shared project and on the continued mission to harness the immense intellect, imagination, and energy of the GSD’s creative community.”
LA DALLMAN, co-founded by La and James Dallman MArch ’92 in 1999, is engaged in catalytic projects of diverse scale and type. Noted for works that expand the architect’s agency in the civic recalibration of infrastructure and public space, LA DALLMAN has received over 50 professional honors and delivered more than 60 lectures and presentations of the firm’s work, including at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the National Building Museum in Washington DC, and the New Museum in New York City. Celebrating 25 years of practice, LA DALLMAN is publishing the forthcoming monograph The Middle Front.
Engaging in critical dialogue with context, LA DALLMAN’s built work ranges from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zilber Hillel Student Center and Kilbourn Tower to site-specific residences like the Levy Ravine House, Levatich Gradient House, and the Hansen Pavilion House, as well as permanent exhibits at Discovery World, a science and technology museum in Milwaukee. With expertise in adaptive reuse and renovations of mid-century modern buildings, LA DALLMAN has engaged with works by Ulrich Franzen, Harry Weese, Dan Kiley, The Architects Collaborative, and Walter Gropius. Urban transformations and infrastructure include the Marsupial Bridge, a pedestrian bridge slung beneath a 1925 viaduct; the post-industrial master plan for Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley; and other current infrastructure projects, including the Assabet River Pedestrian Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. Presently under construction in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, is LA DALLMAN’s conversion of the Door County Granary into a museum and civic center, a project honored with a Progressive Architecture Award and celebrated as the cover image of Architect Magazine in March 2021.
LA DALLMAN’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including Architect, a+t, Architectural Record, Azure, Praxis, and Topos, as well as in books published by Actar, Princeton Architectural Press, Verlagshaus Braun, and Routledge. Their work has been widely presented in over 20 exhibitions, including at the Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Danish Architecture Center.
Committed to curricular development in architectural education, La served as the inaugural Chair of the Practice Platform (2014-2022) and Director of the GSD’s Master of Architecture degree programs (2014-2017). Engaging the contemporary debate on questions of design pedagogy, La co-chaired the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 2019 national conference, Black Box: Articulating Architecture’s Core in the Post-Digital Era, co-curating the accompanying exhibition, Drawing for the Design Imaginary, at Carnegie Mellon University. She also co-curated Drawing Attention: the Digital Culture of Contemporary Architectural Drawings, a global collection of 75 contemporary drawings, at the Roca London Gallery. La’s teaching at the GSD has included core design studios in housing and building integration, as well as option studios on bridges and auditoria co-taught with James Dallman. Aiming to connect design with conditions of ecology and material culture, La recently co-taught and co-curated with Erika Naginski a studio, seminar, and exhibition titled Eco Folly, in connection with the GSD’s Center for Green Buildings and Cities. La is also the founder and host of Talking Practice, a GSD podcast exploring how leading practitioners articulate design imagination through practice.
La joined the faculty at the GSD as Professor of Architecture in 2013, and previously served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Syracuse University. In 2022, La and Dallman were appointed Faculty Directors in Harvard’s Graduate Commons Program. A graduate of Harvard College, AB magna cum laude, as well as a John Harvard Scholar, La earned her professional MArch degree from the GSD with thesis distinction, winning the Clifford Wong Housing Prize.
“On our very first day of school, [GSD professor] Jerold S. Kayden [MCRP ’79] said to me, ‘Being a planner can be a curse, because you actually live in your work and decisions.’ As I’ve grown in my position, that’s something I think about often. It helps me to be aware of the responsibilities and gravity of my actions, because I’m a consumer of my own choices.”
Over the next couple months, we are continuing to share conversations with several GSD alumni, each of whom pursued different areas of study at the GSD and are now leading impactful careers in design.
We recently spoke with Eric Shaw MUP ’00. Eric has led planning and philanthropic organizations in major cities throughout the country, and has been recognized for his work in establishing strategic initiatives that support inclusive development and resilience in communities throughout the United States. A devoted mentor, he serves as an advisor to the GSD’s African American Student Union, the Harvard Urban Planning Organization, and Queer in Design, in addition to serving as a member of the GSD Alumni Council. Currently, Eric is the director of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
How did you hear about the GSD and what led you to attending?
I went to UCLA for undergrad, and that’s where I came across urban planning. I took a course taught by [former Massachusetts Governor] Michael Dukakis, who wrote my letter of recommendation for Harvard. He really got me thinking about planning and policy programs. He said, “If you want to be a leader, don’t be a lawyer.”
I learned the language of community from UCLA, but I learned the language of design from Harvard. It was horribly hard that first semester, but my professors and fellow students really invested in me, and [the GSD] gave us all the tools we needed to intensely engage with the program. Everything I learned that first year changed my life.
Are there certain courses or professors that you feel have shaped the work you’re doing today?
Richard Marshall [MAUD ’95] was a new professor at the time. Like I said, I was really struggling my first semester, because I didn’t want to draw, and [back then] that was what the GSD was all about. Richard Marshall said, “Eric, I want you to succeed.” So instead of drawing, he made me write a five-page paper every time we met. He knew I knew how to write and speak, so he took my papers and made them into drawings for me. He was my Rosetta Stone that taught me how to bring those two skills together.
Oh, and I can’t forget M. David Lee [MAUD ’71], who I believe was the only Black GSD professor at the time. He’d say: “Go do it, brother.” Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Through your work on the GSD Alumni Council, you’ve spent a lot of time mentoring students. How did that begin?
I’ve been on the GSD Alumni Council for almost 10 years now; one time early on, [someone from the GSD] told me about this “Black in Design” conference, a three-day symposium organized by students. They invited Black designers, architects, and landscape architects from around the country and had one of the most prolific events around how we center Blackness and Black power. Telling the stories of Black accomplishment, Black innovation, and Black fame—I had never said “Black” so much at the GSD, as a student or alum!
The best thing was that it was run by students. The students came in and they felt empowered. A lot of them are my mentees now, and they’re also my peers. It was a single moment where the school was transformed. All those things really come from student leadership, [with students] mobilizing to shift the narrative of design.
“Black in Design,” hands down, has transformed [the GSD]. I probably know 85 percent of the Black students who have graduated in the past 10 years, and probably 60 percent of the queer students. I’m very proud to be paying it forward—like my GSD, UCLA, and professional mentors did for me. In every position I’ve held, I’ve committed to supporting future planning leaders with backgrounds not currently represented within the profession.
Could you tell us about the work you’re doing right now in the San Francisco’s Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development?
I have a community development organization in which I invest about $300 million a year in grants. Those grants go to supporting community organizations and cultural districts. We guarantee that anyone who’s up for eviction has the right to a lawyer, and we administer rental assistance for people with very low income to keep them housed. That’s my day to day—basically trying to align resources, policy, and politics to keep people in their homes, and making sure new homes are being built.
So, I’m functionally a realtor and a broker that matches low income people with apartments in buildings around the city.
Looking at the past decade, what have been the biggest changes and adaptations you’ve seen in housing and urban planning?
For a long time, economic development was the crux of planning: how do cities make more money to do more business? So we started focusing on things like revitalization, green spaces, and bike lanes—because those things made a place “nicer” and caused more people to want to live there. But, it’s “nicer” because we wanted a certain type of person—someone with taxable dollars—to go eat at a restaurant in town. We call that beautification. The planning was very intentional: creating beautiful places for a certain type of person that had the means to invest in the city, which would convince businesses to come.
The problem was: we didn’t think about making more housing because the focus was on “livability” and creating community amenities. So then: what about the people? The people, themselves, demanded it, and planners and politicians finally responded: “Oh, you’re right.”
Housing has become the key implementer for a lot of our goals: community stabilization, wealth building, transportation, climate change, and so on. It’s now all of these goals versus only the economic development of a space.
What about government funding—and funding in general—for housing projects?
The federal government has given us a lot less money. Now, a lot of communities have said, “We want to tax ourselves, but we want to have a plan for when we tax ourselves.” For the first time, there are a lot of local resources to advance planning. I think that, finally, the intentionality has changed.
San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to build—one of the most expensive places to live—in the world. Fortunately, we have a mayor who is deeply committed to advancing housing opportunities. My operating and investment budget is about $1.7 billion specifically for the investment in housing. I run an investment bank that invests billions of dollars with nonprofit developers to build new affordable housing throughout the city. We have a commitment that for any new large market-rate housing developments built in San Francisco, 20 percent of housing needs to go toward low-income residents. That’s been mandated for about seven years now; it’s called inclusionary zoning.
Why did you choose to work in San Francisco, specifically?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and it is nice to be back home. The older I’ve gotten, the more freedom I have had to choose where I want to be. I’ve been so blessed to work in a lot of places, but as the adage says, “There really is no place like home.” Professionally, when an opportunity arose to work with Mayor Breed [in San Francisco] I was excited to support her vision and leadership—to feel a stronger familiarity with the communities where my team and I work.
Also, I became a planner because I’m deeply committed to advancing opportunities for African-Americans. I want to make Black people’s lives better. Under [Mayor London Breed’s] leadership, we went from five Black people in five years getting homeownership through our homeownership programs to 25 this year alone, with 100 more in the pipeline for next year. It’s great to be in a city that I love, a city with a mayor who I trust, and means to be a responsible steward of policies and resources. First working for [Washington D.C.] Mayor Muriel Bowser, and now Mayor Breed, I’m one of the only people in the country to have worked for two mayors who are African-American women.
Could you talk a bit more about the importance of diversity when it comes to planning and understanding the needs of a community?
In San Francisco, the housing authority director is a Black woman. The redevelopment director is a Black man. Our homeless director is a woman of color. We have a disproportionate number of Black people in homelessness, and we recognize that. And so there’s a deep sort of coordination around this. If the resources are there, I think we have a sense of urgency to act. And we did it. We had one of the lowest rates of unhoused people that got COVID. Everyone got a hotel room; 3,000 people have been housed. We moved them from the hotels and from their tents to permanent housing with more vouchers.
On top of that, as a Black queer person, it is so much fun to be subversive—to understand that there are layers to beauty, functionality, and usability that only discrete communities are going to use. That’s when I think the powers of design, agency, and leadership all line up.
How can planners continue to grow as leaders in their field?
By really, deeply engaging with the communities we’re working with. I always find it exciting when my training comes from organic moments working alongside a community.
I used to work as a development officer in San Jose supporting city investments in a predominantly Mexican immigrant community. One day, we had this barbecue in a park. Somehow, it got back to the women’s husbands that this non-Mexican man was trying to barbecue for their wives, and they were not happy about it. My Spanish is limited, but I knew they were saying: “No, you’re not going to cook for my community. We know how to do that.” They all came over with steaks and hot dogs, and you know what I did? I backed off, and just observed. I thought, “Okay, this space is different when women are with their husbands; so in our planning, we should have a bigger grill.” It was a beautiful space where men felt safe to engage with each other, express love for their families, and show grassroots leadership. My job was to pull back and observe, and I did.
My training as a student was so important—so, I’m going to tell one last GSD story. My first studio was with Alex Krieger [MCP ’77], and I remember he gave students 20 minutes to design our ideal town square. We drew them separately, and then everyone pinned them up on the wall. All of our town squares looked exactly the same, because we all came from western places—a park in the middle, a church here, and an ice cream shop over there. Every designer has an inherent bias. A trained designer understands that bias. From there, you either have to justify it, or learn the tools to unwind it and create the town square that the community actually needs. That’s the power of training; it’s an exciting power.
“My work is multi-layered and multi-disciplinary; sometimes it’s civic art, sometimes it’s planning, sometimes it’s community engagement, sometimes it’s architecture, sometimes it’s landscape design, and sometimes it’s a combination of everything.”
— Paola Aguirre Serrano
Paola Aguirre Serrano MAUD ’11, is a GSD Alumni Council member and the founder of Borderless Studio, an urban design and research practice based in Chicago and San Antonio, focused on collaborative, interdisciplinary projects and civic engagement proposals that address the complexity of urban systems, spatial justice, and equitable design. Her experience includes working with government agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, and architecture/urban design offices in Mexico and the United States in projects at various scales—from neighborhoods to entire regions.
Where were you in your life and career when you decided to apply to the GSD?
I went to undergrad for architecture; very quickly after graduating, I had this fantastic opportunity to work with the government in my hometown of Chihuahua, Mexico, a community along the US-Mexico border. The municipal planning agency I worked with (IMPLAN) reached out to Alex Krieger MCP ’77, [Professor in Practice of Urban Design] at the GSD; he had been working with riverfronts in cities all over the U.S, and we asked if he wanted to [engage his students] to study the Chuviscar River in Chihuahua. He said yes, and that was the start of our relationship with the GSD.
It was a fascinating experience to host students from the GSD while sharing the aspirations we had for our city. I was very inspired by the experience and started learning more about the program. I had been working in urban planning for a number of years, but I was basically self-taught. After the experience with the GSD studio in Chihuahua, I realized that I needed more training because—working with the government and for the public—I knew that it was only going to get more challenging.
What drew you to pursue a Masters of Architecture in Urban Design?
At the time when I started, there was a lot of enthusiasm around the urban design program because it’s very unique. It felt like this gray area in which everyone was still figuring out how to operate. I knew that I wanted to be more on the architectural side with an urban influence and understanding, but I was always very uncomfortable with being put in a box in terms of practice, people saying: “you can only be a planner” or “you can only be an architect.” I wanted to understand it all, and to practice horizontally across different areas of work.
Can you share with us the origins and evolution of Borderless as a design practice?
The idea for Borderless started at the GSD; a Latin student group that I was involved in organized small exhibitions and programs because we wanted an excuse to have a conversation about the border between the United States and Latin America. People always end up talking about the same things when it comes to border communities. Borderless came from a place of wanting to talk about how cities are connected in different ways—water systems, environmental aspects, economic dynamics, multicultural identities: a combination of everything.
Growing up in Chihuahua and now reimagining how we design and plan border communities—how is your upbringing significant in terms of the work you are doing today?
The Latino culture planning efforts and the U.S. initiatives are very different, and it’s really fascinating having to design these hybrid processes. My experience having worked in government was foundational. Right now, for example, we’re working on a housing project near the eastern border of Brownsville, Texas—the majority of the population is Mexican or Latino. Being from Chihuahua, I can empathize and understand their culture; I can speak their language. The conversations we have with people need to happen in Spanish, but they also need to be meaningful and engaging.
We’re always thinking: how do we make this accessible and relevant to the communities that we’re working with? Our priorities as planners and designers need to align with the priorities of the community. The combination of empathy, experience, and knowledge helps me to engage with communities in a meaningful way in order to better understand what those priorities are.
You have also taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. How would you say discourse and education around urban design have changed in terms of how it is taught today versus when you were a student?
Since I started teaching at the Art Institute, I started to engage students in thinking about inequities and wealth disparities as a way of pedagogy. In recent years, especially during the pandemic, the impact of inequities became more visible than ever. It’s not that they weren’t there, they just weren’t considered as relevant for research and work. As designers, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves. We have to understand the root cause of problems in order to think of effective repairs, and particularly the role that design has played in the inequities that we experience today.
Looking ahead to the next decade as a designer, how do we build a new best practice? What changes do you hope to see in the field as a whole?
Designers have not done a good job engaging with communities of color. The majority of my work has prioritized working with black and brown communities; it’s very hard to pitch design as something positive to communities who have experienced decades of racism, neglect, disinvestment. That needs to change.
Also, I’m highly invested in climate resilience. Living between Chicago, Chihuahua, and San Antonio—I’m gaining more awareness of how our communities are going to experience huge challenges to adapt to changing climate and environmental conditions that are putting pressure on our infrastructure. These challenges need to be addressed on multiple scales—food systems, health systems, etc. These systems are very connected to climate and we need to think about how the design system responds to climate change as well.
How can designers continue to act as leaders in their field?
Traditionally, designers have had very little decision-making power. We are often just called at the end of project processes for design production, when we have the capacity to contribute so much more in the early stages or incubation of ideas. That puts pressure on our ability to wear multiple hats, to be more engaged and collaborate with other sectors, and seek to be part of larger conversations impacting funding and policy in our cities. When it comes to climate change policy, as designers, we are going to have to leverage our understanding of urban complexity at the global scale, while being able to translate strategies to local contexts. In the next couple of decades, we are going to see very dramatic changes in the ways our cities are designed. So how do we, as designers, become more active participants in decision-making spaces? How do we propose new collaborative frameworks to advocate for spatial justice and equitable design? That’s what I’m interested in.
Check out the links below to learn more about Paola’s work:
Creative Grounds is an initiative led by Borderless to explore the role of schools after the largest public schools closure in Chicago’s history, bring awareness to the impact of this inequity, and to engage community in collaborative interventions reimagining the role of social infrastructure.
The Reclaiming Space project features a design installation in collaboration with Chicago’s Park District’s T.R.A.C.E. program (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community & Environment) to reactivate the area of an existing handball court at Hamilton Park in the Southside of Chicago.
Paola serves on the Scholarly Advisory Council for the National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, D.C. The committee discusses and advises in items related to museum content: curatorial, collections, exhibitions, public program, education approach, and community engagement.
Paola also serves as part of the Curatorial Team for Exhibit Columbus – a biannual design festival that commissions/features designers/design installations to celebrate the legacy and future of design; she was previously a featured contributor in 2019.
I bring you greetings from Cambridge, where the autumn weather has been beautiful, and we are already past the midpoint of our fall semester. It’s my great pleasure to report that from where I sit, the mood in the school is positive and upbeat. Our “Back to School” gathering in early September hit the right notes with Dean Sarah Whiting and the program chairs sharing thoughts on the year ahead, followed by a Beer ‘n Dogs barbecue in the back garden for students, faculty, and staff. The relief among all parties upon a full and largely unmasked return was palpable. We also had a fantastic set of events around the GSD Comeback in mid-September, when returning alumni engaged in faculty-led “mini-courses,” witnessed our Dean Whiting honoring alums for achievements and service, and celebrated with friends at a raucous front porch party. This all occurred alongside our Alumni Council’s first in-person meeting in several years. And this momentum remains strong just after mid-semester reviews.
Many of you are aware of the Olmsted 200 events throughout the nation in honor of Frederick Law Olmsted’s bicentennial birth year. The department held a well-attended two-day event in September entitled Olmsted: Bicentennial Perspectives.Many notable speakers brought forward newly critical readings of Olmsted Sr.’s work and that of his successors. Professor Ethan Carr MLA ’91, of the University of Massachusetts Department of Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, gave the Annual Frederick Law Olmsted lecture as keynote for the symposium. I am immensely grateful to Professor Anita Berrizbeitia MLA ’87 and most especially senior lecturer Ed Eigen for organizing this superb event.
We are all feeling the urgency of the climate crisis like never before. The extreme heat and drought this past summer here in Massachusetts was the worst I can remember in 40 years of practicing here. The deadly flooding in Pakistan left more than 1,700 dead and 33 million people impacted by the worst rains in decades. One-third of the country was submerged, and the damage is devastating. The Pearl River in Mississippi crested at 36 feet twice this year. That has happened only once before. Flooding and failed infrastructure intersected in Jackson, Mississippi, leaving the city without potable water for weeks. Forests burned in France and Spain this summer. And 18-foot surges from Hurricane Ian caused at least 119 deaths in Florida and adjoining states. Florida, in particular, will take years to recover.
Our faculty and students are directly addressing the urgent hazards of climate risk, the need to decarbonize our energy use and our material and construction practices, and the need to pursue the cause of environmental justice through design everywhere we can. To give you a palpable feel for this revolution in curriculum, I need only describe our current semester’s option studios, many of which have included international travel. In Guinea-Bissau, for instance, in West Africa, a studio with design critic Silvia Benedito MAUD ’04 is facing matters of food sovereignty in the face of extreme drought and fire risk. In the Mexican Altiplano with visiting design critic Lorena Bello-Gomez MAUD ’11 is leading a pursuit of the return to liquidity in the face of severe lack of water resources. In the Texcoco region of Mexico with Lecturer in Landscape Architecture, Montserrat Bonvehi-Rosich, students are tackling matters of polluted waste, drought, and land subsidence on a massive scale.
In Portland, Oregon, with visiting design critics Gina Ford MLA ’03 and Anyeley Hallova MLA ’03, students are working with an organization that treats children suffering from the traumatic effects of child welfare injustices and incarceration. In Iceland, with Surfacedesign design critics James Lord MLA ’96 and Roderick Wyllie MLA ’98, students are examining intelligent energy landscapes, individual responsibility, and bodily sensory experience—baths included. In Luxemburg, students are examining decarbonization of the entire territory with visitors Aglaee Degros and Stefan Bendix. With Sergio Lopez-Pinero, students are electing climate, ecological, or justice issues on sites of their own choosing in communities facing conflict. And a studio with design critic Danilo Martic is designing massive temporary settlements caused by forced migration, incarceration, natural or human disasters like those just mentioned, or religious affiliation. How very timely.
When I look at the option studios across all three departments, in fact, and at the coursework and final projects in the advanced design study programs and in design engineering, I see a correlation of issues and inquiries that is remarkable in its overlap of environmental, political, and justice drivers. We are using varying tools and modes of inquiry, asking differently framed questions, of course. But I would venture this: The time we are living in is marked by greater urgency in these questions, and I see that all students in all the programs in the school are facing them accordingly—to a degree, I would assert, that is unprecedented. I for one am glad for this alignment, and I trust we’ll find useful differences and productive overlaps. That excites me about the GSD at this time.
Because of former chair Anita Berrizbietia’s MLA ’87 excellent stewardship for the past seven years, I am working with outstanding faculty and amazing staff in the department. But we have had several retirements and a few departures in the past two years. My number one priority for this academic year is to secure additional design faculty for the department. We have four searches running concurrently, and I am deeply grateful for the leadership of Professors Niall Kirkwood and Ed Eigen, and to the many other faculty who are working on our behalf in these searches. In case it is of interest, you can see these positions described on the GSD website, on the Open Faculty Positions page. And, if you have recommendations for us, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
We are gearing up for our first alumni gathering at the ASLA Conference in a few years, this time in San Francisco, on Saturday, November 12th. I look forward to seeing many of you there and at other events over the weekend. Please introduce yourselves to our nine student members who are traveling to the conference with financial support from the department!
I welcome hearing from you whenever you are moved to reach out. Thanks for paying attention to the department!
With my warmest wishes.
Gary R Hilderbrand FASLA FAAR he | him
Reed Hilderbrand LLC | 130 Bishop Allen Drive Cambridge MA 02139 | 617 923 2422
Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture | Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor in Practice
Harvard University Graduate School of Design | 48 Quincy Street G312 Cambridge MA 02138 | 617 495 2367
First and foremost, I welcome students, faculty, staff, and soon alumni and friends, back to the GSD. It’s hard to believe it, but this is the first semester that we are starting fully in person since spring of 2020! Not only are we back in person, but we are also back collectively and in numbers. With 280 new students joining us and 87 students returning from leaves of absence, we are clocking in this fall at 963 students, and it gives me great pleasure to announce that as of this fall, all studios once again will be located in the Trays of Gund Hall.
As many of you know, Gund Hall turns 50 years old this year, and with the Trays once again filling up with students and studios and energy, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of the Trays to Gund Hall and the pedagogy of the School. They came to mind recently as I was reading an article by our own Danielle Choi MLA ’08, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture. Entitled “Risk and Fun” (published in Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes) her text analyzes the interior landscape design of the Ford Foundation atrium in Manhattan, which opened in 1967. Danielle writes:
The newness of this fully air-conditioned environment was met by a spirit of experimentation by the Office of Dan Kiley, who synthesized different and sometimes competing frameworks of knowledge—botanical and horticultural, scientific and technical, personal and professional—through the research, design, and execution of this project, and subsequent interior landscapes.
I read this description and immediately thought of the GSD. Aside from the fact that Dan Kiley studied landscape architecture here at Harvard, an obvious comparison that came to mind is between the Ford Foundation atrium and our Trays. John Andrews—who graduated from the GSD with a Masters in Architecture in 1958—designed Gund exactly 50 years ago as a space that encourages collaboration and dialogue within and across studios, programs, students, and faculty.
The Trays were Andrews’ invention—they weren’t in the brief he had been given—and in that single design move, he defined the GSD as a school of encounters and exchanges or, to return to Danielle’s phrasing, a school that synthesizes different and sometimes competing frameworks of knowledge—knowledge arising from student and faculty design, writing, fabrication, and research.
And there is a lot of knowledge being produced here. The school has 7 different programs offering 15 different degrees, and we’re in the process of adding a new degree, the Master of Real Estate, with applications coming in this fall. Added to all of these degree programs are the Loeb Fellowship, Executive Education, the Undergraduate Architecture Studies concentration, and other Early Design Education programs. That adds up to a lot of potential synthesizing. And that is where our work lies.
To foster the most productive synthesizing, I want to take this opportunity at the start of the fall semester to lay out three priorities for the school that I hope will carry us forward in the years ahead, as the disruption of the pandemic finally begins to recede into the background. We are all doing very different work—not only across departments and programs, but even within a single program or a single class—but these three priorities bind us all together, and I hope they will help move us forward as a whole, as one School:
First, is building on the promise of the core.
Second, is ensuring our relevance.
Third, is expanding our reach.
Each of our degree programs has either a core or a pro-seminar or a required sequence of courses that lays out some fundamental skills, methods, and bodies of knowledge that drive the disciplines forward. And each of those core bodies of knowledge is akin to a living organism—they are constantly evolving. This evolution has been especially important over the past few years as the urgency of addressing issues of inequity, racism, and other biases and complicities in our disciplines and professions has been laid bare. In reckoning with the cores of our disciplines, and in laboring to command their fundamentals—as students, teachers, and practitioners—we all learn to sharpen our vision, deepen our empathy, and commit to an idea, an argument, a design, and its consequences.
The cores of our various disciplines also galvanize the dialogue that drives necessary change across the School and across the world to meet the demands of the 21st century—the dialogue between each of us as individuals and the fields we comprise; and also the dialogue between innovative ideas emerging on the periphery, and the established ways of thinking that underpin the disciplines as we know them today. Through the core, we better ourselves as practitioners striving to bring resilience, justice, and beauty into the world, and we embrace the responsibility for our fields to do the same.
So, priority one: the core is not an obligation to be crossed off en route to more advanced work—it is the basis of all advanced work. It is the expertise that underlies all productive collaborations. The core of each of our programs is not static; it is constantly evolving, and one of my priorities as dean is to ensure that we turn our attention to the core, writ broadly, so that we can direct that critical, urgent, and timely evolution together.
Priority two: ensuring our relevance.
We need to hone our core expertise in order to ensure our relevance. There are too many challenges in today’s world for us to sit on the sidelines. The mounting challenges of the 21st century—from the climate crisis to spiking social inequality and the global erosion of democratic institutions—constantly require us to pursue relevance. The design and planning fields are unique in their combination of such radical interdisciplinarity with the specificity and precision of our core expertise. We synthesize expertise from across the academy and the public and private sectors to uncover possibility in convergence and to distill genuinely new ideas—a resolved design, an effective public policy, a generative history—in response to the complex circumstances of a place, its community, and its future.
It follows that design and planning have immense potential—indeed, immense responsibility—to engage what are not just urgent challenges of today, but some of the most complicated and intractable issues of our time. We construct the world around us—that’s a hefty charge, but also an extraordinarily exciting and important one. We translate into policy, program, space, and form different ways of living together that can mitigate our climate catastrophe, can suture broken communities, and can offer new ways of living and working in our contemporary world.
And finally, priority three: expanding our reach.
Our work will never have traction—it will never lead to new possibilities, it will never synthesize, it will never gain relevance—if it can’t be understood by others. Design operates in an expanded field, which means that we are constantly moving within, among, and across different crowds—what the scholar-activist Edward Said once referred to as “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community” (published in Critical Inquiry). Said lamented the overspecialization of literary critics, because he felt that they wrote only for other literary critics, whereas politicians and journalists communicated to the entire world. Our different fields here at the GSD are always already imbricated in the world. Because of that, we need to pay attention to the crowds we surf among, so that we can best situate our work among constituencies, communities, stakeholders, audiences, and even, to use Said’s term, opponents.
For in addition to designing the world around us, we’re also constructing the terms that explain that world to those who have to construct it with us—technically, structurally, socially, economically, and politically. If we can’t translate our ideas across all of these registers, we won’t be able to get anything done. Design is the most public of the arts—we need to be comfortable operating in that public realm if we want to be effective scholar-activists.
Design, planning, policy, and history can’t be done alone, and none of our work can be done quickly: gaining the expertise of the core, ensuring our relevance, and expanding our audience all takes time and patience. Time is admittedly a weird concept in the best of times, but in these past 2.5 years it’s been downright wacky. We all complain that we don’t have control over time —and we often let that complaint become reality by not taking the time to think through what needs to be done when and how, which puts us in the position of rushing willy-nilly to the drumbeat of deadlines.
If Covid slowed the world down, and if racist murders, Supreme Court decisions, and global disasters have recently simply stopped the world in its tracks, one can say that these past years have given us cause for reflection. Patience is the attitude that makes it possible for us to comprehend, learn from, navigate, and build on the experience of these past 2.5 years. Patience is also the quality that enables us to gain our expertise, question its foundations, determine our relevance, and engage our audiences. Finally, patience is simply another way of saying take care—take the time to take care of yourselves, and take care of those around you.
These three priorities—building on the promise of the core, ensuring our relevance, and expanding our reach—can maybe best be understood as common sense, especially for a community of 963 students, 182 faculty, and 170 staff, who live and work together daily at the GSD. Ours is a big and extraordinary community, but its size is also why I ask that we all take care to care for one another. To thrive here, we must cultivate an ethics—a common sense, and a sense of our commons—in what we do as individuals and as a school to push our fields toward ethical forms of practice. As designers, planners, historians, critics, and educators, we strive to shepherd the world toward a future that we envision for a better tomorrow. To succeed, we must cultivate a keen sense of ethical judgment, an expansive sense of empathy, and a vigilant sense of our shared social contract as global citizens—our contract with one another here at the GSD, and across this fragile planet that we all inhabit.
I’ll close by sharing that I’m honored to be part of the community that is the GSD. I look forward to connecting with many of you at the GSD Comeback: Alumni & Friends Celebration, which will take place on our campus on Sept. 16 and 17. I look forward to talking more with you about how we can collectively make progress on these three priorities, and about other ways that we can move our school and our fields forward.
Sarah M. Whiting
Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
The GSD Alumni Council Award honors outstanding leadership by GSD alumni, underscoring the essential role GSD graduates play in leading change around the world. Founded and led by the GSD Alumni Council, the award recognizes and celebrates the diversity, leadership, range, and impact of GSD alumni within their communities and across their areas of practice.
Chelina Odbert MUP ’07–An urban planner by training, Chelina is a Founding Principal and CEO of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a nonprofit design practice committed to building a more just public realm. While still at the GSD, Chelina and 5 classmates launched the interdisciplinary initiative to expand equity and inclusivity in places that have long been overlooked or actively harmed by traditional design and planning approaches. She has written extensively about KDI’s community-engaged approach to planning and design in the U.S. and abroad, and has held teaching appointments at the GSD and UCLA. Chelina and her work have been recognized by notable institutions including the Van Alen Institute, Ashoka Changemakers, the Aspen Institute, and The Architectural League of New York.
Donald L. Stull MArch ’62 (in memoriam) and M. David Lee MAUD ’71–Donald, an African-American pioneer in architecture, established the award-winning Stull and Lee Inc. (S+L) architecture, design, and planning firm in 1966. Before his death in 2020, Donald was a member of the distinguished College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, and recipient of the Boston Society of Architects 1997 Award of Honor. With David at the helm as S+L’s president, the firm has continued its leadership in the design of multi-family housing, educational and health care institutions, office buildings, retail, and manufacturing facilities. David is a fellow in the American Institute of Architects and is a past president of the Boston Society of Architects. He was the recipient of the BSA’s 2000 Award of Honor.
Allyson Mendenhall FASLA, AB ’90, MLA ’99–Serving as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Sasaki, a landscape architecture, civil engineering, and ecology practice, Allyson is a LEED-certified licensed landscape architect. In addition to her role as past chair of the GSD Alumni Council, Allyson served on the Harvard Alumni Association Board Executive Committee as vice president of university-wide affairs and now serves as the president of the HAA — the first GSD alum to do so. She is also on the boards of the Denver Botanic Gardens and CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning.
Everett Fly MLA ’77–As the first African-American graduate of the Master in Landscape Architecture program, Everett Fly witnessed first-hand the lack of architectural scholarship centered on the African American experience. In response, Fly began the “Black Settlements in America Research Project,” setting in motion decades of groundbreaking design research focused on the history of black settlements across the United States. Fly is the recipient of the 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities National Humanities Medal and is recognized as a national leader whose work has transformed our collective understanding of the significance of black places and spaces across America.
Deanna Van Buren LF ’13–Deanna Van Buren is a nationally recognized activist architect leading the research, formulation, and advocacy of restorative justice centers, a radical transformation of the criminal justice system. Deanna sits on the national board of Architects Designs and Planners for Social Responsibility and is the co-founder and design director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, based in Oakland, California. Designing Justice + Designing Space is an innovative architecture and real estate development firm that designs restorative justice centers instead of prisons with the goal of ending the age of mass incarceration. Van Buren’s recent social impact work includes Restore, a multi-use hub for restorative justice and workforce development, The Pop-up Village—a mobile site activation tool and The Reem’s Re-entry Campus. Van Buren’s work has been featured at TED Women and the Women in Architecture Awards Honoring Pioneering Professionals. She received her BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia, M. Arch from Columbia University, and is an alumna of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Jack Dangermond MLA ’69–Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri. With a background in landscape architecture and urban design, he and his wife, Laura, founded Esri in 1969 on the idea that computer-based mapping and analysis could make significant contributions to geographic planning and environmental science. Since then, Esri has become the global market leader in GIS and location intelligence, with 49 offices worldwide, 11 dedicated research centers, and a user base of about 350,000 organizations around the world. Dangermond completed his undergraduate degree in landscape architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He then earned a Master in Urban Planning from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His early work in the school’s Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (LCGSA) led directly to the development of Esri’s ARC/INFO GIS software. Dangermond has received many acknowledgments and awards for his contributions to the fields of geography, environmental science, planning, and GIS, including 13 honorary degrees and the Order of Orange- Nassau from the Dutch Government.
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) is pleased to announce Chelina Odbert MUP ’07, Donald Stull MArch ’62 (in memoriam) and David Lee MAUD ’71, and Allyson Mendenhall FASLA, AB ’90, MLA ’99 as the 2022 recipients of the Harvard GSD Alumni Award. The award, in its second year, honors outstanding leadership by GSD alumni, underscoring the essential role GSD graduates play in leading change around the world. Founded and led by the GSD Alumni Council, the award recognizes and celebrates the diversity, leadership, range, and impact of GSD alumni within their communities and across their areas of practice.
A celebration of the winners will take place on Friday, Sept. 16, during the GSD Comeback: Alumni & Friends Celebration, which will be Sept. 16-17, 2022. This event is free and open to all, and those interested in attending can register here.
“Chelina Odbert, Don Stull and David Lee, and Allyson Mendendhall are all outstanding leaders who have not only risen to excellence in their professions but who have played a leading role in changing their communities and the world,” said Brenda Levin MArch ’76, President and Principal of Levin & Associates and co-chair of the Alumni Award jury. “We believe the Alumni Council’s Alumni Award has been a significant contribution to the GSD in bringing focus to the incredible work of our alumni and highlighting the impact that the GSD has had across the globe.”
“This award is about the societal impact that GSD alumni are having on the world through design,” said Kristina Yu MArch ’95, Principal of McCLAIN+YU Architecture and co-chair of the Alumni Award jury. “It’s important that we elevate the exemplary work of our colleagues, and the impact of the work of Chelina, Don and David, and Allyson reverberates strongly in both their hometowns and globally.”
Chelina Odbert MUP ’07: An urban planner by training, Chelina is a Founding Principal and CEO of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), a nonprofit design practice committed to building a more just public realm. While still at the GSD, Chelina and 5 classmates launched the interdisciplinary initiative to expand equity and inclusivity in places that have long been overlooked or actively harmed by traditional design and planning approaches. She has written extensively about KDI’s community-engaged approach to planning and design in the U.S. and abroad, and has held teaching appointments at the GSD and UCLA. Chelina and her work have been recognized by notable institutions including the Van Alen Institute, Ashoka Changemakers, the Aspen Institute, and The Architectural League of New York.
Donald L. Stull MArch ’62 (in memoriam) and M. David Lee MAUD ’71: Donald, an African-American pioneer in architecture, established the award-winning Stull and Lee Inc. (S+L) architecture, design, and planning firm in 1966. Before his death in 2020, Donald was a member of the distinguished College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects, and recipient of the Boston Society of Architects 1997 Award of Honor. With David at the helm as S+L’s president, the firm has continued its leadership in the design of multi-family housing, educational and health care institutions, office buildings, retail, and manufacturing facilities. David is a fellow in the American Institute of Architects and is a past president of the Boston Society of Architects. He was the recipient of the BSA’s 2000 Award of Honor.
Allyson Mendenhall FASLA, AB ’90, MLA ’99: Serving as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Sasaki, a landscape architecture, civil engineering, and ecology practice, Allyson is a LEED-certified licensed landscape architect. In addition to her role as past chair of the GSD Alumni Council, Allyson served on the Harvard Alumni Association Board Executive Committee as vice president of university-wide affairs and now serves as the president of the HAA — the first GSD alum to do so. She is also on the boards of the Denver Botanic Gardens and CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning.
Following the launch of Harvard Design Press last spring, the Press is pleased to announce the release of three titles this fall: John Andrews: Architect of Uncommon Sense, Frida Escobedo: Split Subject, and Empty Plinths: Monuments, Memorials, and Public Sculpture in Mexico.
Documenting John Andrews’ MAUD ’87 path from Australia to the United States and Canada and back again, John Andrews: Architect of Uncommon Sense by Paul Walker, examines his most important buildings and reveals how the internationalization of architecture during this period was an unexpectedly dispersed geographical phenomenon, following more complex flows and localized progressions than earlier modernist ideas that travelled from center to periphery, metropole to outpost. Andrews negotiated the advent of postmodernism not by ignoring it, but by cultivating approaches that this new era foregrounded—identity, history, place—within the formal vocabularies of modernism. As Andrews assumed wider public roles and took appointments that allowed him to shape architectural education, he influenced design culture beyond his own personal portfolio. This book presents Andrews’ legacy traversing local and international scenes and exemplifying late-modern developments of architecture while offering both generational continuities and discontinuities with what came after. John Andrews: Architect of UncommonSense features essays from Paul Walker, Mary Lou Lobsinger, Peter Scriver and Antony Moulis, Philip Goad, and Paolo Scrivano, along with nearly 100 new photographs of existing buildings designed by Andrews in North America and Australia from visual artist Noritaka Minami.
Frida Escobedo: Split Subject
Split Subject, an early project by architect Frida Escobedo MDes ’12, deconstructs a fraught allegory of national identity and architectural modernism in Mexico. Unpacking this project and tracing its enduring influence throughout Escobedo’s career, Frida Escobedo: Split Subject reveals a multi-scalar and multi-medium practice whose creative output encompasses permanent buildings, temporary installations, public sculpture, art objects, publications, and exhibitions, and bares at its center a sensitivity to time and weathering, material and pattern, and memory. It includes essays by Julieta Gonzalez, Alejandro Hernández, Erika Naginski, Doris Sommer and José Falconi, and Irene Sunwoo, and a foreword by Wonne Ickx.
Empty Plinths: Monuments, Memorials, and Public Sculpture in Mexico
Empty Plinths: Monuments, Memorials, and Public Sculpturein Mexico responds to the unfolding political debate around one of the most contentious public monuments in North America, Mexico City’s monument of Christopher Columbus on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma. In convening a diverse collective of voices around the question of the monument’s future, editors José Esparza Chong Cuy and Guillermo Ruiz de TeresaMDes ’13 probe the unstable narratives behind a selection of monuments, memorials, and public sculptures in Mexico City, and propose a new charter that informs future public art commissions in Mexico and beyond. At a moment when many such structures have become highly visible sites of protest throughout the world, this new compilation of essays, interviews, artistic contributions, and public policy proposals reveals and reframes the histories embedded within contested public spaces in Mexico.
A book-publishing imprint based at Harvard GSD and distributed in collaboration with Harvard University Press, Harvard Design Press challenges, broadens, and advances the design disciplines and advocates for the value and power of design in making a more resilient, just, and beautiful world. In pursuit of new, original ideas on the research and practice of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and urban design, the Press seeks book proposals from researchers, practitioners, theorists, historians, and critics, among others. More information about submitting a proposal can be found on the Harvard Design Press’s webpage.
Harvard Design Press is organized and edited by Harvard GSD’s Ken Stewart and Marielle Suba, and guided by an Editorial Board composed of Harvard GSD and Harvard University faculty. Alongside Dean Sarah Whiting, the Harvard Design Press Editorial Board includes Harvard GSD’s Martin Bechthold DDes ’01, Anita Berrizbeitia MLA ’87, Eve Blau, Ed Eigen, K. Michael Hays, Niall Kirkwood, Mark Lee MArch ’95, John May MArch ’02, Rahul Mehrotra MAUD ’87, Erika Naginski, Jacob Reidel, and Sara Zewde MLA ’15, as well as Harvard University’s Lizabeth Cohen, Sarah Lewis, and Patricio del Real.
To learn more about Harvard Design Press and explore submission guidelines, please visit the Harvard Design Press’s webpage. To stay up-to-date on new releases and general Harvard GSD news, please visit Harvard GSD’s homepage and subscribe to its Design News updates.
This story was originally posted on the GSD’s website and is written by Joshua Machat.
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Alumni Council and the GSD’s Frances Loeb Library are pleased to honor five students with the 2022 Unsung Hero Book Prize. This year’s honorees are Junainah N. Ahmed MArch ’23, Aeshna Sanjive Prasad MAUD ’21, MDes ’22, Sarah Elizabeth Page MAUD ’23, Naksha Satish MAUD ’22, and Arshaya Sood MDes ’22, MUP ’23.
Deserving students are nominated for the Unsung Hero Book Prize each spring by fellow GSD students, faculty, and staff, and winners are selected by the Alumni Council. Now in its 16th year, this award received 74 nominations for 52 different students.
“We want to honor the students who act in selfless ways to make the GSD a better place,” said Alumni Council member and award co-chair John di Domenico MAUD ’79. “Our Unsung Heroes are an essential part of the GSD, and this award recognizes their presence, the importance of their work, and how they elevate a positive atmosphere at the school.”
Prize recipients are recognized with a book of their selection by the Alumni Council, with a second copy donated to the Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the awardee’s service to the GSD community.
“Anyone who finds a book chosen by an Unsung Hero will find the bookplate with their name on it in the book in the library, so those documents are part of the culture of the GSD,” sad Loeb Librarian and Assistant Dean for Information Services Ann Whiteside. “And, since libraries are about ensuring information reflects our culture, in this case, it’s the culture of design as well as the GSD. We’re honored to be able to do this as part of our participation in the Unsung Hero Award.”
Established in 2006 by the GSD Alumni Council, the prize is now in its 16th year. The five 2022 Unsung Heroes received universal praise from their peers for their work to forge memorable connections among the student body. These women have also shown leadership in their many roles—including teaching assistant, resident adviser, and student forum chair—at the GSD.
“There were recurring themes about selflessness and giving time to lift up others and build community,” said Alumni Council member and award co-chair Beth Roloff MArch ’14. “As a jury and for the broader Alumni Council, we want to acknowledge all that these students do and celebrate how they contribute to building a fairer and inclusive GSD.”
Junainah Ahmed is from Salt Lake City and studied architecture at the University of Utah prior to arriving at the GSD. She has served in student government as Student Groups Chair on Student Forum and is next year’s President of Student Forum. She has formerly served as co-chair of Womxn in Design. She also serves as a teaching assistant to core architecture studios, is a teaching and research assistant to K. Michael Hays, and is a technical assistant in the Fabrication Lab. Her interests are the intersection of art, curatorial practices, post-colonial studies, and architecture.
Junainah selected “Eileen Gray: An Architecture for All Senses” edited by Caroline Constant and Wilfred Wang, as her book. Of receiving the award, Junainah said, “I am so grateful to be nominated and selected among so many deserving students at the GSD. I love the community that we have here and am always very grateful to be able to work with so many people here that show so much dedication to not only their studies but also toward bettering the school for one another.”
Aeshna Prasad is from Mumbai, India, and is passionate and committed to addressing questions of urban resilience, sustainable development and social equity, especially through the lenses of affordable housing, infrastructure, critical conservation and climate adaptation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the NMIMS’s Balwant Sheth School of Architecture and worked for reputed Indian design studios before attending the GSD. Aeshna has also pursued several internships, including at Robert A.M. Stern Architects in New York, and her work has been spread across diverse geographies such as Mumbai, Cape Town, New York, Boston, and Colombia. She has served as Harvard Graduate Council Chair and Diversity and Inclusion Chair in the Student Forum, as co-chair of South Asia GSD, and as the editor of the Urban Design Department’s publication platform UD:ID.
Aeshna selected “Brodsky & Utkin” edited by Lois Nesbitt as her book. Of receiving the award, Aeshna said, “It’s not often that I am taken by complete surprise, but when I found out I had received this award, I was. When telling a friend about it, I also recognized that an award such as this means more to me than most of my past accomplishments. Building community, making things less of a black box, sharing knowledge and insights that help people grow, are all things that I strive to keep at the center of both my work and my personal interactions. This award attempts to celebrate these very things. Furthermore, I think getting nominated for it at a school like GSD, that can often feel like a pressure cooker, isolating and stressful, means even more. I believe, while each of us in this community is ambitious – striving to grow and excel— we must always remember that it is important to bring other people along. My parents have always said: ‘Being a great designer is important, but being a good person comes first.’ Touching people’s lives positively, even in a small way, is of infinite value. This book prize will go along with me wherever I find myself in the future, and it will remind me of just this, and for that I am ever grateful.”
Sarah Page is a designer who believes in creating a built environment that elevates the human experience. Originally from Athens, Alabama, she studied architecture at Auburn University. Her work in the design-build program, Rural Studio, focused on framing community space within cultural heritage sites and providing affordable rural housing. Having practiced architecture in Tennessee and Mississippi, she is passionate about positively impacting social, economic, and environmental systems within the southern United States. Within the GSD’s Architecture and Urban Design program, Sarah plans to pursue a thesis exploring potential value capture methods for rural communities defined by systems of extraction.
Sarah selected “Routledge Companion to Rural Planning” by Mark Scott, Nick Gallent, and Menelaos Gkartzios as her book. Of receiving the award, Sarah said, “I am honored to be recognized by my community: a group of students who are consistently designing spaces that foster the cultivation of community. My cohort has consistently lifted each other up, and I am grateful to call each of them a friend.”
Naksha Satish is an architect, urban practitioner, and India Design Leadership Fellow at Harvard University. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies at the School of Architecture at CEPT University, India, she pursued an urban fellowship program at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bangalore. Throughout her time at the GSD, she has contributed through various roles: as GSD representative of the Harvard External Advocacy Council; Professional Development Chair, Student Forum 21-22; as a Class Representative; and as a student liaison bridging the gap between Alumni Council and Student Body. She is currently a finalist in the Plimpton Poorvu Design Prize, an award that recognizes outstanding performance in balancing Real Estate Development and Social Design goals. Naksha’s interests and work lie at the intersection of technology, housing, and design of cities.
Naksha selected “Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence: Convergent Systems for Planning, Design, and Operations” by Christopher Grant Kirwan and Zhiyong Fu as her book. Of receiving the award, Naksha said, “Receiving this recognition through the Unsung Hero Award is a great way to encourage students to contribute to their peers and build a sense of community without anticipation of reward. I’m humbled and honored to receive this recognition and hope to be this bridge between students and alumni as I cross that line of graduation myself. My utmost gratitude to the Harvard GSD Alumni Council for this recognition.”
Arshaya Sood earned her undergraduate degree at University of Virginia in Architecture prior to working in New York City as an architect. Her current research explores the intersection of policy, gender, and sustainability, examining the barriers that result from urbanization, climate change, and food insecurity. She is interested in finding opportunity for improving connectivity between urban and rural communities. She has served in student government and as a teaching assistant in courses within the Urban Planning department. In her free time, Arshaya loves to watercolor, play tennis, and take long runs.
Arshaya selected “Le Corbusier Sketchbooks, Vol. 4, 1957-1964” from the Architectural History Foundation as her book. Of receiving the award, Arshaya said, “There’s so much power behind this community and the GSD is so supportive. Awards like this really motivate us to keep going and giving back to the community, and I am so honored to be recognized with the four other ladies here and to even be part of this group. Thank you to everyone for constantly being a cheerleader for all the work that we do—not just myself, but everyone at the GSD.”
With the end of commencement ceremonies and celebrations held over the past several days, the school year officially has come to a close. Congratulations again to the class of 2022, as well as the graduates from 2020 and 2021, for whom we were, at long last and not a minute too soon, able to celebrate in person. It was overwhelming and rewarding to see so many graduates, alumni, and their families gather in person on campus, and it all made for a fitting end to such an extraordinary year.
This year, the world’s focus gradually began turning toward living with COVID-19, and so in some ways the year marked the end of the pandemic’s grip on the school and our collective community. As Danielle Allen put it during her Class Day address last Wednesday, the class of 2022—and I would add to that the graduates from 2020 and 2021, as well as future graduates—are the classes of resilience. Indeed they are. I have been endlessly amazed by our students’ imaginative capacity for adaptation, reinvention, and perseverance amid the deep disruption that has defined the past two years. And as unspeakable tragedies continue to mount and leave little reason for hope—most recently the shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas—I find optimism for our future in our students’ seemingly irrepressible determination and ideas to make our world a better place.
We all need that optimism and the sense of possibility it evokes. It is foundational to the design and planning disciplines—the notion that there must be a new and better way—and our fields are capable of delivering on it. Our contemporary world is facing many challenges—from climate change and housing crises to deeply rooted social inequities—and now is the time when all of us need to not only demonstrate our expertise, knowledge, and ambitions, but also our ethics and values as an indispensable part of our work as designers, planners, historians, policy-makers, theorists, and educators.
I wish you all a peaceful summer, and please do take the time to rest and take care of yourselves. I already can’t wait to see what inspiring work the fall will bring. To recent graduates and all alumni, I look forward to crossing paths at future alumni events and to reading about your future adventures. Good luck to all!
Sarah M. Whiting
Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
During an unprecedented time, the Harvard GSD Alumni Council created Design Impact, a leadership series that emphasized design as a tool for transformative change and healing.
Design’s power has always been most potent when its practitioners can come together. In the early days of the pandemic, though, the world was folding into small, quarantined boundaries. That moment revealed two things to the Harvard Graduate School of Design Alumni Council: we need practical, actionable design solutions to solve our global challenges now more than ever, and we need to do it together.
Out of that spirit, Design Impact was born. This global design leadership speaker series brought together outstanding rosters of global leaders to share their work and vision, challenging the worldwide design community to use the field and its knowledge base as tools for transformative change and healing.
“In a time that is requiring us to meet challenges that are unprecedented, our goal was to create communities of leadership where people can lead with who they are, from where they are, with what they can,” said Ana Pinto da Silva MDes ’05, the Design Impact co-chair and CEO of 2G3R Inc., which designs homes and communities for people of all ages and abilities. “We want to foster and support a community of leaders—as many as we can. That’s what will help at this point.”
The reach and diversity of the GSD alumni community—who they are, where they are, and what they can do—translated to a wide range of highly relevant topics with engaging speakers and discussions. Members of the Alumni Council settled on what they saw as the most urgent global issues: equity, homelessness, climate change, community and innovation, health, and resilience.
Design Impact also became the perfect platform to allow us to partner with many other Harvard Alumni Councils or associations and professional organizations. It is one step toward creating One Harvard. ~ Peter Coombe MArch ’88, Alumni Council Chair
“We realized early on that we could leverage virtual meetings to engage far more members of the design community than we had ever had in the past,” said Alumni Council Chair Peter Coombe MArch ’88. “Over the course of the five volumes of Design Impact, we registered nearly 10,000 participants from more than 100 countries. Design Impact also became the perfect platform to allow us to partner with many other Harvard Alumni Councils or associations and professional organizations. It is one step toward creating One Harvard.”
“We were bold and ambitious,” said Sameh Wahba MUP ’97, PhD ’02, KSGEE ’13, who serves as the at The World Bank. “We were sending the message to the alumni that during a pandemic, the worst wave of racism, the crisis of climate change—design has a role to play.”
As Pinto da Silva put it, Design Impact was a labor of love. Numerous GSD Alumni Council members volunteered their time, partnering with the school and its students to create a series that was free and open to all. The events were volunteer-driven, and speakers appeared at no cost, as they were motivated by the importance of this series and the topics it covered.
Jaya Kader’s MArch ’88 sessions focused on climate change, with an emphasis on radical sustainability and regeneration. Those aspects dovetailed with her work as founder and principal of KZ Architecture, a Miami-based full services design studio committed to design excellence and sustainable building practices. Hundreds of people tuned in to the panel on regenerative economics and language, which featured Indigenous leaders.
“It was transformational,” Kader said. “With regenerative design, you look at whole systems. You rethink everything that we’re conditioned to think and look at actualized potential.
“The power of design is to envision and create new worlds. That’s what we do,” she added. “We need the right brain, the creativity, the creators, the artists, the designers to come up with solutions.”
GSD students also had an opportunity to moderate and curate the sessions, as Naksha Satish MAUD ’22 did for an event centered on South Asia. She happened upon the event by chance: she filled out a Google form expressing her interest in participating, which she saw as reflecting the Design Impact theme of democracy in design.
“It was a great way to see the GSD family that exists beyond the school. After being associated with the Design Impact group for more than a year, it really feels like a family,” Satish said. “It was also a good way to segue from the academic perspective to look at the same topics from the practice perspective and engage with current practitioners who had a similar academic trajectory. You can understand the broad ways in which you can think of yourself as a practitioner, and you connect with the fraternity now in different ways.”
The intergenerational, transdisciplinary connections between alumni and students quickly grew into Pinto da Silva’s most treasured moments of Design Impact. “When someone in their seventies is working with someone in their early twenties, that’s powerful. You need to step aside. The stuff that comes out is so important,” she said. “The more we partner, the more we can expand our reach and be in service to our different constituencies.”
Coming out of the events, 83 percent of attendees were able to identify actionable tools they could incorporate in their professional practice. That practical perspective resonated with John Friedman MArch ’90and his wife, Alice Kimm MArch ’90, who curated sessions about homelessness. The couple are co-founders of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK), which they established in 1996 in Los Angeles based on a “common desire to create architectural environments that are simultaneously joyful, meaningful, and sustainable.”
“The GSD is shifting with the times and being less high-design and more globally focused on justice and equity,” Friedman said. “People in other countries are dealing with this stuff every day: trying to find clean water, basic shelter, dealing with incredible extremes of wealth and poverty. With Design Impact, there’s a lot of good info and sharing across cultures, which is really valuable.”
The Alumni Council is strategizing how to best share the volumes of information that came out of Design Impact and exploring how to strengthen this real-world bridge across disciplines, demographics, GSD Alumni, students, and the school. In the meantime, those who took part in Design Impact are celebrating how it brought the GSD community together in a challenging year—and provided avenues on how design can overcome those obstacles.
“This continues as a forum to express ideas for how we use design for transformation in the world,” Kader said. “The message that Design Impact brought will carry on for years to come.”
The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) is pleased to announce a new 12-month degree, the Master in Real Estate (MRE), for individuals seeking to acquire core real estate skills while learning how real estate can advance beneficial spatial, social, and environmental outcomes in cities and metropolitan areas worldwide. The school has received a combined $13M in gifts from GSD alumni and friends. The program will accept applications in fall 2022 for up to 25 spaces, with the first class enrolling in fall 2023.
“As our cities, their communities, and the environment face mounting crises, the world needs a new kind of developer, and with this degree the GSD aims to educate leaders in real estate who are prepared to face such complex and urgent ethical challenges,” said Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture.
The MRE program is designed to train future practitioners to address new and urgent realities facing the built environment and cities today. Whether undertaken by for-profit businesses, not-for-profit organizations, or public entities, real estate occupies a pivotal role in determining how the places where we live, work, and play are equitable, environmentally sustainable, and appealing, in addition to being productive for the economy. On top of today’s routine pressures of making real estate projects successful are the effects of climate change, the need for equitable development, shifting boundaries between home and work, online consumerism, and global flows of capital. Today, real estate investors are applying environmental, social, and governance criteria (often referred to as ESG criteria) as new metrics for performance, and regulatory agencies are requiring developers to demonstrate that their projects account for environmental factors. Providing public benefits such as affordable housing is also becoming a common requirement of local development approval.
Jerold S. Kayden, the Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design and Founding Director of the MRE program, sees the MRE degree as “transformational in its recognition that future success in real estate will depend not only on traditional financial and management skills but on a profound understanding of and responsiveness to the new dynamics of social and environmental conditions.”
Through a cross-disciplinary pedagogy of required and elective courses, concluding with a two-month practicum based at a private or public real estate organization working on a socially and environmentally oriented project, students learn about finance, project and construction management, government regulation, urban economics, public-private partnerships, politics, technology, real estate law, ethics, entrepreneurship, negotiation, leadership, and other subjects essential to the practice of present and future real estate.
“In establishing the Master in Real Estate program as part of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, the GSD recognizes real estate as a critical domain in the production of the built environment spanning many concerns,” said Rahul Mehrotra MAUD ’87, Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design and John T. Dunlop Professor in Housing and Urbanization. “The program will educate new generations of real estate entrepreneurs who will imagine new possibilities for healthy synergies between property development, government regulation, and social imperatives, all while safeguarding the health of our planet.”
Students enrolled in the MRE program will benefit from being part of one of the largest design schools in the world, with close to 200 faculty members and 900 graduate students, of whom more than fifty percent hail from countries outside the United States. Offering the MRE degree within the GSD’s Department of Urban Planning and Design builds upon its longstanding strengths in real estate education and research and reflects the Department’s intentional synthesis of planning, policy, and design. With nearly a century of experience in studio-based education, the GSD is ideally positioned to tailor instruction to emphasize the holistic and collaborative environment in which real estate projects are successfully launched. The MRE program also benefits from programs and courses offered by Harvard’s 11 other schools, including the schools of business, government, law, public health, and engineering and applied sciences, as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
First Graduate School of Design alum to serve as HAA president, Allyson Mendenhall is committed to creating inclusive alumni experiences
When Allyson Mendenhall AB ’90, MLA ’99, walked past the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Gund Hall as an undergraduate at Harvard College, she never imagined that she would one day step inside as a GSD student — or that she would become the first alum of the GSD to serve as president of the Harvard Alumni Association.
As she prepares to represent alumni from across the University when her term begins on July 1, Mendenhall reflected on her own Harvard years. “I’m extremely proud and honored to be the first GSD alum in this role,” she says, adding she is also proud to be a representative of College alumni as well as the alumni community of the Southwest.
As a landscape architect in Denver, she develops sustainable strategies for design in the built environment — all aspects of human-made structures, such as parks, plazas, streets, bridges, homes, and buildings — that are focused on providing measurable environmental, social, and economic benefits. Inspired by this experience, Mendenhall’s theme for the year ahead as HAA president is “Community by Design.” In her work, which relies on iterative problem-solving, ideas are developed by experimenting and making adjustments through feedback — an approach she connects directly to her new role with the HAA.
Mendenhall’s focus is to build on the HAA’s ongoing efforts to engage the alumni community in a purposeful way — with the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as the lens to approach the work.
“We aim to inclusively engage the entire alumni community across disciplines, decades, Schools, and geographies,” she says. “It’s a collaborative endeavor with different contributors adding depth and diverse perspectives. As in the design process, we assemble a team of brilliant minds to engage stakeholders, listen to our communities, and work together to implement positive change.”
Harvard has remained a touchstone throughout Mendenhall’s life. After studying English literature as an undergraduate and forming lasting friendships at Dunster House, she decided to pursue her lifelong love of cities to design urban public open space — enrolling at the GSD and finding herself spending many days (and nights and weekends) inside Gund Hall.
Last June, Megan Panzano MArch ’10 was named senior director of Early Design Education to lead these programs in refreshed formats into the future. Harvard GSD’s Joshua Machat talks with Panzano about her plans for the EDE programs that include breaking down access barriers to design education, engaging diverse perspectives on what should drive design, and building a robust support system for students and those new to teaching design.
The Early Design Education programs introduce design ideas and practices to a wide range of audiences on a global scale. What are the methodologies students will be engaged with concerning the impact of design on the built environment and its potential for societal change?
The programs offer a great chance to share the value of design with an expanded public, and reciprocally, to include and value the voices that a diverse public brings to design. We’re invested in these programs bringing new forms of design agency to the individual ideas and perspectives of our global participants. And we’re working on making these programs as accessible to as many people as possible.
The “early” part of Early Design Education is not an age-dependent term. Rather it assumes that each program is one of the earliest experiences of design immersion and “thinking through making” that participants—ranging from mid-career professionals to high school students—have encountered. These programs aim to offer thoughtful instruction in the materials and scale of design across architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design; workshops in tools used for design, such as 3D modeling and graphics programs; and, most critically, how to think about the world through a design lens.
Harvard GSD Design Discovery Youth
The programs emphasize design as a method for asking important questions. The world is, and will continue to be, unavoidably instable—environmentally, politically, and socially. Our crafting of the Early Design Education programs accepts and claims that instability as a material of design. Rather than seeking a singular “right” answer or achieving a prescribed outcome, the programs teach how to use design to keep up with this evolution—to continuously question the world as we’ve come to know it. This happens by closely reading our context, seeing something that could be improved, naming it as a question, and directing design to impact it.
How has remote learning in the past two years impacted the EDE programs?
The required remote learning of the past two years has taught us many things, not all good. But there a few wonderful takeaways that we intend to hang onto. These positive qualities made it possible for us to conceive of a new format for our summer program, Design Discovery Virtual, which we will offer along with a refreshed version of our Design Discovery in-person program this summer and going forward. What’s been great is that now we have the chance to be intentional with constructing a virtual design education program, rather than simply reacting out of necessity of pandemic pressures.
We can easily bring diverse groups of people together from anywhere in the world to discuss design. That range of perspectives is incredible in conversation and as a way to expand one’s thinking. Within the context of our new virtual program, we note that peer-to-peer learning occurs as much as more conventional top-down organizations of learning from instructors.
Our virtual mode these past years has allowed us to learn and become quite good with programs, such as Miro and Slack, that make it easier to share work—both in-process as well as more polished—to collectively see and record design steps. Miro’s open virtual pin-up space visually collects elements in design processes and in works in progress such as drawings, 3D model images, design precedents and texts, and puts these on an equal plane with more complete finished final work for all members of a design studio. Because you can see your own design evolution beside those of your classmates, the program visually maps different learning paths along with design outcomes, a kind of meta level learning about learning. It’s a wonderfully powerful tool for those new to design.
Harvard GSD Design Discovery Virtual
Sharing our ideas via virtual platforms requires us to be more clear and intentional with an argument and a narrative for our design work when presenting. As opposed to more conventional academic design presentations where a field of visual and modeled work would be pinned up and shown all at once to an audience, digital programs tend toward linearity of flipping through a presentation one slide after the next.
How do you see students in the Harvard Undergraduate Architecture Studies program benefiting from the interdisciplinary approach that teaches design “thinking through making” within the liberal arts context?
The Harvard Undergraduate Architecture Studies program is a special one within the EDE set because it is a joint endeavor between two schools at Harvard—the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Design. It’s a track of study within the history of art and architecture concentration, or major, at Harvard. The GSD has created and teaches four making-based courses annually as part of this degree of study. These courses draw architecture studies concentrators, but are also in high demand with computer science, engineering, history, and visual studies students. We teach architecture to undergraduates, not with the expectation that everyone will become a designer, but with the goal that those coming through our courses who go on to shape the world in any number of ways afterward, will do so with a true understanding of the value of design.
What new offerings are available in the undergraduate Architectural Studies program for students seeking more experience in design education?
I’m looking forward to launching a new version of a course that went on hold for the past two years: a lecture/workshop class next fall for Harvard College students on climate change, through design. The course will explore how material selection and construction practices could radically shift if driven by more sensitive and careful environmental concerns. The course will also study the formal and spatial outcomes of using entirely new building materials and assembly techniques.
It’s been a pleasure to have the support and enthusiasm of my colleagues in the History of Art and Architecture Department, David Roxburgh and Jennifer Roberts, to develop a process for students wishing to pursue a design thesis in their senior year at Harvard College. Going forward, this will be an honors-eligible option each year for our Harvard Architecture Studies students. I’m looking forward to working with more undergraduates pursuing design research on topics they are passionate about as an additional path of studying the impact of design on the important issues of today.
The EDE programs place a lot of emphasis on supporting design teaching opportunities for the current advanced students of the GSD. What are these opportunities and what structures are in place to develop teaching skills in design across all three disciplines?
Harvard GSD Design Discovery
All of our EDE programs intentionally involve advanced GSD students as design instructors so that our current graduate students can gain design teaching experience, across all disciplines. We’ve been making some adjustments so that the programs in the EDE set call upon our GSD students to engage a different audience through different educational formats, and with varying degrees of agency to shape the design curriculum of the program. The intention is that the EDE programs provide a spectrum of design teaching experience that could build up if followed in sequence by current GSD students to help bridge them to post-degree academic positions. Our Design Discovery summer program, which has been around for more than 20 years, has a great track record of launching teaching careers in complement to design practice.
The Black in Design Mentorship program is rooted in the recognition that everyone benefits from mentorship, but not everyone has equal access due to racial inequalities and histories of disenfranchisement. What do you see as the most important factor in diversifying the design profession?
Members of the Black in Design Mentorship Class of 2022 visited Gund Hall in May to tour the building and celebrate the end of the program.
Recognizing and reevaluating what has been established, consciously and unconsciously, as “gate-keepers” to design is most pressing. This includes representation—seeing others like you in design and being able to project a path for yourself like theirs; affordability—considering the cost and time necessary for design education and professional licensure; geography—connecting design and its capacity to change the world as we’ve come to know it to the full range of global cultural heritages; and a sensitivity to the language we use to talk about design. If our profession is not appearing accessible to a diverse audience, one or more of those things are critically off. The design profession should be as diverse as the world we design within and for.
Mead is a member of the GSD’s Dean’s Leadership Council and Candidate for Board of Overseers.
Scott Mead AB ’77 was 13 years old when he received one of his grandfather’s cameras, a gift that sparked a lifelong passion for photography. He captured images around his home and spent hours in his family’s darkroom developing prints and exploring the photography art form. As an undergraduate student of American history and literature at Harvard College, he also studied visual arts and art history. During this time, Mead had the rare opportunity to study under renowned photographers William Eggleston and Emmet Gowin.
In 1977, Mead continued his studies as a Harvard Scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, where he earned his M.Phil in 1979. He later received a degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A founding partner of Richmond Park Partners, he was a partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs and a senior advisor at Apax Partners. As his professional career grew over time, Mead continued active photographic work and deep involvement in the fine arts world.
In 2010, having left finance several years before, he rediscovered his extensive archive in his attic and a solo show “Looking Back” and a book of the same name soon followed. With the encouragement and guidance of several artists and friends, he resumed his artistic pursuits through Scott Mead Fine Art Photography. An exhibition “Above the Clouds” took place at Hamiltons Gallery in January 2018, featuring works from his book, Above the Clouds, which was published by Prestel in November 2017. His next book, Equivalents will be published in June 2022 to be followed by a solo show. He supports and mentors many young artists from his base in Bramley Studio in London, a creative hub he established in an old pub.
Mead is the only Overseer candidate with an arts background and has extensive experience serving Harvard. He hopes to be an advocate for the arts and humanities and to give back further to Harvard by joining the Board of Overseers.
Mead was nominated as a candidate for Harvard University’s Board of Overseers, which is one of Harvard’s two governing boards, along with the President and Fellows. The Board plays an integral role in the governance of the University by directing the visitation process, the primary means for periodic external assessment of Harvard’s Schools and departments.
Mead is the only Overseer candidate with an arts background and has extensive experience serving Harvard. He hopes to be an advocate for the arts and humanities and to give back further to Harvard by joining the Board of Overseers.
In his role on the GSD’s Dean’s Leadership Council, Mead and his fellow members provide guidance to Dean Sarah M. Whiting and the School on the continued evolution and excellence of the GSD.
Additionally, Mead serves or has served on many boards in the UK and USA, including the Tate Foundation Executive Committee, the Photographers’ Gallery, the International Center of Photography, Cambridge University, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Harvard Alumni Association (Elected Director), Phillips Academy (Andover) and the Women’s and Men’s Tennis Associations (WTA and ATP Tours). Through the Mead Family Foundation, of which he is chairman and founder, he has established several fellowships, endowments, and other opportunities for artists, medical researchers, athletes, and students.
We encourage all GSD alumni to vote in these important elections and for more information please see the Gazette’s coverage. You should have received a paper ballot as well as a searchable email sent on April 1st from “Harvard Elections 2022.” Voting is open until May 17,2022 at 5 p.m. (EDT).
I write to encourage you to pause and take in yesterday’s email from President Bacow sharing the Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery. The report opens with the simple, direct claim that “Harvard’s motto, Veritas, inscribed on gates, doorways, and sculptures all over campus, demands of us truth.” The painful truths revealed in this carefully documented report betray the ethics represented by the word Veritas. The committee’s recommendations offer up just the beginning of a way forward for Harvard and for all of us.
I am deeply grateful to the members of the Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery—appointed by President Bacow in 2019 and chaired by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—for undertaking this monumentally difficult task, in particular the contributions of the GSD’s own Stephen Gray, Associate Professor of Urban Design.
I urge you all to read the report in its entirety. As designers, planners, historians, theorists, teachers, and citizens, it is critically important to learn about and know this part of our university’s history. The legacy of slavery at the university we call home is difficult to read, but also powerful in how it exemplifies how the ravages of slavery—while legally abolished in Massachusetts in 1783 and across the United States in 1865—were and continue to be inextricable from flows of global capital, the formations of modern cities as we know them today, and the repressive violence underlying them.
The design and planning disciplines share culpability in this history—in their makeup as professionalized groups of experts and practitioners, and in the direct roles they play in planning for and designing the environments we inhabit. But as the committee’s recommendations make clear, the design and planning disciplines also have an important role to play in our reckoning with that history. There is an enormous amount of work to be done at Harvard, the GSD, and in our fields, and the committee’s recommendations and the university’s significant and sustained commitment of resources mark a valuable step forward toward progress.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will consider and discuss with members of our GSD and Harvard communities the significance of the committee’s findings so as to begin to determine how best we might support the recommendations contained in the report, and where we might go from here. This work, which will be collective, will take many forms, and will be long ongoing.
At the GSD, we all necessarily traffic in optimism—we aim at a better world—even if reading this history of Harvard can make it almost impossible to maintain any degree of optimism. And it is vital that we know its truth, as uncomfortable and painful as it may be, and keep that truth squarely in view as we gather our collective will toward repairing the devastations of the past and present, and strive for that better world for our families and loved ones, colleagues, and ourselves.
Sarah M. Whiting
Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Harvard Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) announces Gary R. Hilderbrand MLA ’85 as new chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, effective July 1, 2022. Hilderbrand is the Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor-in-Practice at the GSD, where he has taught since 1990, and Founding Principal and Partner of Reed Hilderbrand.
Hilderbrand succeeds Anita Berrizbeitia MLA ’87, Professor of Landscape Architecture, who joined Harvard GSD as a Design Critic in Landscape Architecture in 1991. Appointed in 2015, Berrizbeitia is the 14th chair of the oldest landscape architecture department in the world, and only the second woman to hold the position.
“Gary’s sensibilities as a teacher and as a practitioner are one and the same—his unyielding efforts to reconcile imminent, often intractable forces of urbanization with ecological sustainability, cultural history, vegetative regimes, and thoughtful kindness are central to his pedagogy and practice both. I could not be more delighted he has accepted this appointment, and I am excited for what is to come under his leadership of the department. I also look forward to celebrating Anita’s important tenure as chair of the department and thank her for all that she has brought to the school,” says Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture.
“I’m humbled and honored in equal measure by this appointment, and I am grateful to Dean Whiting for her confidence and support,” Hilderbrand says. “For more than a century, Landscape Architecture at Harvard has positively shaped discourse in research, teaching, and practice in the field. We continue that legacy forward with renewed urgency in the face of ever more dramatic environmental and social upheaval. I’m grateful for Professor Anita Berrizbeitia’s remarkable and humane intellectual stewardship over the past seven years, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the department and the school to uphold the commitment to design leadership that is demanded of us in this time. We stand well prepared.”
Gary Hilderbrand is a Founding Principal and Partner of Reed Hilderbrand. Works by Reed Hilderbrand have received more than 100 design awards to date. A committed practitioner, teacher, critic, and writer, Hilderbrand’s honors include Harvard University’s Charles Eliot Traveling Fellowship, the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture, the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices Award with Douglas Reed, and the 2013 ASLA Firm of the Year award. DesignIntelligence named Hilderbrand one its “25 Most Admired Educators” of 2016. Gary is the recipient of the 2017 ASLA Design Medal, the highest design honor available to an American landscape architect.
Hilderbrand is committed to positioning landscape architecture’s role in reconciling intellectual and cultural traditions with contemporary forces of urbanization and change. Over the course of his prolific career, Hilderband has collaborated with Tadao Ando, Annabelle Selldorf, and Gensler on the expansion of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; developed four phases of revitalizing the Hudson River waterfront at Long Dock Park, Beacon, NY; and led the Cambridge Urban Forest Master Plan for the City of Cambridge, MA. More recently, Reed Hilderbrand were part of five firms participating in the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab, a design ideas competition that reimagines the future of Washington, D.C.’s iconic Tidal Basin. Current works include the repositioning of New York City’s Lever House, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the new Farrand House at Dumbarton Oaks, and major interventions at the Storm King Art Center.
Hilderbrand’s essays have been featured in Landscape Architecture, Topos, Harvard Design Magazine, Architecture Boston, Clark Art Journal,Arnoldia, New England Journal of Garden History, and Land Forum. Hilderbrand is co-author of Visible | Invisible, a Reed Hilderbrand monograph (2012), and he has produced two other books: Making a Landscape of Continuity: The Practice of Innocenti & Webel (1997), which was recognized by ASLA and AIGA (50 Best Books); and The Miller Garden: Icon of Modernism (1999).
He has served on the editorial boards of Spacemaker Press, Harvard Design Magazine, and Landscape Architecture Magazine. As a competition juror, he’s participated in Harvard’s Green Prize for Urban Design (2006, 2013); I Premi Europeu de Paisatge Rosa Barba Barcelona (2000, 2002, 2003, 2018); and “Suburbia Transformed” for the James Rose Center (2010). He chaired the ASLA National Awards Jury in 2005 and the ASLA Annual Student Awards Jury in 2006.
The GSD renamed the 50th Anniversary of Urban Design Program Lecture for Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, a GSD associate professor who worked to establish and fortify the urban design program during its founding years. The Jaqueline Tyrwhitt Urban Design Lecture will be delivered each year by a visionary urban planner, designer, scholar, or leader who has opened novel directions in urban-design thinking and traced new intersections between urban design and other disciplines. Moshe Safdie, Lee Cott MAUD ’70, and Jay Chatterjee MAUD ’65 played a key role in establishing the original lecture in 2010 and fortifying its energy since.
About Professor Jaqueline Tyrwhitt
Written by Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Professor Tyrwhitt (1905–1983) served as an Associate Professor at the GSD between 1955 and 1969, and worked to establish and fortify the urban design program during its founding years. Professor Tyrwhitt—or Jacky, as she preferred to be called by friends—spent her early years in London and the English countryside. While taking a course at the Architectural Association, she found inspiration in the work of Patrick Geddes and his view of urban planning as organic rather than predetermined; her study and illumination of Geddes’s ideas would later prove seminal. After World War II, Tyrwhitt would stake out a transformative role in shaping the post-war Modern Movement toward decentralized urban, community, and residential design. She left England for Canada in 1951, working to establish a graduate program in city and regional planning at the University of Toronto. She arrived at the GSD in 1955, teaching here until her retirement in 1969.
Central forces throughout Professor Tyrwhitt’s pedagogy include her humanistic approach to urban planning and design, and her commitment to communicating and sharing design discourse. She translated and edited all major works by Swiss art historian Sigfried Giedion, and in 1955 launched a journal titled Ekistics to activate the influence of Greek architect and planner Constantinos Doxiadis. She moved to Greece after her GSD retirement, settling on an Attic hillside near the village of Peania; she passed away there in 1983, working on her final book. Our Frances Loeb Library offers a number of Professor Tyrwhitt’s publications; additionally, she was a focus of the library’s 2018 exhibition “Feminine Power and the Making of Modern Architectural History.”
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Gund Hall, we raise a glass to you and all those who have helped shape the school into what it is today and what it will be in the future. Thank you for being a valuable member of the GSD community. Wishing you and yours a joyful and healthy year ahead.
With warmest wishes from Peggy Burns and your friends in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.
About the design
This year’s holiday card was designed by T.K. Justin Ng MArch I ’23. The watercolor illustration celebrates the delight of the winter season and the return to Gund Hall after a year of remote learning and teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The design gives a playful nod to the building’s milestone year by highlighting the evolution of technology that has shaped the iconic trays since 1972.
Watch the video below to get a behind-the-scenes look at how this year’s card was created.
About the artist
T.K. Justin Ng MArch I ’23 is an architectural designer and artist. He has worked for several internationally renowned architecture firms on a broad spectrum of projects, including the offices of OMA in Rotterdam, ALA Architects in Helsinki, Diamond and Schmitt Architects in Toronto, and Aedas in Hong Kong. In particular, Justin was involved in the design of the New Tretyakov Museum in Moscow led by Rem Koolhaas and the Helsinki Central Library.
Outside the practice of design, Justin engages in writing and painting. He is the author of two books: The Vancouver Sketchbook (2019) and An Urban Sketcher’s Guide to Helsinki (2017).
Justin holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies with honors and distinction from the University of Waterloo. He is currently in his third year of the Masters in Architecture program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
The Oberlander Prize, an initiative of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, includes a $100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities focused on the laureate and landscape architecture
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has named Julie Bargmann MLA ’87 the winner of the inaugural Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize (Oberlander Prize), a biennial honor that includes a $100,000 award and two years of public engagement activities focused on the laureate’s work and landscape architecture more broadly. The Prize is named for the late landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander BLA ’47 and, according to TCLF, is bestowed on a recipient who is “exceptionally talented, creative, courageous, and visionary” and has “a significant body of built work that exemplifies the art of landscape architecture.”
The international, seven-person Oberlander Prize Jury selected Bargmann from among over 200 nominations from across the world. In naming Bargmann the inaugural winner of the Oberlander Prize, Jury Chair Dorothée Imbert noted Bargmann’s “leadership in the world of ideas, her impact on the public landscape, her model of an activist practice, and her commitment to advancing landscape architecture both through teaching and design.” As Bargmann has said of herself: “The two ends of my barbell are designer-artist and political animal.”
“The goal in establishing the Oberlander Prize was to increase the visibility, understanding, appreciation and conversation about landscape architecture,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF’s President and CEO. “The selection of Julie Bargmann as the inaugural laureate, a provocateur and innovator, is an excellent way to engage the public and usher in this next phase of the Oberlander Prize.”
The announcement of the laureate will be followed by the inaugural Oberlander Prize Forum, Courageous by Design, on Friday, October 15, 2021, at Highline Stages in New York City, and focuses on the landscape architects who are the leaders in addressing the climate crisis in New York City.
A native of Westwood, New Jersey, Bargmann is a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, and the founder of D.I.R.T. (Dump It Right There) studio. She attended Carnegie Mellon University, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture, and Harvard Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD), where she earned a Master in Landscape Architecture in 1987. While studying at Harvard GSD, Bargmann and classmate Stephen Stimson MLA ’87 worked for landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, Harvard GSD’s Charles Eliot Emeritus Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture. Bargmann would go on to work for Van Valkenburgh over two stints until 1992, the year she began teaching at the University of Minnesota and founded D.I.R.T. studio.
Bargmann first tested her design and teaching approaches through her work at mining and manufacturing sites. While at the University of Minnesota, she created “Project D.I.R.T.” and spent months examining mines in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. “I studied and sometimes literally crawled through mining and manufacturing sites, many of them defunct,” Bargmann said. “I wanted to see how they were being treated, and in most cases, I disagreed with what I witnessed. Restrictive reclamation policies, uninspired remediation practices, and shallow readings of former working sites—I became openly critical of all these things but was also inspired by them. They instilled in me the desire to offer design alternatives and led me to create experimental studios.”
Bargmann also collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on design studios focused on twelve Superfund sites, including Avtex Fibers in Front Royal, VA, Roebling Steel (site of the design and manufacturing of parts for the Brooklyn Bridge) in Roebling, NJ, that needed help with planning and design. Every site provided a lesson in looking at how to apply emerging technologies, rather than defaulting to conventional practices. Toxic sites become isolated by necessity but don’t go away, so D.I.R.T. sought to find ways to reconnect them to adjacent neighborhoods. Bargmann has consistently operated with the theory that industrial and social histories combine to create the connective tissue that reforms and revitalizes communities.
Bargmann has taught at the University of Virginia since 1995 and cited the “incredible support and trust from my colleagues at UVA to really do anything I want.” She added: “Teaching allowed me to really experiment. I don’t know how I would have done it just through practice.”
Formation of the Oberlander Prize began in 2014, amid TCLF’s efforts to prevent the demolition of the Frick Collection’s Russell Page-designed viewing garden on East 70th Street in New York City. The Prize is supported by a lead million-dollar gift by TCLF Board Member Joan Shafran and her husband Rob Haimes, as well as generosity of additional donors, including members of the 100 Women Campaign. The Prize has also benefited from strategic advice from Jill Magnuson and other senior leadership at the Nasher Sculpture Center, and from Martha Thorne, former Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, among others.
“We are very fortunate, grateful and humbled by all who participated in this journey and for so many supporters,” TCLF”s Birnbaum noted, adding, “ and, most importantly, we have as our North Star Cornelia, the grande dame of landscape architecture.”
With the GSD community together on campus again, we return to a world that needs thoughtful, caring designers more than ever. I recently listened to an interview with George Saunders, one of my favorite writers, and a phrase he said truly resonated with me: “Kindness is the only non-delusional response to the human condition.” This short sentence captures a great mindset for all of us as the GSD community.
We have many ways of responding directly to what is going on in the world through what we do at the GSD. We have an impressive range of courses this fall, many of which take on the question of where design intersects with critical contemporary issues of equity, health, climate, infrastructure, re-use, and migration. We also have courses that look at a whole host of other topics, ranging from Michelangelo to insects, social infrastructure, and finance. We will have our hands and heads full this semester. As we dive into this remarkable range of intelligence and knowledge, we’ll be doing it together again.
Our students, faculty, and staff will once again learn and work alongside one another under the same roof (and I’ll note that over the summer, we replaced all 120 of Gund Hall’s roofs!). We’ve also expanded outward, with tents, tables, chairs, and portable digital screens on Gund’s “front porch” as well as in the “backyard”—spaces that we can now use for teaching as well as for eating or napping. Taking forth some positives from our experience online, we will continue to make extensive use of digital technologies to produce and share ideas, collaborate, and communicate with each other. The guiding priority for us remains as it has been throughout the pandemic: the health and safety of each member of our community. Community-wide vaccination, weekly testing, and indoor masking have enabled us to return to campus and I am grateful to everyone for their cooperation.
I want to highlight our new class—the students who will eventually join your esteemed ranks as GSD graduates. Our incoming class hails from 34 different countries; more than half of the class population is international. There are 1,073 students total at the GSD and 23 programs of study, thanks in part to the overlap this year of the former MDes “tracks” and the inauguration of the new MDes “domains.” Things I love the most about the GSD include the spontaneous and informal intersections of these many different areas of expertise that happen when students from various programs take courses together or sit near one another in the Trays, and when faculty from different departments discover productive overlaps in their work.
We are also pleased to welcome back the Loeb Fellowship this year, with ten Fellows coming to us with backgrounds in activism, urbanism, public art, film and media, technology, and real estate development. This year’s cohort marks the 51st class of Fellows and inaugurates collaboration between the Loeb Fellowship and the ArtLab at Harvard University. Also, this year, alongside the customary cohort of Irving Innovation Fellows, we have a group of Irving Instructional Technology Fellows, likewise made possible by the John E. Irving Dean’s Innovation Fund. All of the Irving Fellows, who are recent graduates of the school, are furthering their individual postgraduate research while also helping academic departments and programs navigate and incorporate new pedagogical approaches.
I’m looking forward to the return of exhibitions inside Gund Hall in the Druker Design Gallery, with content being available to you on our website. The first exhibition of the fall semester, “GSD: A–Z 2020 & 2021,” is a compendium of work from the last two graduating classes and coincides with a new A–Z yearbook for each graduating class. Opening in October is “Interrogative Design: Selected Works of Krzysztof Wodiczko,” GSD Professor in Residence of Art, Design, and the Public Domain, which will introduce, or reintroduce, you to the diverse and wide-ranging aspects of one of the most vital artistic practices of the 21st century. The exhibition will reemphasize Wodiczko’s practice as one bridging art with design, weaving social engagement with innovative technologies, mapping marginalized identities onto architecture, and reinscribing new memories onto existing monuments.
Also on the faculty side, I am thrilled to announce that Rachel Meltzer was appointed the inaugural Plimpton Associate Professor of Planning and Urban Economics, effective July 1. This role was established in 2019 and made possible by a generous gift from Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80, and his wife, Wendy Shattuck. Also as of July 1, Antoine Picon assumed the role of Director of the Doctor of Philosophy program, which Erika Naginski has tirelessly overseen for the past seven years. Our PhD students have done extremely well in obtaining terrific positions after graduating, and I know that Erika’s organization and mentoring were instrumental in helping them succeed.
I’m thankful for our thoughtful and creative students, who are at the forefront of that crucial work. I encourage all of you to tune into the African American Design Nexus’ podcast, The Nexus, which explores the intersection of design, identity, and practice through conversations with Black designers, writers, and educators. The African American Design Nexus was developed by the Frances Loeb Library in collaboration with the GSD’s African American Student Union. In the latest episode of the podcast, Dmitri Julius connects the dots between terrestrial, sustainable building practices and new technologies being developed for human habitation in outer space through a conversation with two student hosts, Tara Oluwafemi and Darien Carr, who pepper Julius with thoughtful and provocative questions.
Finally, our beloved Gund Hall received some upgrades before it celebrates its 50th birthday in 2022. Improvements focused on safety, sustainability, and modernization, including a rewired fire alarm system and gleaming polished concrete floors in the Trays. The lounges now have cork floors, the entrances to Gund have 10-foot doors, and I already mentioned the 120 roofs. Refurbished bathrooms include an accessible non-gender bathroom on the first floor. And, given the emphasis on outdoor activities during the pandemic, we’re especially happy with the plein-air experience that our new outdoor furniture provides.
I am very much excited by our return to campus, and I thank you for all that you have done over the last year to keep the GSD, our faculty, and our students safe, supported, and engaged. I look forward to when we can greet each other in person soon.
Sarah M. Whiting
Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Alumni Council is pleased to honor four students with the 2021 Unsung Hero Book Prize. This year’s honorees are Bailey Morgan Brown MArch ’22, MDes ’22, Heidi Brandow MDes ’21, Mary Taylor MUP ’21, and Kathlyn Kao MArch ’22.
The Unsung Hero Book Prize celebrates GSD students who act in selfless ways to make the School a better place. Deserving students are nominated each spring by fellow GSD students, faculty, and staff, and winners are selected by the Alumni Council. Prize recipients are recognized with a book of their selection by the Alumni Council, with a second copy donated to the Frances Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the awardee’s service to the GSD community.
Established in 2006, the Prize is now in its 15th year. This year, the Alumni Council received 48 nominations for 31 students. For the first time, the nomination pool included recognition for two student organizations: the African American Student Union and AfricaGSD, which put forth Notes on Credibility in June 2020.
The four 2021 Unsung Heroes have been instrumental in creating community during a year of virtual instruction, building connection and engagement however possible. These women also work tirelessly to elevate the perspectives of women and BIPOC in design, and they have shown leadership in their many roles—including teaching assistant and student government representative—at the GSD.
Bailey Morgan Brown is from Fort Gibson, Okla., and is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Oklahoma State University before becoming a public high school teacher. Bailey is a dual-degree student in the Master of Architecture II and the Master of Design Studies programs with a concentration in History and Philosophy of Design and Media. Her research explores property law in the U.S. and its impact on housing development in tribal nations. She has served in student government as a representative on the Harvard Graduate Council, as a Class Representative, and as the Master of Design Studies (MDes) Liaison to Student Forum. She also serves as a teaching fellow in the Harvard College and as a teaching assistant in the Master of Design Studies program. Bailey’s nominators wrote:
“Bailey consistently goes above and beyond to help new students get their bearings and navigate the GSD. She shares her experiences and knowledge willingly and offers helpful tools, tricks, and best practices openly. Bailey embodies servant leadership.”
“Bailey has gone above and beyond in trying to connect returning and incoming students together during a zoom/virtual semester. She has set up numerous events and occasions for students to reach out and connect, within her own degree program as well as across the school in general. Her reach isn’t limited to just her classes—she had admirably tried to connect students from across classes, semesters, incoming as well as outgoing.”
Heidi K. Brandow (Diné & Kānaka Maoli) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is centered on the inclusion of Indigenous people and perspectives in the development of ethical and sustainable methods of creative engagement. While at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Heidi has pursued projects that consider the future possibilities and existence of the Diné people in a post-extractive industry landscape through the exploration of Indigenous knowledge and plant ecology utilized in the Diné textile trade. Heidi’s most recent research project, “Reconfiguring Histories,” challenges current museum collections methodology through the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and the development of alternate and augmented forms of provenance. Heidi is a co-founder of the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective, an organization that recognizes and promotes design by and for Indigenous communities as foundational to the history, theory, and practice of design fields. For the past academic year, Heidi has served as the Chair of Information for the Harvard Graduate Council. She received her undergraduate degree from the Institute of American Indian Arts and studied industrial design at Istanbul Technical University. Heidi’s nominators wrote:
“Heidi has worked tirelessly to increase Native student enrollment at the GSD, as well as elevate the visibility of Native women in design. She is an incredible person to work with, and a shining example of selfless service to one’s community.”
“Heidi has been active both as a founder of the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective, recruitment liaison for the GSD, and contributor to the studio curriculum as a TA. Heidi has helped give a voice to designers and practitioners both at the GSD and beyond through event planning and discussion.”
Mary Taylor is originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., and studied architecture at Hampton University prior to moving to Pittsburgh after graduation. She arrived in Pittsburgh because of the UDream Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University’s Remaking Cities Institute, a fellowship program for architects, designers, and urban planners of color. She spent five years in Pittsburgh in various community development positions before arriving at the GSD in 2019. Mary is a second-year urban planning student in the Housing, Community, and Economic Development concentration, and she is also the Diversity Committee Resident Adviser and a teaching assistant. Mary’s nominators wrote:
“Mary continually goes above and beyond to create a space that considers the mental health and well-being of GSD students, especially students of color. Her contributions on the Diversity Committee, vital role in coordinating the HUPO Engagement Retreat, and general class conversations demonstrate a deep commitment to doing so, even in a virtual environment.”
“Mary is one of the most supportive and giving people I have met. She constantly devotes her own precious free time and labor to help other people. One example of this is she organized a collection of mental wellness resources for MUPs. She has a fierce commitment to equitable design and including diverse perspectives and inspires me to be a better designer.”
Kathlyn Kao is a Master of Architecture candidate, a research assistant for the GSD First Generation Initiative, Bloomberg City Leadership Initiative, and the Loeb Library Building for Tomorrow Project. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and is a registered architect in New York with a range of professional experiences including DiMella Shaffer Associates, Christoff:Finio Architecture, and artist Do Ho Suh. Her interests are at the intersection of design, art, politics, and post-colonial studies. Kathlyn’s nominators wrote:
“Kathy has selflessly and single-handedly hosted regular Zoom meetings with our cohort to get to know one another and feel less isolated during these trying times; through trial and error, she established a tech infrastructure that would be able to accommodate the different geographical needs of our international community and advocated for an improvement of conditions for all students. She later became our class representative, which is a role she’s fulfilled exceedingly well by continuously answering our questions, and highlighting relevant resources that we may have missed. She’s been a natural leader, a resource, and a nurturing member of our cohort who has taken it into her own hands to foster our distant community in these trying times. Without her enthusiasm, warmth, and tireless efforts to support and bring people together to no gain of her own, we would not be the community that we are today.”
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) is pleased to announce Everett Fly MLA ’77, Deanna Van Buren Loeb Fellow ’13, and Jack Dangermond MLA ’69 as the inaugural recipients of the 2021 Harvard GSD Alumni Award. The award honors outstanding leadership by GSD alumni, underscoring the essential role GSD graduates play in leading change around the world. The award recognizes and celebrates the diversity, range, and impact of GSD alumni within their communities and across their areas of practice, celebrating and honoring design leadership by GSD Alumni.
Everett Fly MLA ’77 – As the first African-American graduate of the Master in Landscape Architecture program, Everett Fly witnessed first-hand the lack of architectural scholarship centered on the African American experience. In response, Fly began the “Black Settlements in America Research Project,” setting in motion decades of groundbreaking design research focused on the history of black settlements across the United States. Fly is the recipient of the 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities National Humanities Medal and is recognized as a national leader whose work has transformed our collective understanding of the significance of black places and spaces across America.
Deanna Van Buren LF ’13 – Deanna Van Buren is a nationally recognized activist architect leading the research, formulation, and advocacy of restorative justice centers, a radical transformation of the criminal justice system. Deanna sits on the national board of Architects Designs and Planners for Social Responsibility and is the co-founder and design director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, based in Oakland, California. Designing Justice + Designing Space is an innovative architecture and real estate development firm that designs restorative justice centers instead of prisons with the goal of ending the age of mass incarceration. Van Buren’s recent social impact work includes Restore, a multi-use hub for restorative justice and workforce development, The Pop-up Village—a mobile site activation tool and The Reem’s Re-entry Campus. Van Buren’s work has been featured at TED Women and the Women in Architecture Awards Honoring Pioneering Professionals. She received her BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia, M. Arch from Columbia University, and is an alumna of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Jack Dangermond MLA ’69 – Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri. With a background in landscape architecture and urban design, he and his wife, Laura, founded Esri in 1969 on the idea that computer-based mapping and analysis could make significant contributions to geographic planning and environmental science. Since then, Esri has become the global market leader in GIS and location intelligence, with 49 offices worldwide, 11 dedicated research centers, and a user base of about 350,000 organizations around the world. Dangermond completed his undergraduate degree in landscape architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He then earned a Master in Urban Planning from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His early work in the school’s Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (LCGSA) led directly to the development of Esri’s ARC/INFO GIS software. Dangermond has received many acknowledgments and awards for his contributions to the fields of geography, environmental science, planning, and GIS, including 13 honorary degrees and the Order of Orange- Nassau from the Dutch Government.
The GSD Alumni Award underscores the urgent relevance of the GDS’s design education to a broad range of stakeholders, including peers, practitioners, students, and clients. Through their work and practice, GSD Alumni Award recipients demonstrate their commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and collaboration as stated in the GSD Alumni Council Community Statement and GSD Alumni Council Mission Statements. Nominations for the 2021-2022 GSD Alumni Award will open soon.
While GSD students, faculty, and staff have learned and worked virtually for over a year, the GSD’s Fabrication Lab has brought Gund Hall to the 3D virtual world, with Virtual Gund Hall. Digital Fabrication Analyst Christopher Hansen and a team of students designed the immersive GSD campus experience, which enables viewers to visit and engage with Gund Hall and the GSD’s surrounding campus and buildings. For new students who have not yet experienced the GSD in person as well as community members who are feeling nostalgic for campus, the team hopes “that this project serves as both a gift and a resource for the GSD community, wherever you may be in the world.” Since its launch, the site has gained an international following of prospective students and Gund Hall aficionados.
Enter Gund Hall through the Quincy Street entrance
Virtual Gund Hall provides a chance for alumni to explore a collection of spaces and things that help make the GSD unique, relive their days in the now-vacant trays, and view an exhibit on Sert in the Druker Design Gallery. Guests can experience Piper Auditorium with its gold curtain, glowing audience, and sparkly Sarah M. Whiting, GSD Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. 3D scanning of Dean Whiting was not possible with social distancing guidelines in place, so she was resourcefully modeled after publicly available images. With her glittery persona, the creators’ added a layer of abstractness that aligns with their interpretation of the Gund Hall scene. Also, visitors can look out for the glowing orange cat that represents Remy, the Humanities Cat, who is known for roaming around the Harvard campus and his popular visits to the GSD.
Virtual Gund Hall was created using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D creation platform for immersive experiences. Hansen received a grant from the Epic Games MegaGrants, which funded the initial phase of the project. According to Hansen, “Unreal Engine is like a big sandbox, as it is able to accept content from various platforms. We imported 3D models, animations, images, audio recordings, and 3d scans into the platform to create this virtual scene.” The development was easier than anticipated, with the whole project taking about three months. Four students work with Hansen: Mira Xu MDes ’22, Angela Sniezynski MArch ’21, Jon Gregurick March ’21, and Emily Majors MArch ’23, with additional support for content coming from the Loeb Library, the GSD’s Innovation Task Force, Student Services, Kirkland Gallery and other GSD researchers, faculty, and students.
The GSD Community has embraced Virtual Gund Hall both inside and outside the classroom. The virtual scene was part of the GSD’s Spring 2021 Virtual Open House to give prospective students a chance to “walk the halls” of Gund, since the campus was closed for in-person visits. In the virtual classroom, Stubbins was converted into a gallery for the final project in the course “Materials,” taught by Jonathan Grinham DDes ’17, Lecturer in Architecture. According to Grinham, “The high level of detail of the environments in Gund Hall made it a valuable tool to experience the students’ designs and also for guests to participate in the final review.” The final assignment provided students with a glimpse into the critical societal issues around building materials. Instead of building physical stools as in past years, the students designed chairs with the furniture company Steelcase. After students explored the amount of carbon emitted from making a chair, the source of the materials, and the social impact of these materials, they were tasked with redesigning the Steelcase chair to reflect new environmental design concepts. Virtual Gund Hall provided opportunities for designers from Steelcase to experience Gund Hall and join for the final review.
With further investment in the project, Hansen would like to implement more functionality, including enabling multiple users, incorporating the live streaming of videos/audio, and featuring a higher level of interactivity. You can visit Virtual Gund Hall at this link.
The R. Buckminster Fuller Professorship of Design Science will be awarded to an eminent scholar working to advance innovation in design and promote a sustainable future.
Amy C. Edmondson AB ’81, AM ’95, Ph.D. ’96 with Buckminster Fuller (1983)
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) announces the establishment of the R. Buckminster Fuller Professorship of Design Science, thanks to the generosity of Amy C. Edmondson AB ’81, AM ’95, PhD ’96 and George Q. Daley AB ’82, MD ’91. Edmondson and Daley have long-standing ties to Harvard University. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School (HBS); she worked with Fuller after graduation from Harvard College. Daley is the Dean of Harvard Medical School and the Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine. The GSD will begin a search for a visionary scholar to serve as the inaugural R. Buckminster Fuller Professor of Design Science.
R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was a renowned 20th-century inventor, designer, engineer, philosopher, and a member of the Harvard College class of 1917. Through a design science approach, he worked to solve global problems related to energy, transportation, education, and more. Fuller has influenced generations of designers, architects, scientists, and artists working to create a more sustainable planet. His most well-known artifact is the geodesic dome.
Edmondson came to know Fuller’s work through the Harvard course “Synergetics: The Structure of Ordered Space” along with a lecture given by Fuller at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon corresponding with him, he offered her a job as his Chief Engineer. This pivotal experience shaped her career and ultimately led her to her work at HBS, studying people and teams seeking to make a positive difference through the work they do. She describes Fuller as “an inspirational, joyful, brilliant, and invitingly inclusive person,” and she was influenced by his way of thinking that centrally involved design.
Edmondson and Daley connect with Fuller’s belief that designers can make a difference through their work and celebrate the role of responsible design in making a difference in the world. “Buckminster Fuller was interested in making a better world through the power of design. There is no more fitting place to honor his legacy than at the GSD by creating the R. Buckminster Fuller Professorship of Design Science,” said Edmondson and Daley. “Bucky’s spirit of innovation and invention lives on to inspire others to forge new discoveries and to take better care of each other and our planet for future generations.”
Named, endowed chairs are among the highest honors bestowed at Harvard. At the GSD, they attract respected leaders in their design discipline, support academic inquiries and innovative research, and ensure the position in perpetuity.
“Amy and George are championing a legacy of world-class scholarship at the GSD. I am grateful for their generosity to sustain a thriving academic community at the School,” said Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. “Through their commitment, the R. Buckminster Fuller Professorship of Design Science will help the GSD to attract the best faculty and students and serve as a perpetual reminder of Fuller’s legacy in design innovation and sustainability.”
The conversation reveals a broad spectrum of insights and experiences. From the structuring of a fledgling office to the value of diversifying project type, the guests communicate the means by which they survived past recessions.They also discuss the importance of educating oneself outside the academy, acquiring “fitness” in new modes of thinking, and developing networks based on values and priorities. Spanning topics from the philosophical to the practical, they share their unique stories, advice, and reflections.
About the Show
Developed by Harvard Graduate School of Design, Talking Practice is the first podcast series to feature in-depth interviews with leading designers on the ways in which architects, landscape architects, designers, and planners articulate design imagination through practice. Hosted by Grace La, Professor of Architecture and Chair of Practice Platform, these dynamic conversations provide a rare glimpse into the work, experiences, and attitudes of design practitioners from around the world. Comprehensive, thought-provoking, and timely, Talking Practice tells the story of what designers do, why, and how they do it—exploring the key issues at stake in practice today.
About the Host
Grace Lais Professor of Architecture, Chair of the Practice Platform, and former Director of the Master of Architecture Programs at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She is also Principal of LA DALLMAN Architects, internationally recognized for the integration of architecture, engineering and landscape. Cofounded with James Dallman, LA DALLMAN is engaged in catalytic projects of diverse scale and type. The practice is noted for works that expand the architect’s agency in the civic recalibration of infrastructure, public space and challenging sites.
This special episode of Talking Practice is recorded and edited by Maggie Janik. Research, organization, and support for this episode is provided by John Wang.
This spring, Harvard Graduate School of Design has turned its Druker Design Gallery, Experiments Wall, and other exhibition spaces “Inside Out,” with installations shown through a series of exterior projections on the building’s facade. The series, entitled “Inside Out,” will be screened nightly (4:00 pm to 11:00 pm, EST) through March 18, rotating through a weekly roster of shows that exhibit some recent preoccupations among Harvard GSD faculty and students, selected and curated from among an open call last November.
From March 1 through March 7, “Inside Out” presents four films highlighting student work from Farshid Moussavi’s Fall 2020 GSD option studio, “Dual-Use: The function of a 21st century urban residential block.” The studio concerned itself with the politics latent within architecture, carried out through making aesthetic decisions regarding everyday spaces, and the resultant, and profound, consequences on people’s lives. In particular, the studio explored the subject of housing combined with working from home.
Projects currently on view in “Inside Out,” drawn from Farshid Moussavi’s Fall 2020 option studio “Dual-use: The function of a 21st century urban residential block.” Clockwise from top left: “Mutating Threshold” by Dan Lu, “Dual-Use Vertical Village” by Qin Ye Chen, “Dual-Use” by Erik Fichter, “Thrive – An Ethos of Collaboration and Support” by Devashree Shah
“Inside Out” premiered in early February with a pair of three-minute projections, or “filmic studies,” produced by GSD professor Helen Han, and concludes on March 19 with a look at student work from the Department of Landscape Architecture. Han’s “Scalar Shifts: Two recent filmic studies of Jewel Changi Airport and The Clark Art Institute” proceeded through the layers and sequencing of vegetation, light, and other natural phenomena at Williamstown’s Clark Art Institute grounds; its companion video, “Garden of Wonder,” offered a tour of Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport and the public space within, filmed over four days in November 2019 in collaboration with Safdie Architects. “Inside Out” proceeded with student-directed projection “Floating Between Borders” (February 15-21), presenting a futuristic, imagined look at what the world could look like without formal national boundaries—an inherent “critique of the bureaucracy of geopolitical borders,” the students write, imagining what the world could look like if people could move freely among nations.
Following the exhibition of Moussavi’s “Dual-use” studio, “Inside Out” will feature a video celebration of Womxn in Design (March 8-14); a view of select thesis projects (March 15-21) and core-studio and option-studio work (March 25-31) from the Department of Architecture; and a look at the Department of Landscape Architecture’s recent pedagogical tools (April 1-7), including 3D-printed maps, toolkits, and other physical ephemera that students have received at home this academic year.
“Inside Out” follows last fall’s “2020 Election Day at Gund Hall” presentation. Gund Hall is a perennial voting location, and this show called all residents of Cambridge’s Ward-Precinct 7-3 to vote in the November 3, 2020 election, and doubled as a wayfinding device that instructed voters where they should enter and exit the building.
To learn more about the GSD’s past and present exhibitions, visit the Exhibitions webpage.
Perkins&Will and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) today announce the launch of the Black in Design Mentorship Program pilot, an initiative that aims to promote greater representation of Black talent in the design industry. Originally conceived by students and Perkins&Will professionals at the 2019 Black in Design Conference, the mentorship program will fill a critical educational and career gap in the design profession by fostering meaningful and lasting relationships starting as early as high school.
“Design firms have a responsibility to be champions of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession,” says Brooke Trivas MArch ‘88, a Harvard GSD graduate and principal at Perkins&Will. Trivas serves on the firm’s diversity council and has been a part of the mentorship initiative since its inception. “Our vision for this program is to empower both high school and graduate students to understand what is possible, pursue their interests, and develop their strengths.”
The program forms three-person teams composed of one Perkins&Will professional, one Harvard GSD student, and one high school student. This arrangement enables Harvard GSD students to learn from Perkins&Will professionals and, simultaneously, hone their mentorship skills with their matched high school student. All participants will complete a 10-week curriculum with discussion topics ranging from design thinking to networking to Black design legacy.
“We have been intentional in developing this program to lay a solid foundation for future relationships to flourish,” says Laura Snowdon, dean of students and assistant dean for enrollment services at Harvard GSD. “We have paid careful attention to the development of the curriculum, and we look forward to incorporating thoughtful feedback from our pilot group to inform the future program.”
Seven individuals from each group—21 participants in total—will complete the program over the course of the year. To form the inaugural cohort of high school mentees, program organizers extended invitations to select Boston-area schools. Student volunteers from the Harvard GSD African American Student Union (AASU) and AfricaGSD comprise the graduate school leg of the program, and volunteers from Perkins&Will’s Boston studio make up the third leg. Once the pilot concludes, organizers will integrate feedback from all participants, refine the program structure and content as needed, and expand outreach through a broadened application process. Participation will be offered on an annual basis in the future.
The Black in Design Mentorship Program is the latest expression of Perkins&Will’s and Harvard GSD’s long-standing collaboration. Ongoing initiatives in support of diversifying the design profession include the Phil Freelon Fellowship and the Nagle-Johnson Family Fellowship, which was most recently awarded to Jonathan Boyce.
In an inspirational email message last week to the program participants, Harvard GSD Dean Sarah M. Whiting encouraged students to “be bold in asking the questions that are on (their) mind, be uninhibited in expressing (their) creativity, and be open to learning new and unfamiliar perspectives.”
The students and professionals responsible for developing the Black in Design Mentorship Program include:
Brooke Trivas MArch ‘88, Principal, Perkins&Will
Rania Karamallah, Designer, Perkins&Will
Laura Snowdon, Dean of Students; Assistant Dean for Enrollment Services, Harvard GSD
Sebastian Schmidt Dalzon, Administrative Director, Initiatives and Academic Projects, Harvard GSD
Megan Panzano MArch ’10, Program Director, Undergraduate Architecture Studies, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Harvard GSD
Kelly Teixeira Wisnaskas, Assistant Director of Student Support and Services, Harvard GSD
Kim Wong, HR Manager, Perkins&Will
Rachael Dumas, Research Knowledge Manager, Perkins&Will
Animated illustration by Jiin Choi MLA ’23. Jiin is an illustrator and designer in her first year at the GSD. Her design depicts the quiet celebration of moonlight and natural cycles and was inspired by the reed grass fields she hiked through as a child in Korea.
Wishing the GSD’s Alumni & Friends prosperity, happiness, and good health.
After such an unfathomable year, I am glad to be welcoming a new year, one that I hope will offer renewal and connect us with the loved ones, communities, and ideas that nourish us.
One of the more uplifting moments that came from this past year was sharing our virtual programming with you and our alumni worldwide in a new way. I was heartened to see so many familiar names and faces in the Zoom rooms. I look forward to the day when we will be together again.
With kind regards,
Sarah M. Whiting
Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Anyone remember air travel? In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and international flights were hurriedly cancelled, the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Laboratory for Design Technologies (LDT) pivoted its three-year focus project, The Future of Air Travel, to respond to new industry conditions in a rapidly changing world. With the broad goal of better understanding how design technologies can improve the way we live, the project aims to reimagine air travel for the future, recapturing some of its early promise (and even glamour) by assessing and addressing various pressure points resulting from the pandemic as well as more long-term challenges.
The two participating research labs—the Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab (REAL), led by Allen Sayegh, associate professor in practice of architectural technology, and the Geometry Lab, led by Andrew Witt, associate professor in practice of architecture—“look at air travel from an experiential and a systemic perspective.” As part of their research, the labs consulted with representatives from Boeing, Clark Construction, Perkins & Will, gmp, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, all members of the GSD’s Industry Advisors Group.
Pre-COVID-19 meeting with researchers and Industry Advisors. Clockwise from far left: Bryan Kirchoff (Boeing), Hans-Joachim Paap (gmp), Jan Blasko (gmp), Isa He, Humbi Song, Stefano Andreani, Andrew Witt, and Zach Seibold. Allen Sayegh, Tobias Keyl (gmp), Kristina Loock (gmp), and Ben LeGRand (Boeing) were also in attendance.
So far, the project has resulted in two research books: the Atlas of Urban Air Mobility and On Flying: The Toolkit of Tactics that Guide Passenger Perception (and its accompanying website www.airtraveldesign.guide). On Flying, by Sayegh, REAL Research Associate Humbi Song, and Lecturer in Architecture Zach Seibold, seeks “to facilitate a rethinking of how to design objects, spaces, and systems by putting the human experience at the forefront”—and in so doing “prepare and design for improved passenger experiences in a post-COVID world.” The book’s accessible glossary covers topics including the design implications of the middle armrest (“What if armrests were shareable without physical contact?”); whether the check-in process could be improved by biometric scanners; the effect of customs declarations on passengers; how air travel is predicated on “an absence of discomfort” instead of maximizing comfort; and the metaphysical aspects of jet lag.
The project “examines and provides insight into the complex interplay of human experience, public and private systems, technological innovation, and the disruptive shock events that sometimes define the air-travel industry”. Consider, for instance, the security requirements of air travel in a post-COVID world—how can the flow of passengers through the departure/arrival process be streamlined while incorporating safety measures such social distancing?
On Flying acknowledges that it’s hard to quantify many of the designed elements—ranging from artifacts to spaces and systems—that affect our experience of air travel. So the toolkit methodically catalogs and identifies these various factors before speculating on alternative scenarios for design and passenger interaction. A year into the project, Phase 2 will more overtly examine the context of COVID-19, considering it alongside other catastrophic events, such as 9/11, in order to better understand and plan for their impact on the industry as a whole and on passenger behavior.
Meanwhile, the Atlas of Urban Air Mobility, by Witt and Lecturer in Architecture Hyojin Kwon, is “a collection of the dimensional and spatial parameters that establish relationships between aerial transport and the city,” and it aims to establish a “kit of parts” for the aerial city of the future. Phase 1 considered the idea of new super-conglomerates of cities, dependent on inter-connectivity of air routes—specifically looking at the unique qualities of Florida as an air travel hub. The atlas investigates flightpath planning and noise pollution and other spatial constraints of air travel within urban environments. One possible solution it raises is the concept of “clustered networks,” where electrical aerial vehicles could be used in an interconnected pattern of local urban conurbations, reflecting a hierarchy of passenger flight, depending on scale and distance traveled.
Phase 2 will move into software and atlas development, expanding the atlas as well as their simulation and planning software. One intriguing aspect will be a critical history of past visions of future air travel: a chance to look back in order to look forward with fresh eyes. By studying our shared dream of air travel, the hope is to rediscover and reboot abandoned visions that may yet prove to inspire new innovations.
Armrest research from the Air Travel Design Guide: Patent for airplane seats showing ambiguity of armrest spatial “ownership” for middle seats
It’s a reminder that, not so long ago, international flight excited and inspired us—before the realities of delayed flights, lost luggage, rude customs officials, and poorly planned infrastructure stole our dreams. And that’s before we ever stepped onto the plane itself. According to the Air Travel Design Guide, the social contract of air travel has now become so skewed from the original glamorous proposition that today, “the passenger can feel as if they are at the mercy of nature, airport security personnel, or the airline cabin crew. They are directed where to go, how to move, and even when to go to the bathroom on the plane.”
Surely it can—and should—be better than this?
“We may not arrive more on time,” the team concludes, “but thanks to the introduction of better design practice—we might enjoy the experience better.”
Harvard GSD continues its series of virtual public lectures for the Spring 2021 semester, inviting designers and other curious viewers from around the world to join the school’s dialogue. This spring program offers topical observations, as well as launches of two new Harvard GSD publications: its redesigned Harvard Design Magazine, as well as the to-be-revealed student-run journal Pairs.
All programs will take place virtually, are free and open to the public, and require registration, and all times are listed in United States Eastern Time (ET). Please visit Harvard GSD’s events calendar for more information, including registration details.
Live captioning will be provided for all programs. To request other accessibility accommodations, please contact the Public Programs Office at [email protected].
Kate Thomas, “Lesbian Arcadia: Desire and Design in the Fin-de-Siècle Garden”
February 18, 7:30pm
Senior Loeb Scholar Lecture: Walter Hood
February 23, 7:30pm
March 1, 12pm
Introducing Pairs 01: Giovanna Borasi in Conversation with the Founding Editors
March 2, 7:30pm
Daniel Urban Kiley Lecture: Julie Bargmann, “Modesty”
March 4, 7:30pm
Thaisa Way with Ed Eigen and Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto, “Think Like a Historian, Imagine Like a Designer: A Conversation on Landscape History and Design Education”
March 5, 12pm
International Womxn’s Week Keynote Address
March 9, 7:30pm
Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, “The Miasmist: George E. Waring, Jr. and Landscapes of Public Health”
March 11, 7:30pm
Covid-19 revealed the impact of structural racism in its starkest terms. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery underscore the pernicious truth that America remains a country marred by rampant racism. The ongoing display of police brutality on Black Americans across our country shows us that we, as a nation, have turned our backs on our own. As a collective design community, we are complicit. Failure to take serious, sustained and meaningful action to effect systemic change will undermine current and future generations of Black and brown people, shattering dreams and cutting lives short.
As GSD Alumni, we have privilege and we have power. Our sphere of influence encompasses the design of the public realm, buildings, workplaces, transportation, technology, health care facilities, homes and communities.
The time to use that power is now. Let us show, through our actions, that Black Lives Matter.
As individuals, let’s take specific action within the wide sphere of our influence. Let’s make ourselves accountable for taking action against racism. Let’s examine the hiring and promotion policies of our firms – not only for future and current employees – but also for our partners and contractors. Let’s build community. Let’s mentor. Let’s make space to learn from others. Let’s donate to student financial aid that specifically supports the most impacted students in our communities.
As a community, let’s commit together.
We will actively help recruit Black and brown students, speakers, design jurists, administrators and faculty to the GSD.
We will commit to raising a meaningful fund designed to underwrite the learning journeys of future generations of Black and brown students.
We will work to dismantle structural racism by collaborating with our fellow institutions to build coalitions of change.
We will work together with the GSD and our broader communities of practice to address the systemic biases that have shaped our discourse, learning and practice for far too long.
The GSD Alumni Council is dedicated to serving this mission. Much work needs to be done. Your help is instrumental. Let’s challenge ourselves and the GSD to address the systemic biases that have disenfranchised members of our own broader community of practice for far too long.
To get involved or to share ideas, please click here.
Fallon Samuels Aidoo PhD ’17
Earle Arney MArch ’93
Kaley Blackstock AB ’10, MArch ’15
Cathy Deino Blake, FASLA, MLA ’77
Chris Bourassa AMDP ’09
Justin Chapman MDes ’12
Nina Chase MLA ’12
Renee Cheng, FAIA, AB ’85, MArch ’89
Sekou Cooke MArch ’14
Peter Coombe MArch ’88
John di Domenico MAUD ’79
John Friedman, FAIA, MArch ’90
Harry Gaveras MAUD ’97
Rickie Golden MDes ’12
Margaret Graham MDes ’03
Kevin Harris, FAIA, MAUD ’80
David Hashim MArch ’86
Edith Hsu-Chen MUP ’97
Trevor Johnson MUP ’14
Mark W. Johnson, FASLA, MAUD ’82
Jaya Kader MArch ’88
Frank Lee, FAIA, MAUD ’79
Brenda Levin, FAIA, MArch ’76
Zakcq Lockrem MUP ’10
Anne-Marie Lubenau, FAIA, LF ’12
Thomas Luebke, FAIA, MArch ’91
John A. Mann MUP ’01
Allyson Mendenhall, FASLA, AB ’90, MLA ’99
Shunsaku Miyagi MLA ’86
Jeff Murphy, FAIA, MArch ’86
Alpa Nawre MLAUD ’11
Riki Nishimura MAUD ’03
Thomas Oslund MLA ’86
Ana Pinto Da Silva MDes ’05
Ryley Poblete MArch ’14
Gil Prado AMDP ’14
Beth Roloff MArch ’14
David Rubin, FASLA, MLA ’90
Frank Ruchala, Jr. MArch ’05, MUP ’05
Paris Rutherford MAUD ’93
Eric Shaw MUP ’00
Bryan Shiles MArch ’87
Rob Stein MArch ’72, LF ’94
Zenovia Toloudi DDes ’11
Sameh Wahba MUP ’97, PhD ’02
Nick Winton MArch ’90
Kristina Yu MArch ’95
Corey Zehngebot MArch ’09
Sara Zewde MLA ’15
The Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Alumni Council is pleased to honor four students with the 2020 Unsung Hero Book Prize. This year’s honorees are Yonghui Chen MDes ’18, DDes ’21, Sydney Fang MUP ’20, MPP ’20, Brittany Giunchigliani MLA ’21, and Kyle Miller MUP ’21, MPH ’21.
The Unsung Hero Book Prizecelebrates GSD students who act in selfless ways to make the School a better place. Deserving students are nominated each spring by fellow GSD students, faculty, and staff, and winners are selected by the Alumni Council. Prize recipients are recognized with a book of their selection by the Alumni Council, with a second copy donated to the Frances Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the awardee’s service to the GSD community.
Established in 2006, the Prize is now in its fourteenth year. This year the Alumni Council received 59 nominations for 37 students. The nomination pool included a diverse group ranging from first–year to graduating students, and spanning seven degree programs at the GSD. Two of this year’s four winners are pursuing concurrent degrees with other Harvard graduate schools.
Among many admirable traits, this year’s Unsung Heroes demonstrate through their words and actions how to put diversity, equity, and justice at the forefront of design education and extracurricular activities at the GSD. They show leadership in their work as teaching fellows, research assistants, and student group leaders, and also highlight the importance of building community through simple acts of kindness.
Yonghui Chen received a Master in Design Studies from the GSD in 2018 and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Design Studies. Heis recognized as an Unsung Hero for his contributions to the GSD’s academic community, especially as a Teaching Fellow for the Urban Planning first-year core class Spatial Analysis and the Built Environment.Yonghui’s nominators wrote:
More than an excellent Teaching Fellow, Yonghui is an amazing friend who supported us at our final reviews during our busy semester, keep in contact as a constant resource, and is just truly a gem. I know my experience at GSD would be a lot less warm and bright if it was not for Yonghui’s guidance and care for me and many other classmates.
The GSD is lucky to have such a kind and dedicated educator. If I go on to teach in the future, Yonghui will be one of the examples I hold in my head of the importance of humility and generosity in teaching.
Sydney Fang is a member of the class of 2020, having pursued a Master in Urban Planning concurrent with a Master in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is recognized as an Unsung Hero for her work with the course CoDesign Field Lab: Program Evaluation for Change Leadership and for her perspective as a classmate and peer. Sydney’s nominators wrote:
[Sydney’s] leadership has shaped a lot of my time at the GSD – in formal ways, with CoDesign, and informal ways in classes... Sydney doesn’t critique from the sidelines. If she sees a limitation or a weakness to something, she doesn’t just scoff at it. Instead, she works hard to build and learn with those involved, creating something better.
Sydney has a magical way of sharing her compass of justice. She models by doing. She repeatedly gives life to her values by the way she speaks up in class and the ways in which she brings the communities she is from and has worked with into any space she occupies. Sydney never forgets the front-line communities, the ones we have endless things to learn from as well as reparations to pay to as we face the climate crisis. Perhaps most importantly, these communities are at the center of any visions of the future Sydney helps imagine – and invites us to see as well.
Brittany Giunchigliani is a second-year student in the Master in Landscape Architecture program. She is recognized as an Unsung Hero for her contributions to student life and academic life at the GSD, including but not limited to her leadership role in Womxn in Design and her work as a Technical Assistant at the Fabrication Lab. Brittany’s nominators wrote:
Brittany is one of the most involved, engaged, and passionate students in our cohort. She is a fierce defender of the marginalized. She energetically dives into team projects, and she works to welcome and ease the challenges for students who speak English as a second language… The GSD is lucky to have her.
[Brittany] is really involved in making the design world better for designers. She organizes Womxn in Design workshops, lectures and events. She speaks up for equity, earnings and emotions within the design world…. She has been a savior during my time here at the GSD.
Kyle Miller is pursuing a Master in Urban Planning at the GSD concurrent with a Master in Public Health through the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. He is recognized as an Unsung Hero for his work as a Teaching Fellow, a Research Fellow in the Just City Lab, and a member of multiple student groups. Kyle’s nominators wrote:
Kyle has been integral in planning events at the GSD that promote diversity of thought, and a key figure in brokering relationships across campus and beyond. The GSD would be at a loss without him, as would I.
Kyle consistently makes time for students, helping others with academic challenges, planning extracurricular events, and helping build community outside of school. He works innumerable jobs and is an active member of multiple groups.And still, he always comes to class with brilliant contributions, charm, and baked goods for everyone. If Kyle did half of what he does for this community, he would deserve this award. The fact that he does so much is nothing short of astounding and inspiring.
Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) presents two podcast series featuring in-depth interviews with leading design practitioners from around the world. “Talking Practice,” produced by the Practice Platform, investigates the ways in which architects, landscape architects, designers, and planners articulate design imagination through practice. “Future of the American City,” from the Office for Urbanization, explores alternative futures and convenes conversations about how we live, where we live. Learn more below about both series and how to listen.
Grace La MArch ’95 speaks with Paul Nakazawa.
Hosted by Grace La MArch ’95, professor of architecture and chair of the practice platform, each 40-minute episode provides a rare glimpse into the work, experiences, and attitudes of design luminaries, many of whom are GSD alumni. Comprehensive, thought-provoking, and timely, “Talking Practice” tells the story of what designers do, why, and how they do it—exploring the key issues at stake in practice today.
Lyndon Neri MArch ’92 and Rossana Hu, partners and co-founders of Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, and the John C. Portman Design Critics in architecture at the GSD.
Preston Scott Cohen MArch ’85, founder and principal of Preston Scott Cohen Inc, and Gerald M. McCue Professor in Architecture at the GSD.
Gary Hilderbrand MLA ’85, founding principal and partner at Reed Hilderbrand, and Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at the GSD.
Anna Heringer, founder and principal of Anna Heringer Architects, and honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development
Shohei Shigematsu, partner at Office of Metropolitan Architects (OMA) and head of the New York office.
Paul Nakazawa, Associate Professor in Practice of Architecture at the GSD.
Jeanne Gang MArch ’93, founder and principal of Studio Gang, Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and 2011 MacArthur Fellow.
Reinier de Graaf, the longest non-founding partner at the Office of Metropolitan Architects and co-founder of AMO, the think tank of OMA.
Supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and generous donors to the American Cities Fund, this series of 10 episodes lanched in May 2019; it investigates Miami and other urban areas considering issues related to urban planning, adaptation to climate change, transit, equity and more.
The most recent episode from December 2019 features Associate Professor of Architecture Eric Höweler, an architect and educator whose work deals with building technology and the public realm. He and Alumni Council member Corey Zehngebot MArch ’09 led the fall 2019 option studio “Adapting Miami Housing on the Transect,” which centered on new strategies for urban housing, focusing on the issues of typology, density, transit, and climate adaptability.
The other nine episodes include interviews with:
Sean Canty MArch ’14 is an architect and educator whose work focuses on building type and geometry. Among other things, he has recently engaged in teaching a course on reimagining housing and public space in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.
Laurinda Spear and Margarita Blanco are architects and landscape architects whose work at ArquitectonicaGEO focuses on creating ecologically performative public spaces.
Rodolphe el-Khoury is an architect, historian, and educator whose recent work deals with smart cities and embedded technology.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is a pioneering urban planner, architect, and educator. She has been instrumental in developing the City of Miami’s form-based zoning code, Miami 21.
Craig Robins is a Miami real estate developer whose projects focus on arts, culture, and historic preservation.
Rosetta S. Elkin is a landscape architect who uses design as a means to address risk, injustice, and instability brought on by climate change.
Lily Song is an urban planner whose work aims to center the experiences of marginalized groups in the policy and development process.
Chris Reed is a landscape architect specializing in dynamic ecologies and generative processes.
Toni L. Griffin LF ’98 is an urban planner who employs a value-based approach to urbanism, examining the ways design and planning figure into to questions of equality and inclusion. Griffin’s pursuit of the “Just City” has led her across the country to push for urban design that promotes access, choice, and empowerment.
Subscribe to the series via one of these podcast providers: iTunes and Stitcher.
Megan Panzano is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), where she currently coordinates and teaches in the first semesters of the graduate and undergraduate programs. In 2016, Panzano received the Harvard Excellence in Teaching Award for her instruction in the Architecture Studies track for undergraduate students. This annual award, administered by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning in cooperation with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Education, acknowledges a select number of Harvard instructors for the excellence of their work with students and the strength of their commitment to teaching. Panzano was honored specifically for her instruction in the studio course “Transformations,” which introduces basic architectural concepts and techniques used to address issues of form, material, and the process of making. She has subsequently gone on to earn three more of these honors in sequential semesters of teaching.
Through her independent practice, studioPM, Panzano works on an assembly of projects addressing spaces of change across a range of architectural scales. Her recent work includes “HIGH SEES,” a perceptual playground built like a boat that sits atop the roof of a preschool. She previously worked as a Senior Designer and Project Manager at Utile, Inc. and she worked closely with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown at Venturi, Scott Brown + Associates in Philadelphia.
Panzano graduated cum laude from Yale University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture with honors in 2004. In 2010, she received her Master of Architecture with distinction from the GSD, where she was the recipient of the John E. Thayer Award for outstanding academic achievement. She was also the 2010 winner of the GSD’s James Templeton Kelley Thesis Prize for her design of a new architectural type that explored the home as an inhabitable archive—an integral site of object curation and living.
In this Q&A, Panzano shares insights into the Undergraduate Architecture Studies program, what makes the GSD MArch I model distinctive, and how she keeps busy outside of the GSD.
1. Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, though my family is not originally from there. This year marks my residency in the New England area for more years than my time living in the south, but those roots are still with me. I try to keep the south’s capacities for unconstrained imagination and reinvention alive as an overlay on the design work I’m thinking about and producing up here.
2. Why did you decide to come to the GSD for your Master of Architecture degree?
I have always been (and am still) drawn to the school’s interest in inviting diverse perspectives to address the project of architecture. The design departments that share the open space of Gund Hall under one roof is extraordinary. The GSD’s commitment to an academic community of students, faculty, and staff from different origins and disciplinary backgrounds weighed heavily on my decision to pursue my MArch I degree here.
3. Looking back, what experiences at the GSD were the most helpful in shaping your career?
Architecture, its education and practice across all of its outputs—research, writing, building, and curation—is a collective endeavor. The classmates I was lucky enough to share time with at the school, as well as the faculty who instructed and advised me throughout, were and, largely, are still the most influential and inspiring aspects of my experience at the GSD. Many of these individuals not only put on the map what was possible to pursue through design, but also continue to help me routinely tune-up my projects and approaches as I travel into new territory. This occurs through both direct and tangential dialogue about work. I value my GSD past and present friends and colleagues and our shared architectural productivity.
4. What about the GSD currently excites you?
The current faculty and students are smart, skilled, curious, and receptive. That’s an exciting combination, especially when channeled to design and it’s capacity to reveal and make legible to others new ways of seeing and engaging the world. In architecture, I am excited by the way the school is not compromising on what the architectural consequences of contemporary issues might be; the work of the school illustrates investment in the impact particular present issues have across all forms of design output, from representations to texts and built form and space—not just one. I think it’s important that the school continues to encourage the address of all of those things.
5. You serve as Program Director of the Undergraduate Architecture Studies program, which is part of Harvard College’s History of Art and Architecture concentration. What benefits do design thinking and studio-based courses offer to liberal arts students?
In my role as GSD Program Director of the Undergraduate Architecture Studies program over the past few years, we’ve seen a swell of interest in our undergraduate studio-based architectural design courses from students across the College, not just those within History of Art and Architecture, the concentration this track resides within. We now offer four design courses annually that are specifically crafted for undergraduates—two seminars and two studios—that are acutely aware of teaching architecture within the liberal arts context of Harvard College. Because of this, it’s intentionally not a pre-professional course of study. What we’ve promoted in these courses is the teaching through various scales of design experimentation what is specific to the discipline of architecture, with emphasis on architectural things that can productively ‘kiss’ other disciplines. Rather than a dilution of architecture amidst everything else, we teach through what is architecturally specific but more portable to other disciplines, namely the following three things: the visual representation of an idea through architectural means; the iterative process of design that is often a non-linear method of idea advancement—thinking making, analyzing and making again; and we also emphasize collaborative learning and skill-sharing in the more open environment of the design studio as an essential means of advancing architectural work. It is this set of architectural means and methods that stir creativity while managing the discipline’s complexities that these courses offer to liberal-arts studies at Harvard.
6. Tell us about your practice. In 2013, you founded studioPM, a design practice invested in research and production at multiple scales, which develops projects that carry a degree of change and instability with them. What drives your work?
Architecture consistently confronts contingencies—be they the temporality of activity, varied subjectivities, or a context in flux, in addition to the necessary budgetary ones. I am interested in anticipating what chance incidents my work may host or encounter and playfully teasing out those open-ended aspects as a medium with which to design in each project. Visual perception currently plays a big role in this. The visual images my recent work presents aspire to reveal and critique background assumptions of the link between what we see and what space and form we expect to get, playing with architecture’s representational conventions overbuilt terrain to produce spatial perceptions that differ from physical reality. Recent projects include a rooftop playground, a triptych of toys, body-sized anti-perspective image-objects, spaces for the animated collecting of things, a series of bike stops along a public trail, and a small vacation house by the beach. Each focuses on a particular friction of fixing specific architectural elements in static assembly that produce changing perceptions of form and space. This motivates the materiality, detailing, and making of each project in particular ways. Seam lines, surface hues, and textures of volumes within the architecture often overlap to align and perceptually press 3D space into planar readings that vary based on vantage point and time of day. Similarly, elements from the context are often brought into the visual field of the elements of the architecture rendering boundaries between within and without and the limit of interior space ambiguous. This recent work also intentionally experiments with the mobilization of architectures of modest size to address a range of bigger issues over larger territories.
7. You recently designed “HIGH SEES,” a 1,500-square-foot space” atop Arlington’s Learn to Grow preschool, which you call a “perceptual playground.” How did your interest in open-ended, unscripted play inform this project?
In the book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Johan Huizinga describes play as intentionally useless. But, this uselessness imbues its special value. It is through its lack of prescription that play becomes a primary participant in the generation of culture. Unconstrained exploration unlocks ways of seeing the world differently, something Huizinga identifies as critical to creativity and to cultural evolution. More recent research supports this, revealing that children develop in more enriched and independent ways when given fewer guidelines for play. These sources shaped my goals for creating a space for open-ended play to promote this development through essential motor and cognitive skills for the 3-5 year old people primary to this project. In order to do so, I designed a pattern that weaves together bouncy aquatic rubber tiles with abstract custom-designed play elements to create distinct zones for unprescribed action and imagination, up on an unused roof space of the school. Its blue hues become a make-believe sea or extended sky.
Megan Panzano MArch ’10 on “HIGH SEES.”
The project was built to withstand two major forces: New England seasonal swings and preschoolers. 3D objects built of speedboat material for climbing on and hiding within emerge from the playground’s 2D surfaces, encouraging physical as well as visual play for its smaller occupants. Perspective views from various vantage points within the play space appear flat, contradicting the actual depth of space populated with layered elements. Carefully coordinated seams and edges cause play pieces to optically pop up from and flatten onto the floor and fence depending on the angle of view, tuning depth perception while illustrating, real-time, that the playground invites reinterpretation. Simply, what one ‘sees’ varies. The project architecturally promotes the power of play, left unscripted.
8. You were the Committee Chair for the 2019 Plimpton-Poorvu Design Prize, a prize established by GSD advocates Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80 and William J. Poorvu MBA ’58. The Prize recognizes the two top teams or individuals for a viable real estate project completed as part of the GSD curricula. Why is this award important to the GSD and the study of real estate?
First, it was an enjoyable experience to serve on this prize committee because it availed me the opportunity to get to know both Sam Plimpton and Bill Poorvu and to see their commitment to the school and the support of its students first hand. This prize is particularly of note because it’s a rare award that directly encourages students to pick up and continue work initially incubated in a GSD course or studio. It is also a unique opportunity for cross-program engagement for students—applicant teams are often assembled as a mix of students from various programs to address the advancement of their design work in relation to the prize. And, lastly, the student teams advancing to the final round of consideration for this prize are supported by the close reading of their work and insightful feedback provided in rounds of review by the stellar interdepartmental prize committee composed of faculty members from across the GSD, with whom I had the honor of working closely as well.
9. You’ve taught at both Harvard and Northeastern University and served as a guest critic at many other institutions. Is the GSD studio model unique? If so, in what ways?
Speaking from within Architecture, the GSD MArch I model is something special because of the clarity and rigor of its core sequence, inclusive of both studios and complementary core courses. If we understand ‘discipline’ to be a specific branch of knowledge with distinct material and methods as means of advancement, it is clear that each semester of the GSD MArch I core sequence articulates particular disciplinary content specific to Architecture—its materials (media and scale) and methods of working. These build up in series as means to address broader issues—from techniques of architectural representation and issues of subjectivity; the complexities of identity, access, and privilege with relation to site and program; to the integration of structure and systems within the whole body of a building; and the relationship of architecture to challenges posed by the urban condition. What IS special over these semesters of the GSD’s core sequence is that architecture is not proposing to solve these bigger issues in any one investigation, but these terms work to manifest spaces that, through their design, sharpen attention to and offer new means of considering issues of contemporary relevance.
10. Where do you go to feel inspired?
Traveling anywhere new does the trick—usually including art museums. Also, hiding away and reading about architecture, and things in its orbit, in old books (that are new to me) and in contemporary journals sparks new ideas. I’m realizing that travel may be so inspiring because flying or training anywhere allows me to get a lot of reading done…
11. What’s on your reading list/watch list/playlist right now?
The journals Cabinet and Log are always top on the reading list. Currently, I’m also reading two books by Nelson Goodman: Ways of Worldmaking and Languages of Art, with particular focus on his framing of representation’s mediation of the real world. When not reading, I’ve been listening to Stevie Wonder, whose albums I recently rescued from my playlist archive, interspersed with Billie Eilish and Cautious Clay. Occasionally, I’ve been watching episodes of Parks and Recreation to lighten up my anticipation of a tricky sequence of public process presentations I have upcoming for a series of bike stops I’ve designed that require township support to move into production.
12. What would surprise us about you?
I am in the midst of training for a triathalon to have the strength and speed to keep pace with my two boys, who are 7.5 and 2.5, and both fast.
At the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), affordable housing is an urgent concern in the pursuit of healthy, equitable cities. In this video—the first in a series of brief looks at the ways in which topical issues are explored at the GSD—Rahul Mehrotra MAUD ’87, Daniel D’Oca MUP ’02, and Farshid Moussavi MArch ’91 discuss strategies for rethinking the housing needs of the 21st century.
Greetings from Cambridge! As the fourth year of the program progresses, it is a pleasure to have two cohorts of graduates out in the world. We have enjoyed hearing about your new careers and activities, and as always, we wish to keep you informed with news from the program side as well. To that end, say hello to our inaugural alumni newsletter. The theme matches the upcoming MDE publication, Mobility (academic year ’18-’19), which includes illustration/comic elements. Please see below for further updates.
We hope to see you all soon!
With warm regards,
Martin Bechthold DDes ’01 Fawwaz Habbal
Program and Student News
The program launched and awarded its first round of MDE Fellowships in summer 2019. These fellowships are awarded to second-year students, both domestic and international, and are based entirely on financial need.
Join the official MDE LinkedIn Group to see career info from current students and other alumni.
Consider indicating your availability as a mentor for current students through the Alumni Directory.
This past April, Autodesk hosted the SERT Council Event in San Francisco, which introduced MDE to a broader audience of GSD and SEAS alumni. Special thanks to Zeerak Ahmed MDE ’18, Neeti Nayak MDE ’18, and Chao Gu MDE ’18 for participating in the event.
This November, the GSD hosted the Dean’s Leadership Council in NYC. Karen Su MDE ’18 presented for MDE.
We are thrilled to see new ventures launched by MDE alumni, including artnext by Julian Siegelmann MDE ’19 and Naya by Vivek Hv MDE ’19 and Saad Rajan MDE ’19. From the 2018 cohort, Jeremy Burke MDE ’18 and Ramon Gras MDE ’18 recently released The Atlas of Innovation Districts, and Michael Raspuzzi MDE ’18 continues to move forward with Culinary AI Labs.
Four generations of MDE came together over donuts and coffee
Did We Miss Something?
Email us! Shoot an email to [email protected] if you have news for the MDE website or would like to see a specific topic addressed in our next newsletter.
The Daniel Urban Kiley Teaching Fellowship is awarded annually to an emerging designer whose work articulates the potential for landscape as a medium of design in the public realm. The Kiley Teaching Fellow will be appointed Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design for the 2020-21 academic year, and is expected to be in full-time residence from August 15, 2020 through May 30, 2021. While the Kiley Teaching Fellowship will be awarded competitively on an annual basis, successful Fellows are eligible to have their academic appointments renewed for a second year at the rank of Lecturer, dependent upon review of their teaching, research, and creative practice.
The Daniel Urban Kiley Teaching Fellowship builds upon the GSD’s history of pedagogic innovation as well as the Department of Landscape Architecture’s century of leadership in landscape education. This initiative is intended to recognize and foster emerging design educators who are considering an academic career in landscape architecture and who are interested in advancing contemporary discourse through pedagogy in core and elective curricula.
Deadline for receipt of applications: February 1, 2020
Mark LeeMArch ’95 assumed the role of Chair of the Department of Architecture and Professor in Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) on July 1, 2018. He is a principal and founding partner of Johnston Marklee, which since its establishment in 1998 has been recognized nationally and internationally with over thirty major awards. Projects undertaken by Johnston Marklee span seven countries throughout North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Recent projects include the renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which opened in September 2017; the new UCLA Graduate Art Studios campus in Culver City, California; the design of the new Dropbox global headquarters in San Francisco; and the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston, Texas, opening November 2018. Along with partner Sharon Johnston MArch ’95, Lee served as Co-Artistic Director of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial and participated in the GSD’s symposium “New Materialism: Histories Make Practice | Practices Make History” at the Biennial last September.
Prior to his appointment as Professor in Practice at Harvard GSD, Lee held the position of Frank Gehry Chair at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, and Cullinan Guest Professor at Rice University School of Architecture, in addition to appointments at ETH (Zurich) and UCLA. Lee has taught as a design critic at the GSD since 2013, and has served as a visiting critic at institutions around the world. He was also a member of Harvard GSD’s 2018 Wheelwright Prize jury.
1. Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong while it was a British Colony. In 1983, I moved to Los Angeles. I was part of the generation who left Hong Kong after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Deng Xiaoping and confirmed that Hong Kong would return to China. A lot of my friends went to either the UK or other Commonwealth countries. I came to Los Angeles and went to the University of Southern California for my Bachelor of Architecture degree. At first, I did not intend to stay in the US, but after a while, Los Angeles began to feel like home. I worked for a couple of years after graduation, and then I came to the GSD for my MArch degree.
2. What drew you to the GSD?
GSD was at the time, and is still, head and shoulders above other schools. When I was a student in Los Angeles, I was aware of the GSD graduates who took very high profile positions within large offices, like Gehry Partners or S.O.M., and others who started their own exciting practices right away or soon after school. I was attracted to the diversity of the types of practices and positions represented by GSD alumni. The profile of GSD alumni was and is very strong. Also, Harvard as a university is an incredible attraction with the other great departments and schools. Being in this type of intellectual community has always been highly appealing to me.
3. What is the most significant thing you learned while at the GSD?
One of the things I learned at the GSD is the human dimension behind the architects we studied. When you look at architects from a distance, or when you learn of them and their work from a distance, they could come across as these towering figures. However, when you’re at the GSD, you actually get to work closely with them and know them as human beings. As a student, I had the opportunity to work with Peter Eisenman, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. You get to know them as people and understand that you can also be one of them, which is very liberating; you can achieve what they have achieved, as opposed to their being these distant deities or figures.
My first option studio was taught by Peter Eisenman, who was a visiting design critic at the time. I had the chance to work in his highly theoretical studio for fifteen weeks, which was incredibly intense. This was followed by an option studio taught by Herzog & de Meuron, which was the diametric opposite of Peter Eisenman’s but equally fantastic. It was a time before they designed the Tate Gallery in London, while they were working on incredibly important small projects such as the Goetz Collection in Munich. I had the opportunity to work with them very intimately on many aspects of the design project. Also, this was the studio where I met Sharon [Johnston MArch ’95, partner and spouse].
4. While you were a student at the GSD, did you experience classes or lectures at other Harvard schools?
I’ve always been interested in the arts and history. When I was a student at the GSD, I took a lot of classes in art history and in Sackler. I took classes with the art history professor Yve-Alain Bois and Norman Bryson, who was a visiting professor. Dave Hickey, an art critic who was also a visiting professor, was an incredible teacher. We stayed in touch over the years. These experiences really benefited mine and Sharon’s professional career later on when we were working with institutions and artists.
5. Tell us about your professional career.
My lifelong interest in modern and contemporary art has certainly shaped our career in many ways. Our first projects were in Marfa, Texas a few years after Donald Judd passed away. We started renovating houses and designing structures for poets and writers in residence for the Lannan Foundation. Over the course of a few years, we met a lot of artists or curators who were doing their residencies in Marfa. Many of them became lifelong friends and collaborators. We started helping them design their exhibitions or collaborating on their projects. Eventually, we designed houses for the collectors and museum exhibitions for their shows. Now we’re designing museums or institutions with directors and chief curators that were young curators at the beginning of their careers back then. We have been blessed with having very good friends and collaborators that we crossed paths with early on.
6. What is your vision for the Department of Architecture?
The GSD Architecture Department has always played a critical role in reflecting upon and shaping the field. Today, a lot of focus within the field has been placed upon the discipline itself, as opposed to the last thirty or forty years where there has been a general tendency of going towards the periphery of the discipline, interrogating its boundaries. Now that the so-called boundaries have been eroded, people are much more interested in the irreducible cores of the discipline itself. So with the newly demarcated and redrawn boundaries on the discipline, I would like to foster connections through strategic bridge-building between these redefined boundaries. I like to use bridge building as an analogy because bridges are much more defined and articulated than the dissolution of boundaries for the way I would like the Department of Architecture to operate within the School. How can we build bridges between different cultures? I see the GSD as the most Eurocentric school in America, and that is really our strength. This is something that needs to be preserved and expanded, but at the same time, we should consider the other bridges that we need to build in different cultures, especially into Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The GSD is much more global today, and these bridges are important because of the global makeup of the GSD community and the architecture community. This will be reflected in the visitors we bring to our department, which reflect our current student body. I hope to see this in our courses and our interdepartmental work. Also, I hope to build a bridge that will promote collaboration across all departments. I look forward to working closely with Diane Davis (Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design) and Anita Berrizbeitia MLA ’87 (Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture).
7. What is your first order of business as Chair?
I see my first year as a year of orientation. I know the GSD from when I was here as a student. I know the GSD as a visitor from the last four or five years. But, I won’t really know the GSD until I am here in the trenches. As an architect, I’m a contextualist in the sense that I always try to understand the history and the context of a site first. I’m trying to take the same approach to my chairmanship. There are a lot of things I need to learn and understand how the GSD works.
Dean Mohsen Mostafavi talks about the importance of community and the relationships between students and faculty; this is certainly something on which I would like to build. Also, junior faculty should be more connected to senior faculty, to our visitors, and the students, as they’re such an important core of our department. As part of my orientation, I’m having one-on-one meetings with faculty and staff and making myself available to the students. The foundations of core are very important, and following the tradition of Chairs of the Department, I’m serving as the coordinator of the core one studio this first semester. I see my immediate task as understanding where these foundations evolve from, and then where they could go.
Additionally, I’m planning a series of lectures that pair a junior faculty member with a visitor or senior faculty member, where I would moderate the discussion. This type of intergeneration discussion is very important. It breaks down the hierarchy. Whether one is at the beginning of their career or more advanced in their career, there may be many points that overlap. Seeing and hearing that discussion will be invaluable for both the participants and the students.
8. What do you see as the future of design education for architecture? And/or how do you see how the GSD can help shape this?
Historically, architecture has both been overestimated and underestimated. Understanding exactly what architecture could contribute to is much more empowering than thinking architecture could solve every problem in the world. Having a grasp on the limitations and possibilities of architecture demands a mastery and very delicate balance. This is something I hope could be an ethos that I’d focus on under my chairmanship.
It is important for students to learn about pacing one’s career. I recall the words of John Hejduk MArch ’53, who spoke about how there are architects who are short distance runners, and there are architects that are long-distance runners. Architecture is a marathon; it’s essential to find your colleagues, your friends, and your fellow travelers who will go along with you.
9. What are some of the biggest challenges in the field today? How might this change in the future?
Too much attention has been placed upon the exceptional buildings; the 1%. Whereas the quality of architecture for the 99% of our city fabric is quite low. There’s a big gap between what is being discussed and what we experience in the city. For architecture to have strong powers as a discourse as a cultural category, the quality of the 99% has to be raised higher. Not to take away from that 1%, but the discussion and the focus have to be much more spread out.
10. Johnston Marklee is one of the most talented practices currently working in the United States and beyond. How will you balance your role at the GSD with your practice?
I’m still learning how to balance my practice with my role as Chair; but to run the department, I have to be at the GSD in person. Johnston Marklee has opened a satellite office that is within walking distance of the school. Our main base is still in LA because we’ve been there more than twenty years, and our team is there, but we are in the process of building our Cambridge office, starting with a few GSD alumni. I would like to see my academic and professional commitments have a reciprocal relationship with one another.
Mark Lee MArch ’95 (right) with Sean Chiao MAUD ’88 at the GSD’s LA Design Weekend in 2012.
11. What value have you seen in engaging with the GSD alumni community?
I’ve been fortunate to participate in various alumni events such as the 2016 GSD reception at DesignMiami/ and several events in Los Angeles. Sharon and I have hosted talks in our office and dinners in the buildings we have designed for donors. We have also participated and returned to campus for the Grounded Visionaries campaign. These times where meaningful, not were we able to reconnect with alumni we haven’t seen in a long time, but also see former teachers; like when I saw Eduard Seckler [the former Osgood Hooker Professor of Visual Art Emeritus and Professor of Architecture Emeritus at the Graduate School of Design] and his students at the Grounded Visionaries launch. Seeing the multiple generations of alumni helps realize, as alumni and students we are part of this larger chain of the students here.
12. About what design problems are you passionate?
Often, Johnston Marklee is commissioned to do one very specific project. The ones that we’re most passionate about are the projects that have larger implications. When we get to understand that the one problem we have been trying to solve is actually a larger, global problem. The results not only serve the building that you’re designing, but could have implications on other future buildings such as challenges in zoning a house within a city or sustainable ways of construction.
Some examples are the early houses that we have built in Los Angeles. We built on difficult hillsides, and we realized that it’s not just about this house, but it’s about how we deal with the hillside ordinance, and the desire to preserve the ecology of the hillside but still allow for development to happen. Or when we built the Vault House, which we saw as a typology of how to build on the beach. Understanding these different ecologies of what architecture could do was a learning experience.
13. How has the GSD changed since you were a student?
There are pros and cons. When I was a student, you could see and feel the size of the entire community and see everyone’s face on the trays. I have not experienced any architecture school like the trays in Gund Hall where you really feel the presence of everybody. As the school has grown larger, there are more people you don’t see or people who don’t take studios. The community has become more extended, but that’s also its strength. You get a lot more people who are not just focused on architecture. I think those are the most interesting things I see at GSD right now.
GSD at the Chicago Architecture Biennial: “New Materialisms: Histories Make Practice | Practices Make History”. From left to right: Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Mark Lee MArch ’95, and Sharon Johnston MArch ’95.
14. You along with Sharon Johnston MArch ’95 served as Artistic Directors for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial that drew over 550,000 residents and visitors from the U.S. and around the world. What was most memorable about this experience?
It was an incredible experience because it was the second year of the biennial exhibition. I feel it’s important because you need a second one to make it a biennial. It is the only North American architecture biennial and is situated in a city where architecture is so important. The duration of the show was half that of the Venice Biennial, which is the grandfather of biennials, but it drew twice as many visitors, which speaks to the interest in architecture to the general audience. We certainly tried to appeal to cognoscenti or architects, but also to the general audience. The nice thing about it was over the three months it was open, every time we went back, we saw kids, we saw students, we saw senior citizens enjoying the show. We tried to speak to many different demographics.
15. You have taught at several other universities including Princeton University, the University of California, Los Angeles, the Technical University of Berlin, ETH Zurich, Rice University, and the University of Toronto. What sets the GSD apart?
The difference is that the teachers at the GSD are usually the ones who actually wrote the books that are studied and referenced in other schools. Another difference is the generally high quality of the students, they are really incredible. When the students have such a high intellectual capacity, the discourse and the thinking are at a completely different level.
There are always two aspects to teaching. There’s knowledge transference; as a teacher, you have more experience than students, and you transfer that knowledge to them. Secondly, there is knowledge production, which produces new knowledge. I think that is one of the attractions for faculty to be at the GSD is not just transferring what you know, but to use this opportunity to create new knowledge or work with students to test new ideas. This calls for a high caliber of student, and Harvard has the highest caliber of students. It’s an attraction for the visiting faculty to be here too. It is really unparalleled.
16. What advice do you have for GSD students and/or alumni?
Finding your friends and finding your fellow travelers are important. When we first started our practice after we left GSD, we decided we didn’t want to be architects where our clients are people who have arrived and hire us as a trophy. We want to find our fellow travelers, and we want to travel with them—whether they are collaborators or clients. In understanding that architecture is a long distance race, you realize the importance of finding people that you share, have sympathies or empathies with what you believe in, and then travel the path of a career with them. Developing relationships and friendships is important.
17. Where do you go to feel inspired?
When I am in Southern California I like to go to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla to the structures designed by Louis Kahn. It’s a place where I feel the power of solitude. When I feel melancholic, my spirits are lifted there. When I am happy, I feel joyous there. This is the power of great architecture; it leaves you alone when you want to be, but when you want to inquire it tells you a lot, just like a good friend. That’s the quality that I see in great buildings. When I feel the need for solitude or refuge here in Cambridge, I simply walk down the block to the Carpenter Center and take a stroll through the ramp.
This Q&A is part of a series of articles profiling newly appointed department chairs. The series includes:
In December 2018, a gift from Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80 and his wife, Wendy Shattuck, established the Plimpton Professorship of Planning and Urban Economics. The professorship will advance the GSD in the field of urban economics, fundamental for understanding the economics of cities, as well as land use, planning, and real estate decisions in urban areas. As the world’s foremost design school, the GSD is a natural home for exploring a range of urban issues and advancing this core field.
The GSD’s curriculum in urban economics will include focuses on the components and measurement of successful urban planning and development projects, including: use mix (retail, market and affordable housing, commercial, institutional); the relationships between land use patterns and property values and other metrics of success; transformations in technology and mobility infrastructures; the interactions of metropolitan-scale markets and regulatory institutions and policy; public finance; and the impacts of climate change on public and private sector decisions.
“Investments in cities and the built environment are the driving engine of growth in local, regional, and national economies here in the U.S., and around the globe,” said Diane Davis, Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and Urbanism. “If we want to create prosperous futures while also contributing to sustainable urbanism, greater attention to the drivers of urban economies should be a number one priority, both for the public and private sectors.”
This position is essential to helping build on the emphasis we’ve always had in the area of economics as it pertains to all aspects of urban growth and development. It sends a powerful message to everyone that the GSD would have such a position, as it amplifies our very long tradition of having scholars who teach urban economics.~ Richard Peiser, Michael D. Spear Professor of Real Estate Development
As the field of urban economics has evolved in recent years, understanding the cultural context of urban economic growth has become increasingly important. Scholars have examined the role of arts, public space, and leisure activities in place-making, which has inspired new work on how to incorporate these priorities into urban development projects. Along with Davis, Richard Peiser, Michael D. Spear Professor of Real Estate Development, describes the GSD as the perfect environment for synthesizing multiple urban objectives through creative building and urban development projects.
“This position is essential to helping build on the emphasis we’ve always had in the area of economics as it pertains to all aspects of urban growth and development,” Peiser said. “It sends a powerful message to everyone that the GSD would have such a position, as it amplifies our very long tradition of having scholars who teach urban economics.”
“Plimpton’s long-term loyalty and support of the GSD has been fundamental to the success of the program” Peiser added. “This new position is really central to supporting three of our fundamental teaching disciplines in the Department of Urban Planning and Design: urban planning, economic development, and real estate.”
Homa Farjadi, Samuel Plimpton MBA ’77, MArch ’80, Diane Davis, Mohsen Mostafavi, and Wendy Shattuck celebrate the establishment of the Plimpton Professorship of Planning and Urban Economics
Frederick Chan MAUD ’74 believes that the most impactful design happens outside of the studio, and that the most important work of a graduate school is to carry out research that can shape the profession. That deep conviction in training designers of the future led to Chan’s generous gift to the GSD’s Annual Fund, which will support the School’s greatest needs.
“Harvard has been a wonderful place and experience for me,” Chan said. “I learned at the school that the tuition we pay is about one-third of the cost of educating a student. Therefore, I think it’s important that after we leave, we continue to support education to make it possible for the next generation, both in terms of financial aid and continuing participation in the school’s programs so we can learn from each other. Students are more creative when they’re not constrained.”
Chan, who describes himself as semi-retired and splits his time between Hong Kong and Bangkok, had a successful career in architecture and development. He was Managing Director at FMC Group, and president and chief executive officer at NuWest Group. In addition to his Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard, Chan also holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of California Berkeley.
His experience at Harvard, including a class with Mortimer B. Zuckerman LLM ’62, and his varied background, have cultivated Chan’s appreciation for the GSD’s multidisciplinary approach, especially the GSD’s collaboration with the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“Design is no longer a profession by itself, and urban problems or problems in modern society can’t be tackled by one discipline,” Chan said. “Issues are so complicated and specialized, and you can’t design in a vacuum. Training in design should enable the student to learn how to work and collaborate with people from different fields.”
“I have always thought that design should be part of the core educational curriculum in our schools along with language skills and math,” he continued. “We can use design as a way both to learn and come up with solutions and communicate with others. In an increasingly visually-oriented world, design is taking on a more important role.”
Even a world away from Cambridge, Chan maintains his connections to the GSD in several ways: speaking to students, watching every commencement speech, and reading the Harvard Gazette every day. He has also participated in GSD seminars in Asia, such as a waterfront study in Hong Kong and a design review in Shanghai, and praised the GSD’s efforts to connect with alumni in the region.
“I love having the chance to talk to a lot of young students and get involved in the studio projects,” Chan said. “I find it very fascinating. It’s almost like I’m going back to school again.”
Frederick Chan MAUD ’74 speaks to a crowd of alumni and friends at an event in Bangkok
As the child of artists and an artist herself, Melissa Kaish GSD ’85 grew up with painters, musicians, and writers gathering at her home for creative discussions. For her, art and design are not bound by walls; these disciplines can—and should—spill into the public sphere for the community’s benefit.
With that value in mind, Kaish and her husband, Jon Dorfman, made a generous gift to the GSD, which will support a built project on Harvard’s campus through the School’s Art, Design, and the Public Domain (ADPD) program. Kaish’s main goal: promote the GSD’s creative work beyond the walls of Gund Hall.
“It’s really about developing the life of the arts throughout the campus,” said Kaish, who attended the GSD before earning her MBA from Columbia University. “I love the idea of a merit-based award that would enable students with the absolute best ideas to have an opportunity to implement them on campus, and that the Harvard community and beyond will benefit.”
Kaish’s inspiration came from past philanthropy with the School and The Harvard Campaign, which she said allowed the GSD to broaden its impact on the community. Kaish had provided a gift for 9 Ash Street, supporting the vision of the space as a gathering place for designers. She and Dorfman became drawn to ADPD through “WE ALL,” a student design-build installation at the Grove in Boston’s North Allston neighborhood.
WE ALL, designed by Francisco Alarcon MDes ’18, Carla Ferrer Llorca MDes ’17, and Rudy Weissenberg MDes ’18, debuted in September 2017 at The Grove in Allston
“What impresses us most about the School is the breadth of degree options and international studio options,” Dorfman said, pointing to the GSD’s increased global presence. “You can study design issues around the world, and I think that makes it very, very powerful.”
“The School is now much broader,” Kaish added. “It’s reached out to the university in different ways, such as technology, sustainability, and social equity. The new joint degree with the engineering school is a bold move. It is becoming increasingly important to integrate architecture with engineering and technology.”
As Kaish supports designers of the future, she is also exploring her own creative past through the Kaish Family Art Project and an upcoming book about her late mother. The project’s mission is to promote and exhibit the work of her parents, Luise and Morton Kaish. “I’m learning a lot about the art world I didn’t know, beyond my easel,” Kaish said with a laugh.
The far-reaching impact and evolution of her parents’ art mirrors what Kaish has observed and hopes to see continue at the GSD. “For me, I think, what opportunities are we giving to students to be able to realize their visions?” she said. “The idea is that the GSD will have an impact beyond itself.”
Melissa Kaish GSD ’85 and Jon Dorfman pictured in the Kaish family studio before a collage by Luise Kaish titled “Poet in Two Worlds.”