Director's Letter

Image: Constantine E. Michaelides, from "Givens Hall, 1960-1993, A Personal Journey," 2012.

Director's Letter, Fall 2019
College of Architecture
Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design
Download Fall 2019 Director's Letter>>
View full archive>>

We welcome you back to school with many new beginnings. Weil Hall, the backfill renovations of the existing Sam Fox School buildings, and the east end campus transformations are all coming together and we will celebrate with the Dedication Ceremony for the Transformation of the East End of the Danforth Campus on October 2.

We found archival images while packing up the office and moving to a new space. The photographs contained memories of an older Givens Hall, reminding us of change and the histories leading to this meaningful time at the Sam Fox School. Early in this semester we will hear from Chancellor Andrew Martin on the occasion of his inaugural event, Momentum, which will kick off the new academic year and set a path for our University. Closer to home, we welcome Amy Hauft and Jack Risley to the Sam Fox School as they join the College and Graduate School of Art. Arriving this summer from the University of Texas at Austin, Amy is the new Director of the College of Art and Jack will work on strategic initiatives in the Dean’s Office. Both sculptors, their affinity for design and collaborative spirit will undoubtedly bring promising outcomes for all.

Upcoming Fall 2019 Events

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will reopen this fall semester with an impressive set of exhibitions, highlighted by the renowned Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Bare Life, is on view from September 28 through January 5. The accompanying catalog will include theoretical texts by philosophers as well as interpretive essays on the work’s significance in globalization and humanitarian rights. These writings are important references for designers. Igor Marjanović will be partnering with William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator Sabine Eckmann in a gallery talk examining the works on view, and Jonathan Stitelman will lead a panel discussion in relation to shared themes with his graduate architecture studio. His studio Ghost Sanctuary will focus on places of comfort to which we can no longer return. Working from individual experience, the studio explores connections between shaped spaces of individual remembrance and Ai Weiwei’s work exhibited at the Kemper Art Museum. The schedule of museum events promises to be a robust collection of conversations.

In addition to the Ai Weiwei exhibition opening, we will have several guest speakers as part of the Sam Fox School Public Lecture Series as well as our visiting lecturer series. To start, joining us for graduate architecture studio and featured in the Monday night lecture series, Sara de Giles and José Morales are in-residence visiting faculty with the practice MGM Arquitectos (Morales Giles Mariscal) in Seville, Spain. Both Sara and José received their PhD in architecture from the Technical School of Architecture of Seville where they hold teaching appointments. They are currently curators of the XIV Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism. Patrick Gmür joins us as the Ruth and Norman Moore Professor of Architecture. Patrick contributed to the recently published work on the International Housing Studio and 419 reviews last fall semester. Gmür is a Swiss architect, responsible for many housing competitions that innovate in public programming. Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects joins us as for the Ruth Kahn Lynford Lecture. We are pleased to introduce the lecture with a special book signing by Robert McCarter, celebrating his recent release of Grafton Architects published by Phaidon Press. Additional dates yet to be set include talks by Thomas Phifer, Kenneth Frampton, Fuensanta Nieto, Alberto Kalach, and Ed Ford.

The Discussion Series enters its ninth year, elevating the historical and theoretical discourse in the school around issues in architecture, urban design and landscape architecture. This year’s guests include Maristella Casciato (Senior Curator and Head of Architecture Special Collections, Getty Research Institute), Zeynep Çelik Alexander (Associate Professor of Architectural History, Columbia University), David Van Zanten (Mary Jane Crowe Professor Emeritus, Northwestern University), and Mabel Wilson (Nancy and George Rupp Professor and Co-Director, Global Africa Lab, Columbia University). Led by Eric Mumford and Igor Marjanović, the diversity of series speakers reflects this year’s emphasis in cross culture dialogs and the social production of space.

Constance Vale’s symposium Decoys & Depictions: Images of the Digital examines digitally produced representations and the accumulations of data, politics, and spatial nuances that lie beneath the image. Occurring between the 24th to the 26th of October, Vale’s event features prominent speakers, exhibitions and panel discussions. Nader Tehrani (Dean of the Cooper Union and Principal of NADAA) and Brett Steele (Dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture) are keynote speakers not to be missed.

The Informal Cities workshop this fall semester will be led by Geeta Mehta in collaboration with Matt Bernstine. Geeta is a social entrepreneur, urban designer, architect and author. She is currently an adjunct professor at GSAPP and Co-Founder of URBZ: User Generated Cities and Asia Initiatives. She was also named as one of the 21 leaders of the 21st Century by Women’s eNews. Her credentials as an academic and practitioner are particularly exciting for the Informal Cities curriculum and their ongoing collaboration with the Divided Cities and the Center for Humanities. URBZ is an interdisciplinary firm specializing in participatory planning and design in informal settlements across the globe.

Students of the College of Architecture petitioned to start an AIAS chapter last year. This year, we were chosen as the host for the AIAS Thrive Conference which will take place on October 5. The Thrive Conference is an event aimed at providing training to student members in interviewing, portfolio design, working with a mentor, and moving through firm structures. We are excited for the opportunity to engage local firms and honored to host the AIAS national event in St. Louis. We hope students will also participate in the AIA Central States competition, held in St. Louis this year from October 10-12. Washington University students finished in first place for two years running with Jonathan Stitelman and Mónica Rivera as Faculty Liaisons. This year the faculty representative for the St. Louis charrette is new Assistant Professor Wyly Brown, with Frano Violich serving as jury chair.

New Initiatives and Curriculum

This year we will introduce Fox Fridays to the incoming class of undergraduate and graduate students, giving greater access to students in all forms of making by holding workshops across the Sam Fox School on Fridays. The Fox Fridays initiative provides a gateway to explore processes outside one’s own discipline, building a community of experimentation and shared knowledge in the immense, high caliber making facilities of the school. From Visiting Professor José Morales on the artist / architect: “An artist is a person that tries by nature. I am interested in what they think, as they change much but are still themselves. It fascinates me. Also the immediateness with which they come to a work…. I feel very motivated with what they express, not so much for seeking forms, but to find attitudes.” Have fun, try Fox Fridays as the schedule and tools go online and in the classroom. Be inspired to take a class outside your discipline.

The College of Architecture is unique in that we exercise many forms of research – scholarly and scientific research of qualitative and quantitative kinds, as well as creative and design practices. Our faculty work outside the classroom in the production of books, buildings, neighborhoods, cities, collaborative community events, ecologies, art practices and exhibitions, to name a few. They bring their pursuit of knowledge into the classroom influencing the curriculum and innovating in their fields. This year we are introducing Research Assistant positions with the Tenure and Tenure Track faculty. These positions offer opportunities for mentorship as select undergraduate and graduate students work alongside faculty in addition to the many Teaching Assistant positions that continue to be available.

Faculty and representative students worked earnestly to refine and shorten the graduate architecture curriculum following a successful accreditation in spring 2018. This summer our graduate architecture three-year curriculum kicked off with a studio led by Constance Vale. Next year we will roll out transformations affecting the incoming MArch 2 student group. Feel free to attend town halls this year to ask questions and better understand the ambitions of this initiative. The plan shortens the overall length of the graduate architecture curriculum, provides more flexibility with 1.5 credit electives, and increases opportunities for research outside the studio. Thank you to Patty Heyda and Jesse Vogler for their leadership in examining program schedules across the country to propose a shift from 3 to 2 day/week studios while maintaining design excellence and faculty accessibility in the spirit of our tradition.

Last year an undergraduate task force reviewed studio culture, student wellness and new curricular flexibility for students who pursue a minor in the College of Architecture. Take a look at the minors available in landscape architecture, urban design, history theory, as well as the introduction of a re-imagined architecture minor for students outside of the College of Architecture. The new minor in architecture will increase awareness and appreciation for our disciplines and create better stewards of sustainable environments. In addition, this minor will also open the possibility of student transfers into architecture with greater flexibility to achieve studio credits for incoming students.

Faculty Promotions and New Leadership

Please join me in congratulating Catalina Freixas and Hongxi Yin for receiving tenure! Catalina received notable accolades for her recent publication Segregation by Design and Hongxi Yin gained recognition for his work on two Solar Decathlon competitions and his ongoing collaborative work with the university’s International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (INCEES). Also a recognition, the school welcomes Nanako Umemoto to the faculty in a Professor of Practice role. This year she will be teaching a spring studio in undergraduate architecture. Nanako’s practice RUR is internationally renowned; their recent publication Reiser + Umemoto Projects and their Consequences by Princeton Architectural Press highlights their journey as architects with exploratory projects exemplified by the first plates of mnemonic objects. Umemoto recently participated in a MoMA panel discussion Japan Now: Architecture for the 21st Century addressing key themes of the exhibition A Japanese Constellation.

Associate Professor Derek Hoeferlin was named Chair of Landscape Architecture and Chair of Urban Design. His ability to work across disciplines with a practice strongly rooted in urban and ecological strategies will serve the school well. Thank you to Rod Barnett and John Hoal for their contributions in distinguishing both programs. Hoal developed the Doctor of Sustainable Urbanism (DrSU), in correlation with an urban design program that emphasizes resilient systems and social challenges in a global context. Ian Trivers will lead the DrSU program, formalizing his role as coordinator of that program in collaboration with Chair Hoeferlin. Rod’s accomplishments include leading a very successful accreditation visit this past spring semester. The accreditation team recognized the strength of interdisciplinary work, codes and modes of visualization, the MLA program’s consideration of economic and political processes that regulate spatial practice – and one of Rod’s areas of expertise – the co-existence of human and non-human systems in planning for healthy ecosystems. Rod Barnett will remain affiliated with the College of Architecture as a Research Fellow and John Hoal returns to the faculty teaching in urban design, DrSU and architecture courses. Derek Hoeferlin and Igor Marjanović will lead faculty committees examining the intersection of landscape architecture, urban design and architecture to strategically envision future program initiatives.

I am also pleased to welcome Valerie Greer in her new role as Coordinator for Graduate Initiatives. Valerie will be working with faculty, students and staff on graduate communication efforts in social media and on the SFS website; she will coordinate and advise the professional practice curriculum, and continue to support student academic issues for all graduate programs. As of this summer, Liz Kramer, Associate Director of the Office for Socially Engaged Practice, has transitioned to a part-time schedule as she builds her private consulting practice, in which she will work with change agents in the St. Louis region supporting designing experiences, services, systems, and programs through human centered design and facilitation. Liz will continue to lead and manage overall activity in the office and support programs such as CityStudioSTL and the new minor in Creative Practice for Social Change. In addition, Emily Coffman, Curriculum and Outreach Coordinator, will continue to support faculty efforts and the Alberti Program. Liz will typically be working Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and will be based in the new Office for Socially Engaged Practice suite in Steinberg 210.

New Faculty

Shantel Blakely and Wyly Brown join us in new Assistant Professor positions. Shantel received her BA from Harvard University specializing in the Philosophy of Art, her MArch from Princeton University and a MA in Philosophy at Tufts University, and lastly, her PhD in architectural history theory at Columbia University. Her current topics of study examines the work of Italian designer and architect Marco Zanuso, as well as British art critic Sir Herbert Read. She has previously taught at Columbia, Barnard and Parsons School of Design and held a staff role at the GSD in communications. Wyly Brown joins us from Boston. A founding partner at Leupold Brown Goldbach Architekten, he is a practicing architect with interests in construction and renewable energy building strategies and resources. He received his BA in Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, his MArch from Harvard University GSD and spent two years at the Institute of Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design, University of Stuttgart.

We are pleased to welcome back to the College of Architecture several alums in new teaching roles: Ben Arenberg (MArch13), Nona Davitaia (MLA18), Alexandra Mei (BDes15), Allison Méndez (MArch12), and from cities outside St. Louis, Ed Ford (MArch72 and BS71) and Robert Kahn (BA77). Each bring unique experiences as they return to WashU. Nona Davitaia is a landscape artist and will teach MLA representation. She received her MArch from Washington University and conducted her undergraduate studies at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts – current home of faculty member on-leave Jesse Vogler. Ben Arenberg will teach undergraduate studio. He joins us from Christner as a registered architect and project designer; his most recent work includes the backfill design for Givens, Steinberg, Bixby and Walker Halls. Alexandra Mei joins us from Boston where she is a landscape designer with Merritt Chase. Alex received her MLA from Harvard University where she received the Thesis Award in Landscape Architecture along with the 2017 GSD Charles Eliot Traveling Fellowship. Allison Méndez is a familiar face at WashU. She returns to teach Degree Project this fall semester. Allison received the 2019 AIA Young Architects Award and holds a design leadership position at CannonDesign in St. Louis. Ed Ford and Bob Kahn return to St. Louis after many years in academic and professional practice roles.

Ed Ford’s recent writing includes “The Grand Work of Fiction” in Future Details of Architecture. He is the author of two volumes of The Details of Modern Architecture from MIT press, with teaching experience at the University of Virginia, Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Cambridge. An Artist in residence in numerous venues, including the MacDowell Colony in 2014 and 2018, Ford has received support for his scholarly works from the Graham Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. “In my own thinking I have moved away from the idea of construction as the extension of design and toward the idea that construction is rather a source of design.” Ed will be teaching Advanced Building Systems this fall semester. Bob Kahn joins us from New York. Kahn held appointments at Yale University, Ohio State University, and Columbia University. Also an alumnus of Washington University in St. Louis, Bob is a practicing architect and writer in New York; he previously won an American Academy in Rome Fellowship. He will be offering a seminar to students in our history and theory case studies elective offerings.

We also have visiting faculty joining us from outside the WashU community. Please join me in welcoming Marcos Petroli. Marcos will be teaching Architecture History I. He is both a practicing architect and scholar, having received his MArch and BArch degrees from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil, and his PhD in History and Theory of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Petroli serves as editor of Prometheus Journal for the PhD program in Architecture at IIT. Introduced earlier as part of the Lecture Series, we are pleased to welcome three accomplished architects and educators, Patrick Gmür, Sara de Giles, and José Morales.

Past Events & Achievements

[dhd] derek hoeferlin design, Object Territories, and TLS Landscape Architecture have won an Architzer A+ Award and an AIA New York urban design award for their project +StL: Growing an Urban Mosaic, an urban and landscape proposal for St. Louis. The project was co-led by associate professor Derek Hoeferlin. Other team members include associate professor Linda Samuels, former visiting assistant professor Paola Aguirre Serrano, senior lecturer Michael Allen, associate professor Jason Purnell (Brown School), Kristin Fleischmann Brewer (MFA11), Casey Ryan (MArch17), and Jess Vanecek (MArch17/MCM18). Also in the news, a project by Dean/Wolf Architects (Professor Emeritus Kathryn Dean) will be recognized with an AIA New York Design Award in Architecture for Ephemeral Edge. Led by senior lecturer Jacqueline Margetts, MLA students participated in the EPA National RainWorks Challenge. Their proposal, The Firefly Project, introduced new bioretention habitats across campus. The team placed sixth in the country. Special thanks and recognition to Mónica Rivera and Igor Marjanović for their work in publications. The new graduate Approach will be available for students and faculty at the close of this semester and the undergraduate Approach is currently en route to St. Louis.

In an effort to be more sustainable, the Director’s Letter arrives to you digitally with hyperlinks. Interspersed with archival images, you can feel the pulse of studio offerings, tentacles stretched out to connect, experiment, and envision a better future. I encourage us to move through the transformations with an openness to new ideas, taking great care of our environment by caring for our shops and facilities, and lean on our community as faculty and students adopt to new curriculums to find the unexpected.

I look forward to the start of a great year!

Heather Woofter
Director, College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design
Sam and Marilyn Fox Professor