Graduate Architecture

Winka Dubbeldam
Miller Professor and Chair of Architecture

Letter from the Chair

Right now, we are amidst a, hopefully once-in-a-lifetime, COVID-19 situation. It has not only highlighted the overexertion of the earth’s resources, population density, and greed, but also the human impact on global pollution levels. It will have lasting economic, cultural, and social consequences which will result in an altered state after the social distancing slows down, and the economy and social life start back up. However, these are part of already ongoing global pressing issues: this is why we do not just train our students to be excellent designers and architects, but also how we train them to be researchers, analyzers, and critical thinkers, ultimately educating them to be future leaders. 

As I recently shared with Archinect, the challenge to architects is to operate at scales greater and smaller than that of the building, requiring the understanding of the chemistry of materials as well as consideration of the impact of whole populations of buildings on their local, regional, and global ecosystems.

The Weitzman School is currently planning its start-up for Fall 2020 and will communicate this to everyone soon! In the meantime, you will find our recent faculty research and student projects in our annual publication, Pressing Matters, as well as on our website:  https://www.design.upenn.edu/architecture/graduate/info

The upcoming Architecture Biennale in Venice 2020 was postponed and the student projects of Associate Professor of Practice Ferda Kolatan and Lecturer Ezio Blasetti will now be showcased in 2022. We also participated in the Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2018: Kolatan curated an exhibition, 12 Objects & 12 Images, which featured work from the Design Studios of faculty members Kutan Ayata, Hina Jamelle, Simon Kim, Ali Rahim, and Robert Stuart-Smith. The Biennale’s Arsenale featured Graham Chair and Professor of Architecture Marion Weiss and her partner Michael Manfredi’s immersive installation, Lines of Movement, which “examine[d] new terms and conditions for design in a century when natural resources are limited and challenged further by the interconnected issues of climate change and social isolation.”  

We are very excited that the Department of Architecture at the Weitzman School of Design was selected for the next Acadia 2021 Conference; Hybrids & Haecceities, which asks how technology enables, reflects, and challenges established disciplinary boundaries and design practices. Haecceities describes the discrete qualities or properties of objects that define them as unique, while Hybrids are entities with characteristics enhanced by the process of combining two or more elements with different properties. Hybrids & Haecceities aligns with a fundamental shift away from abstract generalized models of design and production towards custom or bespoke design now possible at an unprecedented scale due to Industry 4.0. 

We continue to expand our research capabilities. The Advanced Research and Innovation Lab (ARI) continues to operate at the forefront of advanced research and design with a focus on new design methodologies and future manufacturing through the interlinked intelligence of digital design, scripting, and robotics. Its sponsors are found in companies such as CEMEX, a global leader in concrete innovations, and LeMond, a premier carbon fiber manufacturer, and city governments such as Cairo, Egypt, and Global Architectural Developemt (GAD) in Istanbul, Turkey.

We recently opened our Robotic Lab featuring 3D printers and several large robotic arms. From new technologies and materials, information technology, advances in engineering and manufacturing, globalization of culture, education, and practice, the discipline continues to evolve. We embraced crossovers with the sciences, visual arts, and other design fields, a growing audience for design culture in general, and ecological architecture in particular, and a focus on creativity and innovation in leading schools around the world. Our strong focus on “making” was further reinforced by the expansion of our bank of Makerbot 3D printers, which now directly connect to the Design Studios and allow for students to prototype their ideas as they design them, and our Fabrication Lab with laser, CNC, and 3D printers.

We initiated a new series of Master of Science in Design [MSD] programs in Advanced Architectural Design [MSD-AAD], Environmental Building Design [MSD-EBD], and a brand new focus on Robotics and Autonomous Systems [MSD-RAS]. While the goal of this expansion is to deepen the pedagogical effectiveness of the program, it will also increase the offerings within Weitzman focused on design excellence and in-depth design research.

To summarize, our goal is to be at the forefront of research and design by creating an advanced research institute that focuses on new design methodologies and future manufacturing through the interlinked intelligence of digital design, scripting, and robotics. As we focus on social awareness and responsibility, we instigate critical exchanges and advanced debates within and across disciplinary boundaries. We aim to be a connective device between academics and architectural practitioners, who we engage in lectures, symposia, and publications, in order to grow an international collaborative network of experts for the future. DesignIntelligence ranked the Department of Architecture in their Top 10 Most Admired Graduate Programs, and maybe even more importantly, ranked us #5 in their Architecture Programs Most Hired From. We are proud to be at the forefront of innovation, graduating critically engaged students with advanced skillsets.

Join us at Weitzman School.

Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA
Professor and Chair
Department of Architecture
winka@design.upenn.edu