Graduate Architecture

Posted April 22, 2020
  • Miller Professor and Chair of Architecture Winka Dubbeldam in a studio review

Winka Dubbeldam on the Future of Architectural Education in ‘Archinect‘

Miller Professor and Chair of Architecture Winka Dubbeldam was featured on Archinect’s Deans List, an interview series with the leaders of global architecture schools.

In the interview, Dubbeldam highlights research innovations and how the department has evolved under her leadership.

“In this post-digital, post-human anthropocene phase we occupy, we choose to dive deep. I believe not only in shifting education towards the future, but also revisiting and hopefully expanding the role of the architect in practice,” Dubbeldam explains.

“These were underlying thoughts on how we re-developed our curriculum, to focus on the next 25 years; and we aim to integrate technology, theory, deep knowledge and design in one more intelligent whole.”

In reflecting upon her tenure as Chair, Dubbeldam said:

I became the Chair after running its post-graduate program for ten years. At that point, Penn had had six years of interim Chairs, and the Department’s search committee was fully aware that not only the architectural practice had drastically changed, but also that education had to catch up and get in front of that. So they were really looking for a practitioner who would lead the department for the coming years. That meant that when I started as Chair, there were a lot of revisions needed both in building the standing faculty and in updating the curriculum.

Together with my faculty we revisited not only courses in history, theory, technology, professional practice and visual studies, but we also set a 5-year plan in motion for larger ideas such as new Master of Science in Design (MSD) programs, 3D printing, and a large robotic lab. For the curriculum, I realized that updating the courses would be a good start – and also that these updates would need to be constant, and so I appointed coordinators responsible for each series of courses.

Just recently reappointed and in my seventh year as Chair, I hope that I set something in motion at Penn that will inspire students and faculty to keep evolving the exciting things we initiated. We now have 3 MSD programs: MSDs in Advanced Architectural Design (AAD), in Environmental Building Design (EBD), and in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS). We also created the Advanced Research and Innovation Lab (ARI) in charge of the large robotic lab and research groups, of which I am the Director.

When asked what type of student would flourish in the program, she explained:

I feel that our way of educating really does not discriminate which type of student would flourish at the school. Any student with or without an architecture background who is willing to work hard will be successful at Penn and, eventually, in the practice. We value that our students are independent strong thinkers and express themselves generously.The department aims to provide an international, interdisciplinary design education that is geared towards excellence in design, rigorous research, and social equity. We pride ourselves on being on the forefront of digital design, 3D manufacturing, and robotics, and excel through the inclusion of external experts through annual symposia, weekly lectures, and regular design reviews. Our precisely balanced education gives a thorough, in-depth architecture training that sets the student up for success.

Read the full interview at Archinect.