Graduate Architecture

Pressing Matters V

A Publication of the Department of Architecture at PennDesign

A Publication of the Department of Architecture at PennDesign

I am happy to introduce to you this year’s Pressing Matters, already in it’s fifth edition. It is a moment to look back, especially at last year’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Architecture Department at the University of Pennsylvania [2015-16].  In 1749 Benjamin Franklin published his famous essay, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth, circulated it among Philadelphia’s leading citizens, and organized 24 trustees to form an institution of higher education based on his proposals.   After 125 years of architectural education at the University of Pennsylvania, our  City Futures symposium celebrated Franklin's visionary initiative.


The symposium presented a wide range of possible city futures; starting  with Panel 1, Infrastructure + City Fabric, that explored the role of infrastructures (hard and soft) and urban fabrics in redefining how cities function, whether the aging metropolises in the Global North or the burgeoning megacities in the Global South. Panel 2,  The Unplanned City, examined the sometimes striking commonalities and the very stark differences between informal urbanisms, and how the new potential of bottom-up systems [planned and unplanned] will shape future cities.  Panel 3, The Imaginary/Speculative City intentionally, even provocatively, played at a double meaning of “speculation”: as an act of gambling on the real estate market or as an act of visionary or utopian scheming. While the two types of speculation would seem to have little in common, or even to be fundamentally at odds with one another, both similarly envision alternatives to the city as it exists.  Our list included great visiting speakers such as James Lima, Thom Mayne, Tom Verebes, Interboro, Superpool, Istanbul, Andrew Herscher,  Shohei Shigematsu [OMA] Paul Preissner, Vyjayanthi Rao, Alfonso Vergara, and Liam Young, all of whom opened up an amazing variety of views on the potential for the city that will influence us for years to come. City Futures was organized by Chair Winka Dubbeldam, with co-organizers Daniela Fabricius and Joseph Michael Watson. This symposium was one of the many organized at PennDesign.


Penndesign connects. Our  third year Studios travel to destinations all over the world.  Last year’s travel included the AA Studio in London under the leadership of Homa Farjadi, the  Seoul Studio  under the guidance of Simon Kim collaborated with students from Seoul National University, and  the Cairo Studio was initiated, starting  a three year research collaboration with the Government of Egypt, overseen by Ferda Kolatan.  This new collaboration immediately resulted in an amazing exhibit at the Venice Biennale where the students showed their work on Cairo’s  informal settlements  in the Egyptian Pavillion.

Thom Mayne, in his new role as the Cret Chair Professor of Practice, kept his students closer to home with a complete redesign of Penn Station and its surrounding area, provoking innovative urban and architectural design ideas in deeply researched proposals for   the station and its role in the city. Visiting studio critics this past year included renowned architects such as: Paul Preisner, Jason Payne, Tom Wiscombe ,  Dan Wood, Florencia Pita, Matthijs Bouw and Kai Uwe Bergmann [BIG] and Nanako Umemoto, many of whom are slowly are becoming part of our team of returning guest critics, always adding great discourse and enticing studio subjects.

Of course the new Summer Programs are also going strong. Our Paris Program (spearheaded by professor Annette Fierro), the Greece program (under leadership of Danielle Willems and Ezio Blasetti), as well as the Colombia Program (run by Eduardo Rega Calvo and Juan Ricardo Rincon from Bogota), have inspired students over the last few years and strengthened PennDesign’s collaborations in Europe and Latin America. Workshops with local students add a strong intellectual discourse to the summer, and allow the students to experience the local culture, while making new friends.


This year we are adding a brand new Robotics Lab to our school  in collaboration with ABB. This adds to the large pool of 3D printers, which  are not only installed in the school’s FabLab, but also directly in our student’s studio space. This exemplifies the Department’s ongoing interest in Digital Design and manufacturing,  and its ongoing dedication developing ties to outside experts and to a vast terrain of innovations. A great example is the Annual Pavillion designed by a team of first year students, and built the semester after,  by a group of first, second and third year students. Always sponsored, this pavilion finds a home outside of PennDesign the summer after graduation.

The Department of Architecture offers an Undergraduate major, a professionally accredited Master’s degree, two post-professional Master’s programs [MSS-AAD and the MEBD], and a research-based Master of Science and Doctoral program. The Department is situated within a multi-disciplinary School of Design and a strong research University. This allows for many kinds of connections and specialized studies, including undergraduate minors, certificate studies at the Master’s level, and dual degrees in a host of disciplines. You can find more on our website:

We hope to host you very soon at PennDesign!

Winka Dubbeldam, Assoc. AIA
Professor and Chair
Department of Architecture


WSDIA design
Editors: Maria Teicher, Winka Dubbeldam

Pressing Matters 5 on ISSUU