Thank you for being part of the Weitzman community. I am happy to share that we are fully back to teaching in person at the Department of Architecture this year, after our [innovative] hybrid teaching approach the year before. We have all learned how important our social networks are, and how great a support they can be. We, again, realized how important studio culture is, and how much it enhances the students' learning process.
Over the last years, we have expanded on our notion of Design-Research, something we have become known for internationally, where advanced computational models meet rigorous research and digital design. Design-Research is initiated as early as in the first year where students begin looking at components and their aggregation, rather than the traditional notion of ‘columns and slabs’. They also practice scheduling their time and budget, and in small teams build a pavilion. This allows them a preview of the architecture practice; to conceptualize, innovate, draw, test and coordinate design and construction. After the first year, Design-Research gets further elaborated on in different forms, such as working in Philadelphia neighborhoods and understanding diversity. The introduction of ‘Commons’, and how architecture relates to the urban landscape and vice versa, results in Urban Housing designs. This finally concludes in the last year where the students join a specific Design-Research Studio or undertake Independent Thesis Study. Our 3rd year Studio Coordinator, Associate Professor Ferda Kolatan, states: “The Design Research Studio takes on this challenge and explores - through the individual expertise of leading architects in the field - various strategies and speculations that actively shape our environment, present and future. In this context we view “Design Research” as both the indispensable element through which we critically reflect on our world as well as the laboratory where specific and sophisticated design solutions are developed, tested, and applied.”
Over the years, we have grown the department in quantity and quality. We added 3 MSD programs, updated and improved the curriculum, and further developed our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by increasing the gender balance and race diversity of our faculty and student population. We are proud to be ranked 13th on the QS World University Subject Rankings for graduate architecture schools , and 5th in the USA as the graduate architecture school with the “most hired students”. Our fast-growing faculty includes renowned architects, such as, Thom Mayne, Marion Weiss, Wolf Prix, Billie Faircloth, Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen, and many others. After doubling our Standing Faculty, I would like to take a moment to welcome our recent hires: Rashida Ng joined us as Presidential Associate Professor with tenure and has taken over as Chair of Undergraduate Architecture this Fall following the inspired leadership of Richard Wesley. We are grateful and excited that Daniela Fabricius and Fernando Lara have joined our standing faculty in History-Theory this year. Billie Faircloth joined us as Adjunct Professor, with her expertise in leading a transdisciplinary group of professionals leveraging research, design, and problem-solving processes from fields as diverse as environmental management, chemical physics, materials science, and architecture. As a partner at Kieran Timberlake’s offices, she brings a critical eye, inquisitive mind and amazing knowledge to Upenn. Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen was recently appointed as our brand new Cret chair professor of practice [following Thom Mayne]. Mette, an architect with a PhD from the University College London, Bartlett School of Architecture, and currently Professor, and Center Director at the Royal Danish Academy Copenhagen, Denmark, will join us this Fall. She has piloted special research projects and her focus is on the new digital-material relations that digital technologies bring forth. Advanced computer modelling, digital fabrication and material specifications, as well as machine learning, are some of the subjects she and her team have investigated. Mette will start at Weitzman with a workshop and talk for the Acadia conference at Weitzman this Fall (Oct 26-29th) followed by a Design-Research Studio in Spring 2023.
Last May we hosted a FestSchrift, with many renowned guests and speakers, in honor of Emiritus Professor, David Leatherbarrow’s extensive career and his ACSA Topaz Medal. With the great organization and coordination of the event by Associate Professor Franca Trubiano, our recently appointed Chair of the Graduate Group, this ensued into a sparkling debate over several days.
This Fall we are proud to be hosting Acadia 2022: “Hybrids & Haecceities,” a symposium that seeks novel approaches to design and research that dissolve binary conditions and inherent hierarchies in order to embrace new modes of practice. Haecceities describe the qualities or properties of objects that define them as unique. Concurrently, Hybrids are entities with characteristics enhanced by the process of combining two or more elements with different properties. In concert, these terms offer a provocation toward more inclusive and specific forms of computational design. The Conference is organized by our Weitzman faculty; Dr. Masoud Akbarzadeh, Dr. Dorit Aviv, Associate Professor of Practice Hina Jamelle, and Assistant Professor Robert Stuart-Smith. All worked tirelessly to make this a successful event. We are happy it has already attracted international attention and future speakers. (http://acadia.org/events/CC47D4).
Our Fall Lecture Series will be held in person and will also be live-streamed this year, so we invite you to join amazing talks byBernard Tschumi, Anna Dyson, Steven Holl, the Mexican architect Abel Perles from PRODUCTORA, Dorte Mandrup from Denmark, Mario Carpo & Matias Del Campo and many others.
We are excited to announce that we hired Studio Lin to take over from WSDIA to coordinate, define and design this new Pressing Matters 11, our lecture posters, and announcements. Already, our first discussion on WHAT MATTERS inspired all of us to further define our thinking and how to implement that further in education and Weitzman Architecture as a whole. We look forward to continuing this great dialogue with them in the near future! Our goal of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is further helped by the fact that the Department of Architecture is part of a multi-disciplinary School of Design and an exceptional research University. We feel that being part of this inspiring whole is what makes us great.
On a more personal note, I am happy to announce that this year I will be evolving away [to quote Serena Williams] from my position as Chair of the Department of Architecture. Having already completed 10 years, this will be my last year as Chair of our ever growing and innovating Department of Architecture. In that light, we have recently initiated the search for a new Chair, which we hope to complete this year. We are excited for this new opportunity. After my sabbatical, I will return to teaching, and I am looking forward to spending more time on research as Director of the Advanced Research and Innovation Lab (ARI).
Ella Shafer Miller Professor and Chair
Department of Architecture Mission Statement
We recognize our profound obligation as a school to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Weitzman community and the professions we help sustain. We continue to focus on promoting diversity, equality and social equity, as an integral part of excellence in design, and rigorous research. We promote a study plan where we have integrated expertise and content from our Technology, History & Theory, Professional Practice and Visual Studies courses into our Design Studio’s. This follows our Design-Research concept, an integral approach of critical thinking, rigorous research, and a deep understanding of the complex layers of architecture. In this time of resource scarcity, and environmental and climate challenges, we train our students to be active participants in the global discourse towards a better, safer, and cleaner world. We pride ourselves on the inclusion of diverse external experts, not only in our design studios, but also through annual symposia, weekly lectures, and regular design reviews.