The Weitzman School welcomes Emma Mendel as the 2023-2024 McHarg Fellow in the Department of Landscape Architecture, and Stanley Jamal Collins as a provost’s postdoctoral fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Mendel is exploring culturally-nuanced and ecologically-sensitive hydrological systems within the Greater Philadelphia Region. Collins’s current work uses Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood as a site for understanding how soundscapes and music venues affect place reputation and processes of neighborhood change more broadly. In addition, Xiang Zhang and Maximilian Ororbia have joined the Department of Architecture as post-doctoral fellows. They are working with Weitzman faculty to design carbon-negative, medium-sized building structures by developing a high-performance structural system for carbon absorption and storage over buildings’ lifespan.
Emma Mendel is a landscape designer, educator, and researcher focused on the critical role water plays in the built environment. As the McHarg Fellow, she will study how forms of folklore and local myths act as mitigation strategies for a changing environment alongside engineering-based approaches. She is interested in the importance of water in the growth of contemporary human settlements, predicated on hydrological planning and engineering. Previously, Mendel was a lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia. Her research at UVA’s Global South Humanities Lab was funded by grants from the Graham Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. She holds a Master in Design Studies in Urbanism, Landscape, and Ecology from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design; a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Toronto; and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design.
The McHarg Fellowship provides $75,000 to support an emerging voice in landscape architecture and its related fields, and is awarded annually, on a competitive basis, by The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, the Department of Landscape Architecture’s platform for interdisciplinary, applied research. Through its Designing a Green New Deal and Green New Deal Superstudio initiatives, The McHarg Center has become a central hub for national and international climate and infrastructure policy and design research. It also supports long-term research projects connected to global conservation policy and nature-based solutions.
Philadelphia native Stanley Jamal Collins is a provost’s postdoctoral fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning. He is working with Lance Freeman, the James W. Effron University Professor, to understand neighborhood change. At a time when music venues are become central features of cities and urban nightlife, he is interested in how such institutions have the capacity to change, and at times, exploit, urban landscapes, and the people that inhabit such places. His work engages scholarship in urban sociology, city and regional planning, music and sound studies, urban policy, and critical geography. He earned his PhD in sociology from Temple University, MS in sociology from Oklahoma State University, and BS in economics from Morehouse College.
Maximilian Ororbia is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Architecture’s Polyhedral Structures Lab, which is led by Assistant Professor of Architecture Masoud Akbarzadeh. He holds a PhD in civil engineering from The Pennsylvania State University, where he developed a framework that mathematically models the optimization of structures with discrete elements and discrete design variables as a sequential decision process solved using deep reinforcement learning. He is interested in developing structural engineering and architectural design decision-making and optimization processes, and creating computational tools aided by machine learning, for generating and exploring design spaces. His current research is focused on the development of an innovative design and fabrication strategy for a 3D-printed, carbon-absorbing, high-performance building structure.
Xiang Zhang is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Architecture’s Thermal Architecture Lab, which is led by Assistant Professor of Architecture Dorit Aviv. He holds a PhD from KU Leuven, where he worked on the International Energy Agency (IEA) EBC Annex-71 project. Previously, he conducted research at the National University of Singapore and Tokyo Institute of Technology. His work contributes to reducing uncertainties in solar gain estimation, which is valuable for applications such as Model Predictive Control (MPC) and Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD). In addition to data-driven building energy modeling, his research also looks at building energy and Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) simulation, as well as green building rating systems. His work has been published in Applied Energy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Journal of Cleaner Production, and Building and Environment, among others.