Press Room

  • Dorit Aviv, Laia Mogas-Soldevila, and Akira Drake Rodriguez

Weitzman Announces Faculty Appointments and Promotions in Architecture, Fine Arts, and Planning

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design has announced a series of faculty appointments and promotions effective in Academic Year 2020-2021, subject to University approval, in the Departments of Architecture, City and Regional Planning, and Fine Arts.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a community of innovative designers and scholars who are also passionate educators,” said Dean and Paley Professor Fritz Steiner, who announced the appointments and promotions in a meeting of the faculty. “They are deeply invested in seeing their students not only contribute to their professions, but also lead them.”

In the Department of City and Regional Planning, Professor Tom Daniels, who came to Penn in 2003, has been appointed the Crossways Professor of City and Regional Planning, an appointment previously held by John Landis, who became professor emeritus on July 1. Akira Drake Rodriguez, a lecturer in the Department, joined the standing faculty as an assistant professor. Ken Steif, the director of Master of Urban Spatial Analytics program, has been promoted to the rank of associate professor of practice.

In the Department of Architecture, Dorit Aviv joined the standing faculty as an assistant professor. In January 2021, Laia Mogas-Soldevila will also join the standing faculty as an assistant professor. Billie Faircloth has been promoted to the rank of adjunct professor and Mohamad Al Khayer to adjunct associate professor. Nathan Hume and Philip Ryan were promoted to the position of senior lecturer.

In the Department of Fine Arts, David Hartt has been named the inaugural Carrafiell Assistant Professor of Fine Arts.

“We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of John Carrafiell and Catherine Carrafiell (C'9l) with this gift, recognizing the accomplishments of our faculty in the Weitzman School of Design,” said Dean Steiner.

Faculty appointments are formally reviewed by the Provost and the Board of Trustees in the fall.

Mohamad Al Khayer has taught design studios and courses in emerging technologies at the Weitzman School since 2000. His research includes deployable structures, optimum tensile structures, and morphogenesis. He also practices with New York-based RBS+D Architects, a firm with a focus on healthcare facilities in the U.S. and the Middle East. Al Khayer has lectured at several universities and conferences, including those for the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and the International Association of Shells and Space Structures. His work has been exhibited in Venice, New York, Cambridge, Delft, Beirut, and Damascus, as well as being featured in several international publications.

Dorit Aviv has taught lecture courses and design studios centered on energy and ecology in the Department of Architecture since 2018. She has recently launched the Thermal Architecture Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory at the Weitzman School of Design, focused on the intersection of thermodynamics, architectural design, and material science. Aviv is the recipient of a 2020 Wharton Ripple Grant for distributed environmental sensing using blockchain technology and has also received this year a Microsoft grant to develop a prototype for passive cooling in desert climate. Aviv holds a PhD in architectural technology from Princeton University, an MArch from Princeton University, and a BArch from The Cooper Union. Prior to Penn, she taught at The Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, and Princeton University. She is a licensed architect and has practiced in design roles at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, KPF, and Atelier Raimund Abraham. Aviv was the curator of the energy pavilion in the 2017 Seoul Biennale for Architecture and Urbanism and is a co-chair of the 2021 international ACADIA conference.

Tom Daniels directs the concentration in Land Use and Environmental Planning and administers the Certificates in Land Preservation and Ecological Planning. Daniels frequently serves as a consultant to state and local governments and land trusts. Since 2005, he has served on the Board of Trustees of the Orton Family Foundation, which seeks to promote better planning and decision making in small cities and towns. In 2010, Daniels was a recipient of the Clarkson Chair at the State University of New York at Buffalo, a recognition as one of the leading academic planners in the United States. Daniels is well-known as one of the leading thinkers and practitioners of farmland preservation; from 1989 to 1998, he managed the widely cited farmland preservation program in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he lives. In addition, he co-authored Holding Our Ground: Protecting America’s Farms and Farmland (Island Press, 1997) and The Law of Agricultural Land Preservation in the United States (American Bar Association, 2018). He is the author or co-author of five other books and has published 15 book chapters and more than 30 refereed journal articles. 

Billie Faircloth is a partner at KieranTimberlake, where she oversees the queries and investigations that begin and inform each project at the firm. During design, she guides project teams through empirical experiments, prototypes, and analysis. She leads the development of technology that informs high-performance design, including Pointelist™, a wireless sensor network, Tally™, a life-cycle assessment application, and Roast, a post-occupancy survey tool. She is also working on Ideal Choice Homes, an affordable, quick-to-build housing solution for India's emerging middle class. Faircloth has also taught at Harvard University, and has served as Portman Visiting Critic at Georgia Institute of Technology and VELUX Visiting Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Prior to joining KieranTimberlake, she was an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, where she instructed research studios exploring applications for conventional and emerging material technologies and conducted seminars on emerging construction and fabrication technologies.

David Hartt has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ox-Bow School of Art and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include The Histories (Le Mancenillier) at the historic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Beth Sholom Synagogue, Philadelphia, and My Building, Your Design: Seven Portraits by David Hartt at The Art Institute of Chicago. Additionally, his work has been included in several important group exhibitions including Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), America Is Hard to See at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Hedges, Edges, Dirt at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond. His work is in several public collections including MoMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Gallery of Canada, and The Stedelijk Museum. Hartt has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa.

Nathan Hume is a licensed architect and principal at Hume Architecture in Brooklyn New York. His design work and writings have been published in journals and periodicals including Project, Log, Posit, Tarp, Paprika, and The New York Times. Hume has exhibited work in shows at The Druker Gallery, the A+D Museum, the Yale Architecture Gallery, CAED Gallery, One Night Stand, and the New York Center for Architecture. Recently he has curated the show Adjacencies at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery. He is the creator and editor of Suckerpunch, a website exploring the work of contemporary architects and artists, through which he mounted the exhibition and accompanying book Fresh Punches. He previously taught at Yale University and Pratt Institute. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from The Ohio State University and a Master of Architecture from Yale University.

Laia Mogas-Soldevila served as a visiting professor for post-professional studies in the Department of Architecture at Cornell University and an instructor in the Department of Architecture and MediaLab at MIT. Mogas-Soldevila is a licensed architect and co-principal at DumoLab, focusing on virtual and physical practices redefining the extent of the architect's role. Her teaching and research interests include new material practices bridging science and design. Her pedagogy supports theory and applied methodology understanding cultural, industrial, economical, and ecological aspects of materials and materialization in architecture. Her scholarship over the past eight years reconsiders matter as a fundamental design driver while scientifically redesigning it towards unprecedented capabilities. She holds an interdisciplinary doctorate bridging biomedical engineering, life sciences, and digital design from Tufts University, two master’s degrees from the MIT School of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Akira Drake Rodriguez has been a lecturer in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Weitzman and the School of Social Policy and Practice at Penn since 2019, and served as a Provost Postdoctoral Fellow since 2016. She has also taught in City Planning at Temple University and the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University–Newark. Her research examines the politics of urban planning, or the ways that disenfranchised groups re-appropriate their marginalized spaces in the city to gain access to and sustain urban political power. Dr. Rodriguez’s forthcoming manuscript, Diverging Space for Deviants: The Politics of Atlanta’s Public Housing (University of Georgia Press, 2021), explores how the politics of public housing planning and race in Atlanta created a politics of resistance within its public housing developments. This research offers the alternative benefits of public housing, outside of shelter provision, to challenge the overwhelming narrative of public housing as a dysfunctional relic of the welfare state. Dr. Rodriguez was recently awarded a Spencer Foundation grant to study how parent and educational advocates mobilize around school facility planning processes in Philadelphia.

Philip Ryan is the founder of Studio Modh Architecture. He worked for Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for fourteen years before leaving as a senior associate in 2012. His design and construction experience while at the office was extensive, including the design and construction of the AIA Honor Award-winning American Folk Art Museum in New York, the AIA Honor Award-winning Skirkanich Hall at Penn, and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. He has taught graduate and undergraduate studios at the Rhode Island School of Design and City College of New York and has been a guest critic at the University of Texas at Austin, Yale University, City College, Wesleyan College, and Columbia University.

Ken Steif founded Urban Spatial, a consultancy at the intersection of data science and public policy, after he received his PhD from Penn. Steif has been at the forefront of data-driven public policy for more than a dozen years. He combines a deep technical knowledge of Geographic Information Systems and applied statistics with an interest in housing policy, education, the economics of neighborhood change, transportation policy and more. Steif’s work has focused on the costs and benefits of gentrification; the Philadelphia school crisis and the connection between good schools and neighborhood economic development; and the use of machine learning to help democratize the planning process.

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design prepares students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, the School is committed to advancing the public good–both locally and globally–through art, design, planning, and preservation.