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Changing of the Guard at U.S., European Architecture Schools

November 2, 2011

By Asad Syrkett

Leadership shakeups at U.S. and European architecture schools continue as a sluggish global economy adversely affects the profession. The United States’ top-ranked schools of architecture are largely absent from the list of schools at which the guard is changing, but some well-regarded departments have seen their share of turnover. New arrivals will need to address a salient question: how can a school of architecture prepare its students for a volatile marketplace while continuing to keep them inspired?

If you know of other major leadership changes at architecture schools, post them in the comment box below or send a note to ar_news_editor@mcgraw-hill.com.

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Princeton University
On October 5, Stan Allen of Princeton University’s School of Architecture (SoA) announced his resignation as the school’s dean after a decade-long stay. In a press release, Allen cited his desire to return to full-time teaching and to focus on his private practice. “I’m looking forward to a year-long sabbatical, and a period of intensive work in the studio,” Allen says. “I leave with complete confidence that the School is stronger than ever, and that we are well positioned to move forward.”

In his time as dean, Allen oversaw the first expansion of the 92-year-old SoA since 1962, the year that the school’s first dedicated building was completed. Allen also helped found the university’s interdisciplinary Center for Architecture, Urbanism, and Infrastructure.

A search committee to hire his replacement was established in late September. It is headed by Elizabeth Diller, an associate professor at Princeton and a founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The committee hopes to find a new dean by the start of the 2012-2013 academic year.

University of Virginia, School of Architecture
Spanish architect Iñaki Alday began as chair of the University of Virginia’s department of architecture at the beginning of August. In seeking foreign talent, the university said it hoped to broaden the school’s perspective.

Since co-founding his Barcelona-based firm Aldayjover Arquitectura y Paisaje (Aldayjover Architecture and Landscape) in 1996, the 46-year-old Alday and his business partner Margarita Jover have worked on a variety of landscape, civic, and urban space projects. Alday also wrote The Water Park, a book about parkland and urban spaces, in 2008. He was given full tenure at UVA with his appointment as department chair.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Dawn Barrett announced last spring that she was stepping down from her post as RISD’s architecture dean to take over as president of the 138-year-old Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). In her new post, she replaces Kay Sloan, who retired after a 15-year tenure.

Barrett had led RISD’s architecture department since 2001. Her departure may be related to the proposed elimination of her position. According to reports in the Providence Journal, RISD’s provost announced in February that the dean of architecture and dean of fine arts would be consolidated into one post, an announcement that incited opposition from some RISD faculty. Dissenting faculty members argued that the two departments were different enough to necessitate discrete deans. A spokesperson for the school neither confirmed nor denied the potential for future consolidation of the positions, repeating only that they remain two distinct roles.

On July 1, RISD graphic design professor and alumnus Bill Newkirk replaced Barrett as interim dean of architecture and design at the school.

Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
Donna Robertson, who was appointed dean of IIT’s College of Architecture in 1996, announced that she is resigning as of May 31, 2012. She will remain a professor at the Chicago institution known for its focus on Mies van der Rohe.

DesignIntelligence named Robertson one of the “25 Most Admired Educators of 2011.” Prior to joining IIT, she was the dean of the Tulane School of Architecture; she also served as director of Barnard College’s architecture program from 1985 to 1992. In 1986, Robertson co-founded Robertson McAnulty Architects, a firm known today as macro design.

A spokesperson for the IIT reports that a search committee has begun its hunt for Robertson’s successor.

Glasgow School of Art
In July, the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) announced that Scottish architect and educator Christopher Platt would head its Mackintosh School of Architecture. Platt comes to the GSA from the Glasgow-based University of Strathclyde. He replaces David Porter who, after eleven years in the position, retired from the school to focus on other education-related pursuits and complete work on two books.

The GSA cited Platt’s “commitment to practice-led, studio-based education and research” as integral to its choice. “The Mackintosh School is moving into its most exciting phase, and it is a tremendous privilege to be part of that,” Platt said in a statement. The school will move into a new and controversial Steven Holl-designed building slated for completion in 2013.

Royal College of Art
In September, the Royal College of Art (RCA) named Dutch architect Alex de Rijke its new dean of architecture. He replaces Nigel Coates, who headed the school for 16 years and left last May to pursue writing and attend to his own practice. De Rijke took the helm at the start of the fall 2011 semester.

De Rijke says he aims to “develop a new course for the RCA, one which repositions future architects as the prime movers in the currently deregulated and debased market for building design and procurement.” He also wants to increase the school’s emphasis on a global worldview and give continued prominence to issues such as sustainability and ethical manufacturing.

De Rijke has held teaching positions at London’s Architectural Association, Düsseldorf’s School of Architecture, and the Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. He is one of three founding directors of the 16-year-old, London-based firm dRMM, and will continue to practice architecture as he takes on his new role.

Arizona State University
Darren Petrucci is stepping down from the directorship of Arizona State University’s (ASU) Design School. The school is a division of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. While Petrucci was not available for comment, an ASU spokesperson said that Petrucci plans to focus on his private practice and head the school’s graduate urban design program.

Petrucci received his Bachelor’s degree in architectural studies from ASU and a Master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Previously, he served as associate director of the Herberger Institute’s Digital Culture Program. He established his firm, A-I-R (Architecture-Infrastructure-Research) in 2000.

He will serve as director of the 52-year-old Design School through the end of this academic year.

Kansas State University
Dr. Peter Magyar, RIBA, former head of the Department of Architecture at the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design at Kansas State University (KSU), stepped down in June 2010 after a 4-year tenure. Magyar has since returned to full-time teaching and research on the KSU Department of Architecture faculty. Tim de Noble, dean of the College, calls Magyar “a model of academic achievement, service, teaching, and research.” Magyar holds a master’s degree in architecture and urban design and a doctorate of architecture from the Technical University of Budapest.

KSU associate professor of architecture Matt Knox began as interim head of the department of architecture on July 1, while a search committee looks for a permanent head.

If you know of other major leadership changes at architecture schools, post them in the comment box below or send a note to ar_news_editor@mcgraw-hill.com.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on November 10, 2011.

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