Nov 13th 2020

The Next Generation of Architecture Academics

Since its founding in the 1990s, the Ph.D. program at Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture has served as a laboratory for applied research and scholarship—and a launching pad for the next generation of architectural educators. It’s no surprise, then, that seven recently graduated Ph.D. alumni have already started tenure-track professorships for the 2020 academic year at institutions the world over.

Informed by rigorous study at Illinois Tech, the graduates bring with them specialized expertise informed by the doctoral program’s emphasis on building technology and performance, and architecture history and preservation. In the case of the former, many will become balwarks in the fight against climate change by researching and teaching data-driven methods to reduce carbon emissions in the built world at large scales.

“Against the background of climate change and rapid urbanization, the cities we build today urgently need to achieve net-zero carbon emissions wherever possible, at both the building and urban scales, and both operational and embodied carbon emission reductions need to be a part of this equation,” says Peng Du (Ph.D. ARCH ’15).

Du will explore performance-driven design research, focused on quantifying the environmental impacts of the built environment, at Texas Tech University. Andres Pinzon (Ph.D ARCH'17), meanwhile, joined the Passive House Institute US where he works on high-performance buildings. Besides this work, Pinzon will teach these practices at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá-Colombia as an assistant professor.

"Architects need to find alternatives to reduce operational carbon, employ renewables and deliver comfortable indoor environments. During my studies at IIT-CoA, I worked on the adoption of passive buildings principles that are climate specific and reduce energy consumption.”

Similarly, at the University of Texas at Arlington, Narjes Abbasabadi (Ph.D. ARCH ’19) will explore human and energy feedback systems to develop performance-driven methods and tools for the design of sustainable built environments at the university’s multidisciplinary College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs.

“[In the Ph.D. program] I worked with different departments, including architecture, environmental engineering, computer science, and humanities at Illinois Tech, and the Urban Planning Department at [the University of Illinois at Chicago],” says Abbasabadi. “All helped me develop my interdisciplinary research and enabled me to address the research objectives that require a wide range of theoretical and applied knowledge.”

Others, meanwhile, have become specialists in building and urban performance as it relates to health and wellness in the built environment. Mehdi Ashayeri (Ph.D. ARCH ’20), for example, will establish a research lab at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as an assistant professor of architecture to expand his research at the crossroads of sustainability, health, and computation in the built environment. Specifically, he became an expert in sustainable and healthy built environments while in the College of Archietcture’s Ph.D. program.

Similarly, Alia Fadel’s (Ph.D. ARCH ’18) scholarly work at the College of Architecture in biophilic design and urbanism––investigating the relationship between humans and nature in the built environment––will continue as she joins Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom as a lecturer in landscape architecture.

“My research and teaching aim at investigating the interrelationship between design, health, and contact with nature in urban settings and the role of contact with nature and mediums of nature-simulation in evoking human positive responses, supporting health, and promoting productivity in cities, particularly in the context of the current health crises the entire world is facing,” says Fadel.

For Ph.D. graduates who studied along the College of Architecture’s History, Theory, and Criticism specialization, they bring to their new universities expertise in the study of architecture’s cultural implications. Dan Costa Baciu (Ph.D. ARCH ’18), for instance, began empirically testing his theory of “cultural life” during his doctoral studies at IIT Architecture. That is, he used his theory to predict how entire collectives of authors and audiences disseminate and receive ideas, and show how ideas grow, diversify, and leave their footprint in urban space. Baciu is now an assistant professor of digital tools at TU Delft, in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

Marcos Petroli (Ph.D. ARCH ’20), meanwhile, focused his doctoral research on arcuated post-World War II structures, shedding light on how the modern reinterpretation of historical forms, such as arches, vaults, and domes, can be used as emblems of civic architecture. Now, after receiving his doctorate, he’s serving as an assistant professor at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois.

"Civic building requires a particularized character that cannot be treated casually or frivolously,” says Petroli. “Structures like monuments, libraries, stadiums, and terminals all demand a distinctive physiognomy that reveals their purposes, endowing them with a culturally appropriate expression. This research is a contribution to designing such buildings, helpful in a moment when the image of American civic equality in architecture seems to be lacking or incomplete."