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Kinnard featured in Madame Architect as trailblazer and admired educator

April 30, 2020

Judith Kinnard, FAIA, Tulane School of Architecture Professor of Architecture and Harvey-Wadsworth Chair of Landscape Urbanism, was recently interviewed by Julia Gamolina for Madame Architect. Below is an excerpt from the piece, titled "Designing the Future: Judith Kinnard on Academia, the Profession, and Expanding Boundaries," published April 30, 2020.

Given some of the sexism that still exists today despite so much awareness of it, I can’t imagine what it was like at a time when the same awareness wasn’t there. Was it at UVA that you became the first tenured design professor that was a woman?

Yes. There was one tenured history professor and one planning professor who were women, but none in design. I was at UVA for about twenty years, and it was a great place to teach and to practice. During that period we won four national design competitions with our practice, and this helped us develop a series of ideas involving architecture, urbanism and the landscape. Because we established a degree of national recognition, this led to my successful tenure case.

Then, I became Chair at UVA for five years, between ‘98 and 2003, working with Bill McDonough as the dean and three other wonderful chairs in landscape architecture, history of architecture, and planning. We introduced some themes that hadn’t been advanced in the past - design build and also studios that weren’t directly focused on buildings. I worked very hard to advance the dual-degree path with landscape architecture, facilitating a number of students to get both their Master of Architecture degree and their Master of Landscape Architecture degree. Thomas Woltz and Serena Nelson are great examples of this period in the school's history.

That’s fantastic. What did you do after UVA?

After a few years, my husband became the Dean at Tulane, in 2008. They offered me a full professor position with a generous endowed chair called the Harvey Wadsworth Chair in Landscape Urbanism, so we moved to New Orleans three years after Hurricane Katrina. We both felt compelled to contribute to the rebuilding of New Orleans in a more just and sustainable way. Some refer to “opportunity” in the post-Katrina setting, but we have avoided that word for obvious reasons. We felt that it was a responsibility.

The transition was a little bit tricky - I’ll say that being the wife of the dean was not my preferred role [laughs]. We’ve been very careful in our careers to maintain individual identities, so that aspect of it was a bit challenging. However, I had been asked to run for President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, and a few years later, I was also elected as president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). So I had my own leadership identity, independent of the school, while maintaining and advancing strong teaching goals at Tulane. That was important for me - the leadership roles I’ve had outside of academia were highly visible opportunities to show how one can combine teaching, research, creative work and national service to the profession. I hope that I have served as a good role model.

To read the full interview in Madame Architect, click here.

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