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Tulane hosts national architecture education conference

The Tulane School of Architecture recently served as the host for 2019's Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Administrators Conference, titled "UNCERTAINTY." Featuring keynote speakers such as Yale climate scientist Karen Seto, former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Tulane Architecture visiting faculty Pankaj Vir Gupta, the three-day event addressed the increasing uncertainty brought by climate change and how the field of architecture is navigating this.

Below are excerpts from the keynotes:

Pankaj Vir Gupta: Welcome Keynote, Thursday Nov. 7

“These are fractured times in which much of what passes for architecture, exhibits at best, uncertain principles and dubious conceptual origin. Despite an urgent and rapidly accelerating urbanity, the fissures in contemporary Indian professional practice, expose limitations of historical oblivion, imperfect ethics, and insensitivity for social and environmental inequity. The results are physically manifest in our broken cities.”

“For vir.mueller architects, the act of architecture is also an act of resistance, a refusal to cater to the accepted praxis of design and construction as perceived across the vast landscape of India today. The idea of citizen architects, who make themselves visible to the public as an educated and informed voice of design-related issues, remains critical to our identity as an architectural design studio.”

“It is an essential element of active citizenship: the process of negotiating the rights and resources one is due in a given political society. By limiting the “Capacity to Aspire”, impoverished urban enclaves erode the basic tenets of democratic society.”

“Schools of Architecture are uniquely poised to lead multi-disciplinary research collaborators to address urban issues of water, infrastructure, health, sanitation, environment, and urban design. Situated in the service of a global community, the role of the School may be enlarged, imagined as one that would engender collaborations between teaching, research and governance.”

Mitch Landrieu: Evening Keynote, Friday Nov. 8

“There’s a very unique and distinct sense of place here in New Orleans. ...This is a deep, rich historic city.”

“When people are in trauma and when everything in their life is destroyed, the only thing they want is to put it back just like it was and hold on to the only thing that they know. ... After Katrina what the people of New Orleans wanted was desperately just to get back in their homes, to get back in their schools, to get back in their businesses, to go back to their churches, and act like nothing ever happened.”

“What the city did next is what I think is miraculous. ... I asked them [people of New Orleans] to join with me and not build the city back the way it was, to actually take a minute and stay in pain and agony. ... [I asked them] to do a gut check on whether or not the night before the storm the city was really as good as she was supposed to be.”

“When we think about climate change and the impact it’s going to have, you have to get ready for that and you have to build for that. ... One of the things we realized after Katrina, we weren’t really preparing ourselves for what was coming our way.”

“You [architects] are really the ones who have to work with elected officials and business leaders to start thinking about how you’re going to create and adapt your environment to what it is we know is coming our way.”

“You’re not building in isolation, you’re part of a much deeper organism. One piece of it affects every piece of it. ... And at the end of the day, it really has to be beautiful. Because beauty really does lift up communities. ... I hope you don’t see yourselves as just designers of one building.”

Karen Seto: Closing Keynote, Saturday Nov. 9

“Urban areas are major producers of CO2 emissions from energy use, which means that there’s quite a bit of opportunity for us to mitigate climate change through the built environment. ... If we look into the future, a significant amount of urban areas will need to be built going out to 2030. So if we were to aggregate all the new urban lands globally, it equals an area that is the combined area of France, Germany, Spain and Italy.”

“If we look at just the building sector, the building sector contributes to about a third of the final energy use in 2010. And the expectation is that emissions from the building sector are going to continue to increase anywhere from 50% to 100% going out to the middle of the century. We also found that deep retrofits can significantly reduce heating and cooling, but that these only occur in Europe or north America but most of the urban development is going to happen in Africa and also in Asia. And so one of the big questions is what kind of leap-frog technologies or policies can be implemented in these places that need these policies and technologies the most.”

“If we look at the emissions from buildings, the indirect emissions are greater than the direct emissions. The direct emission come the energy used in the building, so turning lights, heaters, computers. The indirect emissions come from all the energy that’s embodied in the materials to build the built environment, as well as to mine the materials to generate the energy. One of the things that we really need to focus on is not only the direct emissions, making buildings more efficient, but it’s also all the supply chain and downstream effects as well.”

“We cannot continue to think about mitigating climate change through the lens of individual sectors. In fact, we must take a cross-sectoral approach and that cities and the built environment are the natural place to do it. ... The buildings people, the transport people, the planning folks, and the scientists we all speak very different languages and we think about the solutions differently. So I think one of the big challenges from the education perspective is how do we train students, not just students but decision makers, to understand what the solutions maybe and what the constraints are. How do the folks in one sector actually interact and talk with people in another sector.”

“We’re adding 1.5 million people into urban areas every single week. We are converting an area equal to 20,000 American football fields into urban areas every single day and this is going to continue for the next 20 years. And urban areas are going to continue to use about 75 percent of the global energy. And so I think this presents a significant opportunity to better design, implement, plan, operate the built environment."

“We have a lot of the science to know how to build buildings efficiently and we have enough of the science to know how we should not design cities. So the question is I think both a science question and a practical one about limitations: How do we bring the science around buildings, transport, and land use together to design and shape the built environment so they are low-carbon? ... It’s not sufficient to have individual buildings that are low carbon. We need all activities to be low carbon. So it is the confluence of the building, the land use and the transport working together. To me that is the big challenge going forward.”

Faculty assists city to create 'Child-Friendly New Orleans' plan

NEW ORLEANS — The Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families (OYF) presented the “Goals for a Child-Friendly New Orleans” at the Neighborhood Summit on Saturday, Nov. 9. For the past nine months OYF has been working closely with global design and engineering firm, Arup, PlayBuild and Tulane University School of Architecture on a vision for a child-friendly New Orleans that was generated through a collaborative workshop with New Orleans youth leadership, community representatives, and a range of city agencies and organizations in July.

Casius Pealer, Director of Tulane’s Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development, said, “Over 20 percent of New Orleans residents are under 18 years old, meaning that none of them have a formal vote in our political decisions and planning processes — yet we need those residents to love and enjoy New Orleans as much as the other 80 percent of us do. From a real estate development perspective, Mayor Cantrell’s commitment to a child-friendly New Orleans means that our City is ripe for major long term physical investment, emotional investment, and yes financial investment.”

Children stand to be disproportionately impacted by the decisions made today regarding climate change, transportation, safety, economic opportunity, and public health. However, urban planning has not traditionally prioritized children’s needs. A child-friendly design effort in New Orleans would respond to the needs of the youth, who represent over 25 percent of the city’s population.

The “Goals for a Child-friendly New Orleans” publication includes a comprehensive set of recommendations across four themes: safety, nature and sustainability, health and well-being, and stronger communities. Building upon existing city and non-profit initiatives that are currently underway, “Goals for a Child-Friendly New Orleans” offers a framework for all stakeholders to streamline efforts around a common vision.

“When we design a New Orleans that truly puts children’s interests first, we create a New Orleans that shows love to all her people,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

The project seeks to mobilize city leadership to think beyond playgrounds when it comes to urban design. The “Goals for a Child-Friendly New Orleans” publication highlights opportunities to design and build a network of places and spaces for children that are sensitive to their physical development and everyday needs.

To read more about the Neighborhood Summit, click here.

Small Center celebrates national design award

A young man dropped into the concrete bowl beneath the overpass, the wheels of his skateboard drowned out by the roar of commuters on the interstate above him. Others tried out a temporary makeshift ramp cobbled together from pallets and plywood. Rain poured off the overpass, falling into rain gardens designed to prevent pooling water from ruining the fun.

On Tuesday, October 29, an award ceremony was held at Parisite Skate Park, New Orleans’ first and only official public skatepark and a silver medal winner for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.

Founded by architect Simeon Bruner, the national design contest recognizes transformative urban places distinguished by their economic and social contributions to America’s cities. Medalists reflect the diversity of urban excellence and yield fresh ideas and perspectives that challenge our assumptions and increase our understanding of how to make great urban places.

Tulane School of Architecture’s Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design collaborated with Transitional Spaces, a non-profit organization representing the local skater community, to work with the City of New Orleans and see the skater’s vision for the park come to fruition.

Parisite was driven and created by the park’s users as opposed to a traditional top down approach, observed Rudy Bruner Award Director Anne-Marie Lubenau.

The ceremony was followed by a reception and panel discussion at the Small Center. The panel featured members of the design team and representatives from the Mayor’s office, Transitional Spaces and the Bruner Foundation. It focused on the park’s creation, lessons learned, and its potential for informing the process of communal park design.

“Parisite is an example of how the Small Center’s process of collaborative community-driven design allows groups with divergent priorities to work productively to resolve their differences and come together to see projects through to completion,” Small Center Director Ann Yoachim said.

New design major launches

A new major for design launched on Oct. 23 at Tulane School of Architecture. The Bachelor of Arts in Design (BADes) will introduce students to design as a language as well an exploration of solutions-based design processes. The major will provide Tulane University undergraduate students with a broad design education inclusive of multiple modes of practice and an understanding of the fundamental linkages between design, society, and culture.

"The BADes will examine principles of the discipline that engage people, history, and environments through performative technologies, and project realization at multiple scales," said Marianne Desmarais, Director of Undergraduate Architecture. "It serves as an entry point to various allied career paths such as graphic design, architecture, product design, interior design, and time-based design."

New faculty member, Lesley-Ann Noel, led an engaging design challenge as part of the BADes launch event on Oct. 23.

Eligibility to declare the major starts Fall 2020, but courses can be taken now.

Mintz Global Research Studios return from inaugural trips abroad

This past month Tulane School of Architecture students and faculty traveled to India and Ethiopia as part of the school's new Saul A. Mintz Global Research Studios. Dean Iñaki Alday and Research Assistant Professor Monisha Nasa accompanied students to India for the studio "The Rajasthan Cities: Jaipur." The team is working with stakeholders in the region on the recovery of urban ecologies, restoration of the city edges, and extensive systems in water harvesting, mobility, energy and cultural infrastructure.

Assistant Professor Rubén García Rubio, Adjunct Assistant Professor Sonsoles Vela Navarro and students in the studio "Addis Ababa River Project" visited Ethiopia and toured the areas of the city where the studio is focused, the Upper Kebena river, and met with local institutions in academia, architecture, foreign aid and international diplomacy.

Click here to view pictures from the teams' trips abroad.

Sri Lanka and World Bank visit Tulane for water expertise

Tulane School of Architecture recently hosted a dozen officials from the Sri Lankan government and the World Bank. The two-day visit, Oct. 21-22, showcased regional infrastructure and Tulane's expertise in framing and conceptualizing water management projects. The visit included two tours covering more than 100 miles and included stops at drainage pumps stations, surge barriers, and closures, as well as discussions with New Orleans city officials and Tulane water experts.

Click here to view pictures from the visit on our Flickr photo album.

Architecture faculty selected as authors for 2020 NOLA Book Fest

Faculty at the Tulane School of Architecture - including Richard Campanella, Margarita Jover, Carol McMichael Reese, and Dean Iñaki Alday - have been selected as authors for the New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane University.

The 2020 New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane University, a new major literary event for the Crescent City, will take place March 19-21, with a lineup featuring best-selling authors including Jason Berry, Roy Blount Jr., Donna L. Brazile, David Brooks, Sarah M. Broom, Mika Brzezinski, Jean Case, Steve Case, Dave Eggers, Malcolm Gladwell, Eddie Glaude, Annette Gordon-Reed, John Grisham, Mitch Landrieu, Erik Larson, Michael Lewis, Eric Motley, Peter S. Onuf, Samantha Power, Sister Helen Prejean, Susan Rice, Joe Scarborough, Alon Shaya, Anne Snyder, Evan Thomas, Sean Tuohy, Kim Vaz-Deville and Darren Walker.

The three-day event will showcase nearly 100 national, regional and local authors; feature children’s and family programming sponsored by the Scholastic Corporation; and include numerous literary exhibitors. Festival organizers are expecting more than 30,000 attendees. All events will take place on Tulane’s uptown campus, including the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life, McAlister Auditorium, Freeman Auditorium, Rogers Memorial Chapel and the Berger Family Lawn.

At a Nov. 16 press conference announcing the event, Tulane President Mike Fitts said the university has a “rich, renowned and vibrant literacy history.”

“It is Tulane’s great honor to host a festival that brings together the world’s leading authors, book lovers of all genres and the children of our community,” President Fitts said. “Events like this make our campus and the Tulane experience available to everyone, especially the young minds and aspiring writers of New Orleans.”

“Expanding literacy, the love of the written word, and the ability to express and articulate humanity’s most sublime thoughts and discoveries and aspirations, that’s the central role of higher education; that’s what we’re about at Tulane University,” he said.

The festival will spotlight eight tracks, including American Society, Health and Science, Food, New Orleans Culture, Sports, Children, Fiction and World War II in partnership with The National WWII Museum. There will be panel discussions, moderated conversations, keynote lectures, book fairs and workshops. Each day will include at least one major plenary session at which a leading author will be featured. It will also provide a forum for media outlets, authors and readers to network and collaborate in one of the most vibrant and culturally diverse cities in the world.

Family Day at the Festival on Saturday, March 21, will focus on literacy advancement and feature readings and special literacy-themed activities for New Orleans children and their families. Family Day is a joint partnership with the city of New Orleans’ Office of Youth and Families and Scholastic.

“This will be an opportunity for youth-serving organizations, our libraries, our recreation centers, and other nonprofits throughout the community to come here on campus and to have a day filled with family fun. But we hope that it will not just be the one day, but really extend out into our families’ experiences beyond the weekend, because there really is so much in our city to be enjoyed, and our mayor is committed to ensuring that all families have access to that,” Emily Wolff, director of the Office of Youth and Families, said.

Wolff said the event is an opportunity to also raise awareness about the city’s high rate of adult illiteracy and provide more resources to support that issue.

The festival will engage with teachers and school organizations, as well as literacy, child advocacy and city partners, to encourage attendance and participation in the festival. In addition, thousands of books will be distributed to local schools before the festival, as well as to many of the children attending the event. Prior to the event, Scholastic will announce the children’s authors that will participate at the festival.

The festival co-chairs are former New Orleans first lady Cheryl Landrieu and Tulane University Professor of History and best-selling biographer Walter Isaacson. Landrieu is the founder of the New Orleans Book Festival and has a long history of supporting strategic community initiatives in New Orleans, most recently focused on literacy and advocacy for the advancement of women and girls.

Isaacson is the past CEO of the Aspen Institute, where he is now a Distinguished Fellow, the former chairman of CNN and the former editor of TIME magazine. He is currently an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg, a financial services firm based in New York City.

“The New Orleans Book Festival began in 2010 as a free literary event for families in New Orleans,” said Landrieu. “We are excited to expand in partnership with Tulane University to create a weekend of events featuring prominent national and local writers and journalists. The city of New Orleans has a strong literary history, and this festival seeks to continue and grow the literary community in our area. The partnership with Tulane will also generate participation of a great number of talented writers from the Tulane community as well as interest from Tulane students. The New Orleans Book Festival will offer something to readers of all ages and backgrounds and will provide an opportunity for all members of our community to come together over a shared love of reading.”

Landrieu said she remembered being nervous about the first book festival, hosted at Milton Latter Memorial Library, but when she arrived, she saw the long line of children waiting.

“Just to see the excitement in their eyes that day made me realize that this is something that could continue.”

“As an author, I noticed that so many cities around the country have major book festivals,” Isaacson said. “I love all the festivals in New Orleans, but it seemed to me that somewhere in the cultural calendar between food and wine and jazz, it would be fun to do a major literary and ideas festival. The New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane University has a tremendous lineup for our first year, including some of the country’s most notable authors from a vast array of genres and disciplines. Our expectation is to bring leading authors from around the country, the city and campus, and make this one of the nation’s premier literary events. We hope to attract and captivate book enthusiasts from all over, especially in New Orleans, for a three-day celebration of literacy and culture.”
 

The full list of confirmed authors who will present during the festival includes Iñaki Alday, Jason Berry, Roy Blount Jr., Beau Boudreaux, Donna L. Brazile, David Brooks, Sarah M. Broom, Jill Conner Browne, Mika Brzezinski, Richard Campanella, Jean Case, Steve Case, Dave Eggers, Emma Fick, Malcolm Gladwell, Eddie Glaude, Annette Gordon-Reed, Richard Grant, Roberta Brandes Gratz, John Grisham, Yuri Herrera, Margarita Jover, Molly Kimball, Mitch Landrieu, Erik Larson, Nancy Lemann, Nick Lemann, Michael Lewis, Eric Motley, Peter S. Onuf, Tom Piazza, Lawrence N. Powell, Samantha Power, Sister Helen Prejean, Carol McMichael Reese, Susan Rice, Joe Scarborough, Alon Shaya, Anne Snyder, Michael Strecker, Evan Thomas, Sean Tuohy, Sheba Turk, Mark VanLandingham, Kim Vaz-Deville, Darren Walker, Henry Walther and Chris Yandle.

In addition to contemporary authors such as Tulane Professor of English Jesmyn Ward, a two-time National Book Award winner, New Orleans boasts a long list of authors with strong ties to the city. From William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Anne Rice to Tulane alumnus and Pulitzer Prize winner John Kennedy Toole, many authors have found their creativity and brilliance in the Crescent City.

Tulane’s own faculty have penned best-selling novels, histories and biographies and works on subjects ranging from ancient civilizations to the geography of New Orleans and the history of jazz.

Additional authors for the book festival will be announced in the coming months.

Click here to see photos from the event. For more information on the New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane University, please visit ​www.bookfest.Tulane.edu and follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @NolaBookFest.

School of Architecture geographer and author wins Louisiana Writer Award

Tulane University geography professor Richard Campanella, author of 11 books on the geography, history, architecture and culture of Louisiana, is the recipient of the 2019 Louisiana Writer Award. The award is presented annually by the Louisiana Center for the Book of the State Library of Louisiana.

Campanella will receive the award Nov. 2 at the opening ceremony of the Louisiana Book Festival at the State Capitol in recognition of his outstanding contribution to documenting Louisiana’s history, culture and people.

“The historical geography of New Orleans and Louisiana is really the story of millions of people creating cityscapes and landscapes over hundreds of years,” said Campanella, a senior professor of practice in the Tulane School of Architecture. “I am humbled by the task of trying to understand all this complex place-making, and I feel deeply honored to be recognized by the state for the effort.”

Campanella’s works includes “Bienville’s Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans,” described by the New York Review of Books as the “single best history of the city…masterful.” He is also the author of “Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm” (University of Louisiana Press, 2006), which came out just after Hurricane Katrina. That book also won rave reviews, with The Times-Picayune calling it “a powerful (and) dazzling book, unparalleled in its scope, precision, clarity and detail.”

His book “Bourbon Street: A History,” was declared by the New York Review of Books as “absorbing...persuasive…gleefully subversive. There may be no one better qualified to write such a history than Campanella.”

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Campanella is the only two-time winner of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year Award. He has also won the Louisiana Literary Award, the Williams Prize, the Malcolm Heard Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Hannah Arendt Prize for Public Scholarship and the Tulane Honors Professor of the Year. In 2016, the Government of France named Campanella as Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.

Campanella lives with his wife Marina and their son Jason in uptown New Orleans. His next book, “The West Bank of Greater New Orleans: A Historical Geography,” will be released by Louisiana State University Press in 2020.

To read the full story from Tulane University, click here.

Small Center selects annual design-build & visioning projects

Over the coming school year, Tulane architecture students and faculty will partner to design and build a recreation space for children and mothers experiencing homelessness, as well as a visioning plan for a community and office space for those working in criminal justice reform.

The two projects are part of an annual program focused on providing design services to Orleans Parish-based nonprofits and is led by the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design (Small Center) at the Tulane School of Architecture.

"Our students need to understand that they have the ability to affect change to complex systems through design in incremental ways,” said Emilie Taylor Welty, professor of practice at Tulane School of Architecture and design-build manager at Small Center. “With the current state of our criminal justice system and challenges of supporting people experiencing homelessness, our aspiration is to engage students through these projects to further the conversation on these subjects.”

Nonprofits selected for the 2019-2020 academic year are Hotel Hope and Resurrection After Exoneration. Along with a jury of design professionals, past partners, and funders, Small Center facilitated an intensive review of 20 applications this past spring from nonprofits that work in a variety of sectors, such as education, labor equity, environmental conservation, and youth empowerment.

For the Fall 2019 Design-Build project, Small Center will partner with Hotel Hope on "A Play Haven for Hotel Hope," a shaded recreation space for children to play near their mothers during their time of stay. This space will encourage children to enjoy and express themselves while assisting in enhancing a sense of comfort as families transition out of homelessness.

Hotel Hope is a nonprofit, interfaith organization that provides housing to women and their children while guiding them to self-sufficiency and self-empowerment through intensive case management in a safe and loving atmosphere. In 2017, Hotel Hope launched its emergency shelter service model and, to date, has served 74 mothers and 162 children, who were once living in their car, on the street, or in uninhabitable conditions. Of the women who have successfully completed the program, 100% are in housing today.

“We are so excited to partner with Tulane architecture students and faculty as they design a play haven for the children staying at the hotel,” said Sister Mary Lou Specha, PBVM, Executive Director. “The dream of turning a former parking lot into play space is something we desired since purchasing the property last August. I know the play space will be the first thing the children want to run to as they come and stay at Hotel Hope after experiencing homelessness."

For the 2019-2020 Visioning project, Small Center will work with Resurrection After Exoneration on "The RAE House." The RAE House Visioning Project will be a redesign of the current Resurrection After Exoneration building. to include more useful programming space, community gathering space, and office space for service providers – such as GED services, educational programming, counselors, attorneys, caseworkers, and other small nonprofits that do criminal justice reform.

"I'm very excited about the future process and to be a Small Center community partner,” said Lavern Thompson, Executive Director of Resurrection After Exoneration. “Resurrection After Exoneration's mission has always been to help those in need and with this project, we will gain momentum to get us the operating capacity needed to continue our mission and keep my late husband's legacy alive.

Thompson said she has always wanted to continue what her late husband, John “JT” Thompson, started as the nonprofit’s executive director.

“This organization started with JT's desire to help people returning home from prison transition back into society with a skill set and support system,” Thompson said. “A support system for those returning home from prison is desperately needed in the city of New Orleans, and we at Resurrection After Exoneration want to make sure we are prepared to answer the call." 

The current Resurrection After Exoneration building has tremendous potential for modeling best practices in one-stop reentry services, as well as being able to provide community, safety and support for exonerated men and women upon their release. Small Center will collaborate with RAE to create a design reflective of these aspirations.

Resurrection After Exoneration (RAE) was founded in 2007 by exonerees to promote and sustain a network of support among formerly wrongfully incarcerated individuals in the South. RAE works to reconnect exonerees to their communities and provide access to those opportunities of which they were robbed.

Archinect interviews Dean Iñaki Alday

Archinect magazine recently interviewed Tulane School of Architecture Dean Iñaki Alday as part of its Deans List interview series with the leaders of architecture schools, worldwide. The series profiles the school’s programming, as defined by the dean – giving an invaluable perspective into the institution’s unique curriculum, faculty and academic environment.

For this installment, Archinect spoke with Iñaki Alday, the new dean at the Tulane School of Architecture. The school hosts a variety of degree and specialized programs that combine architecture, real estate development, historic preservation, and community-driven focuses to provide a holistic design education. Dean Alday recently took the reins of the school with the aim of leading the Gulf Coast region and country, overall, in terms of "what it means to live with water."

Read below for the full story or click here for the original piece in Archinect by Managing Editor Antonio Pacheco (TSA *14).

Briefly describe Tulane School of Architecture’s pedagogical stance on architecture education.

Tulane School of Architecture has a history of commitment to real, pressing issues, and, especially after Hurricane Katrina, a history of leadership in helping our communities rebuild. We are not interested in the endogamic discourses that have occupied academia for decades, taking us away from society and relevancy. In the past, many schools of architecture have failed as educators and as leaders of our societies. Therefore, our school focuses on urgent problems, not self-indulgent fictions. The school is in the heart of the “Third Coast”–the American Gulf Coast–where all the challenges of human inhabitation of the planet are at play. This exceptional location, being in the Mississippi Delta, also provides us with the opportunity to define the role that architecture can take in facing climate change—including other ecological crises, as well as in the process of urbanization under these circumstances—and the challenges of social and environmental justice that follow.

What insights from your past professional experience are you hoping to integrate/adopt as dean?

A significant part of my professional practice is focused on the connection between cities, and buildings, with rivers and their dynamics. For example, my partner Margarita Jover and I were among the first to “design” the flood that occupies a public space and a building (an arena) in Spain, starting a line of investigation that changes the idea of flooding (and all river dynamics) from a catastrophic event into a positive asset. Since then we have been planning, designing, and building “hybrid infrastructures” in Spain, Asia, and Latin America, and also, working as regular experts for the World Bank. This type of creative, innovative design work is key for Tulane as it seeks to lead the region and country in terms of what it means to live with water.

Academically, I enjoyed being chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Virginia (2011-16), where I founded the Yamuna River Project together with Pankaj Vir Gupta, an interdisciplinary research program whose objective is to revitalize the ecology of the Yamuna River in New Delhi, thus reconnecting India’s capital city back to the water. This project is proof of how architecture and urbanism can approach complex problems holistically while incorporating multiple fields (history, art history, engineering, economics, religious studies, entrepreneurship, engineering, environmental sciences, and politics, for example). It is a great example of making an impact in one of the toughest urban crises. We are continuing with the project at Tulane, expanding it to other cities in India and the Global South.

Rivers and their associated communities are at the frontline of climate impacts. Globally, river basins provide the majority of the world’s food and freshwater, and more than 500 million people live on river deltas, which also form the major ports of the world. Along the roughly 2,300 miles of the Mississippi River alone are situated at least seven major urban centers, while 50 cities rely on the Mississippi to provide drinking water for 20 million people. The Mississippi River Basin, the world’s fourth largest river basin, spans 31 states and two Canadian provinces, providing more than 40-percent of US agriculture with water while producing $400 billion of economic activity. It is among the leading locations facing significant conditions of accelerating risk, as well. Similar conditions are replicated in multiple river basins across the planet, especially in the Global South, where regions are facing the crises of pollution, floods, and scarcity, and, most critically, in urbanized contexts and in the rapidly growing megalopolises in South East Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

What kind of student do you think would flourish at Tulane University and why?

At Tulane, a student needs to be committed, not only to excellence but also to stepping out of her or his comfort zone, collaborating with other fields inside the school (architecture, preservation, sustainable real estate), and with those outside the school (science and engineering, social sciences, economics, humanities, and law). And above all, our students are encouraged to look beyond themselves, to avoid cherry-picking problems, and to committing to positively impacting the lives of others. The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design works directly with communities, URBANbuild produces a yearly miracle of an affordable house designed and built by students, and our river and delta urbanism research offers a unique approach and a track record of substantial impact in the cities set alongside the Mississippi River and alongside the rivers of India, Argentina, and Ethiopia.

What are the biggest challenges, academically and professionally, facing students?

The recovery of architecture as a relevant discipline in the collective imagination is the biggest challenge. Architecture needs to be at the table where big decisions are made. This is the challenge that our students need to take on, and will become experts in, after 50 years of architecture being isolated in disconnected academic discourses or assuming the role of pure service provider. The new generations have the mandate of recovering the leadership role that society and the planet need.

What are some of the larger issues of “today” that you feel an architecture school should be preparing its students for?

We are in the midst of the most significant environmental and social crises, one that is even threatening our own existence on the earth. We urgently need to change the way in which we are inhabiting the planet, change how new buildings perform, how they serve people, how they look, and where they are located. And similarly, we need to rethink what and how to preserve, where and how to develop, and how our cities should be symbiotic with natural elements. Right now, architecture is losing relevance in discussions about the built environment in many countries around the world, and most strikingly, in the United States.

At Tulane, we train students with a holistic approach, giving them interdisciplinary tools to help them learn to identify which are the most pressing issues so they can figure out how to apply their design, preservation, or sustainable real estate development education in order to address them. We advocate for the production of knowledge and innovation through design, which for us, is understood as the creative management of complexity. When we, as architects, are able to go beyond our personal preferences, there is no other kind of professional better prepared for dealing with the complex and uncertain world around us.

What are some of the advantages of the school’s context—being housed within Tulane University as well as in New Orleans—and how do you think they help make the program unique?

Tulane University is a top-tier research university, and the perfect size for interdisciplinary collaborations, which is a priority of the university president, provost and all the deans here. From my perspective, “curiosity” and “ambition” are the two words that define Tulane today and that’s what attracted me here. New Orleans is also the northernmost tip of the Global South. Both facts together position Tulane uniquely as the only top research university that is located in a place that deals with all the challenges—social, environmental, economic—in the most exciting, dynamic, and needed region in the world. And our university is committed to work that brings innovation by crossing disciplinary boundaries. This is the only school of architecture that has fully committed to rebuilding a city after a major catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina. Solving urgent problems, housing people, working with communities to bring them back, developing new scenarios to inhabit our rivers and deltas—those issues are deeply rooted in Tulane’s identity. Because of the uniqueness of Tulane, the School of Architecture is a school that has no parallel.

Tulane needs to keep growing and positioning itself as a genuine voice, very different to our peers due to our unique ecosystem and concerns. We are already a driving force in New Orleans and the region; however, we should also become an international reference working on comparative methods. Our challenges are the world’s challenges, and the best way to learn and move forward is to hold a continuous back and forth between our attention to the local conditions and the lessons learned globally.

Tulane School of Architecture has a significant record of working within the New Orleans community, how will you take on that legacy?

First of all, we should probably say “communities,” as New Orleans is a diverse city with many different communities. They are always complex and contradictory—And there is never a single belonging, but often multiple and always nested systems of them. That being said, New Orleans epitomizes the challenges of thousands of towns, cities, and metropolises set alongside American rivers. We are at the intersection of floods, scarcity, pollution, land loss, and other riverine environmental issues, and we are dealing with the societal impact of those as well as the impacts of post-industrial economic stagnation, transportation crises, and other social challenges. Working from New Orleans—a microcosm of global issues—the Tulane School of Architecture is well positioned to lead the work in terms of how to relate our cities and our rivers in a completely different way. Floods are here to stay, and we have to design our spaces to make them productive—instead of catastrophic—by turning floods into an opportunity rather than a threat. Instead of walls, our rivers and cities deserve public spaces that can navigate the changes and recover healthy ecologies. Buildings need to be adapted to leverage the river or the delta, as well. This is a natural human inclination, but now we must apply it in a different way, undergoing proper transformation.

Can you speak to the nature of collaboration that exists between Tulane School of Architecture’s various programs (Architecture, Preservation, Real Estate Development, the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, URBANbuild, Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship) and your plans for those efforts?

Tulane School of Architecture offers the essentials we need to rethink how to inhabit our planet: what and how to preserve, where and how to sustainably develop the land, and how to design buildings, public spaces, and cities. Dual degrees are excellent choices that round-out an effective education and prepare our graduates for thinking broadly, creatively, and responsibly. We have interdisciplinary studios among the three programs, design-build studios with our community partners, and a wide range of courses open to all Tulane students. All in all, every student has the opportunity to excel in her or his degree while being knowledgeable about other areas. An architect needs to know how to deal with existing buildings and to understand the logics of real estate development. Similarly, historic preservationists incorporate design and advanced digital tools while understanding the economic implications of their work, including the risk of gentrification. And a developer of the future cannot be anything other than sustainable, must understand the potential of reusing our heritage, and know how high-quality design improves the conditions of life.

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