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University of Minnesota

January 27, 2015
Thomas Fisher, Dean: After nearly two-decades as Dean at the University of Minnesota, Thomas Fisher has announced that he will step down from that position in the summer of 2015. After leaving the deanship this summer, he will assume the positions of Dayton Hudson Land Grant Chair in Urban Design and director of the University's Metropolitan Design Center. In that capacity, he will continue his research and teaching in conjunction with metro-area partners and grant makers. Professor Fisher also finished the manuscript for his next book, Some Possible Futures, as well as two introductions to books on the work of Pugh + Scarpa and Fernau & Hartman, and two chapters on books dealing with architecture labor and public-interest design. He continues to write for the last page of Architect magazine every other month and for a variety of other publications. Professor Renee Cheng, who served as Head of the School of Architecture from 2004-2014, and stepped down from that position on July 1 to assume a new leadership role as Associate Dean for Research and Outreach at the College of Design. During her tenure Professor Cheng established the nation's first and only Bachelor of Design in Architecture (BDA), and more recently the Master of Science in Research Practice (MS-RP), which aims at halving the amount of time from high school to licensure for architects--from an average of 14.5 years to 7. Associate professor of architecture Marc Swackhamer has been named head of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He has served as the director of the University's Master of Architecture program since 2012 and is the co-founder of HouMinn Practice, which focuses on full-scale prototyping of lightweight, responsive, and digitally pre-fabricated construction systems. "The discipline of architecture is undergoing tremendous change," says Swackhamer. "Schools must quickly and nimbly adjust to those changes, yet remain clear and stable with regards to the disciplinary core of the profession. I envision a program that will lead the discipline through a dynamically changing landscape, while simultaneously clarifying and stabilizing the long-held skills that distinguish architecture from other fields of study." Associate Professor Ozayr Saloojee (Architecture) was awarded the University of Minnesota Imagine Chair in the Arts, Design and Humanities for 2014-2016. He will work on a collaborative project over a two year cycle of programming that includes an exhibition, symposia and coursework with faculty from across the University (in the Twin Cities and in Duluth campuses of the University of Minnesota). Additionally, Professor Saloojee and a collaborative team (including James Wheeler-Architecture, Vince deBritto-Landscape Architecture, and Jamuna Golden-Landscape Architecture) from the University of Minnesota were awarded a Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant for a two year cycle of work in partnership with the St. Louis River Alliance and Duluth-LISC (Duluth). This group will work in and with communities, stakeholders, public, private, local and state partners in Duluth to help imagine and develop a resilient and sustainable urban future for the St. Louis River Corridor. Associate Professor Blaine Brownell is the new Director of the Master of Architecture program and the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. He is also the 2014 Materials and Products Chair for Hanley Wood’s Vision 2020 program, and presented “Visible Green: New Material Opportunities in Sustainable Design” at the Vision 2020 symposium at Greenbuild in October. He published an article of the same title in EcoBuilding Review (Winter 2014), as well as “Material Resilience in Two Dimensions” in the Journal of the National Institute of Building Sciences (April 2014) and the essay “Manipulating the Material Code” in Materials Experience (Elsevier, 2013). He continues to contribute regularly to the Mind & Matter column in Architect magazine. Associate Professor John Comazzi delivered a lecture on the life and career of the architecture photographer Balthazar Korab in Columbus, IN (November 20). Korab is the subject of Comazzi's book Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Comazzi was also a panelist at the recent AIA-MN Convention on the subject of Design-Build in the academy. He was joined by Marc Swackhamer, Head of the Architecture Department at UMN to discuss the opportunities for collaboration with practitioners, community organizations, and industry on design-build projects.
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