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Architecture Promotes Several Faculty, Welcomes New Members

The School of Architecture and Planning has announced that seven faculty members have been recognized by being promoted, granted tenure, or given significant new roles, and four new faculty joined their ranks. Among these are six faculty from the Department of Architecture.

“This group adds considerable strength to our faculty,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “As individual practitioners and researchers, each brings a high level of creativity, imagination, and rigor to our capabilities. As a group, they offer new dimensions to our teaching and research explorations.”

Recently promoted faculty

Azra Akšamija, an artist and architectural historian, has been promoted to associate professor without tenure in the Program in Art, Culture and Technology of the Department of Architecture, where she has taught since 2012. Her artistic work provides a framework for researching, analyzing, and intervening in contested sociopolitical realities. Her academic research focuses on the politics of cultural memory and the 1990s Yugoslav wars. Her book, “Mosque Manifesto,” (Revolver, 2015) explores transcultural aesthetics and cultural mobility in the context of Islam in the West. Akšamija holds master’s degrees from the Technical University Graz and Princeton University, and a PhD from MIT. Her work has been shown in the Generali Foundation Vienna, Liverpool Biennial, Sculpture Center New York, Secession Vienna, Manifesta 7, the Royal Academy of Arts London, Queens Museum, and the 54th Venice Biennale. She received the Aga Khan Award in 2013 for her prayer space design in the Islamic Cemetery in Altach, Austria.

Kristel Smentek, a historian of 18th-century European art and design with specializations in the history of collecting, the art market, and the European encounter with Asia, has been named associate professor with tenure in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art Program in the Department of Architecture. An assistant and associate professor at MIT since 2008, Smentek holds a BA from McGill University and an MA and PhD from the University of Delaware, all in art history. She has published extensively, including “Mariette and the Science of the Connoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Europe” (Ashgate, 2014). She has received numerous fellowships and awards, and has curated several exhibitions. Smentek’s teaching includes courses on European art from the Renaissance to the present, 18th- and 19th-century European painting, ornament from the Rococo to the 1920s, the history and theory of the art museum, and the history of design.

Faculty receiving new roles or titles

James Wescoat has been appointed co-director of the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism. Since arriving at MIT in 2008, he has served as the Aga Khan Professor in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, within the Department of Architecture. His research has concentrated on water systems in South Asia and the United States, including water research with the Tata Center for Technology and Design. His publications include “Water for Life: Water Management and Environmental Policy” (with Gilbert F. White, Cambridge University Press, 2003). Wescoat has also conducted research on historical waterworks of Mughal gardens and cities in India and Pakistan. He previously headed the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has taught at the University of Colorado and the University of Chicago. He earned a BA in landscape architecture from Louisiana State University and an MA and PhD in geography from the University of Chicago.

New faculty members

Brandon Clifford has been appointed assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, where as Belluschi Lecturer since 2012 he has taught and conducted research, including the recent McKnelly Megalith and Buoy Stone projects. He received a BS in architecture from Georgia Tech and an MArch from Princeton University. From 2006 to 2009, he worked as project manager at Office dA in Boston and New York. Clifford was the 2011-2012 LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture. In 2008 he founded the award-winning practice Matter Design with Wes McGee. His work has garnered inclusion in the Design Biennial Boston and won the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers as well as the prestigious SOM Prize, which launched his ongoing research into volumetric architecture. Clifford’s work is focused on reimagining the role of the architect in the digital era.

Sheila Kennedy has been appointed professor in the Department of Architecture. Kennedy received a BA in history, philosophy, and literature from Wesleyan University and studied architecture at the Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris. She received her masters of architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, where she graduated with distinction — the school’s highest academic honor — and received the SOM National Traveling Fellowship. With her partner Juan Frano Violich, Kennedy is a founding principal of KVA Matx, an interdisciplinary professional practice that is widely recognized for innovation in architecture, research on the evolving culture of materials, and the design of resilient, “soft” infrastructure and public space. Kennedy’s work in practice has received Progressive Architecture Awards and American Institute of Architects National Design Excellence Awards for built work in the United States and abroad. Kennedy received a 2014 Holcim Foundation Design Award, the 2014 Design Innovator Award, and the 2014 Berkeley-Rupp Award Prize of $100,000. She is a recipient of the inaugural 2016 American Architecture Award for her design work with digital brick in the Tozzer Anthropology Building. Kennedy’s design work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, MoMA, the National Design Museum, the Rotterdam Biennale, the Vitra Design Museum, and the TED conference in California. Her work has been widely published and is featured on National Public Radio, BBC World News, CBS News, The Discovery Channel, CNN Principal Voices, Wired, The Economist, and The New York Times.

Skylar Tibbits has been named assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, where he has been a lecturer and research scientist since 2010, teaching graduate and undergraduate design studios and co-teaching MAS.863/4.140 (How to Make (Almost) Anything), a seminar at MIT’s Media Lab. He directs the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, which focuses on programmable material technologies for novel manufacturing, products, and construction processes. Tibbits has a professional degree in architecture with a minor in experimental computation from Philadelphia University. At MIT, he received an SMArchS in design and computation and an MS in computer science. Tibbits has worked at design offices including Zaha Hadid Architects, Asymptote Architecture, and Point b Design. He has designed and built large-scale installations at galleries around the world, and his work has been published extensively. In 2007, Tibbits founded a multidisciplinary design practice, SJET. He was awarded a 2013 Architectural League Prize, among other honors.

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