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Ishida to lead architecture, landscape architecture and urban design programs

Parul Dubey on April 16, 2024 - in News, People

New director for Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design


Aki Ishida, an associate professor and interim associate director of the School of Architecture at Virginia Tech, has been named director of the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

As director, Ishida will oversee the Sam Fox School’s architecture, landscape architecture and urban design programs. She also will hold the Sam and Marilyn Fox Professorship. Both appointments begin July 1.

“Aki is an accomplished architect and designer, a respected scholar and a dedicated teacher and mentor,” said Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. “She is fascinated by the ways social conditions can shape the built environment, and she has a long history of collaborating with artists, engineers and health-care professionals, among others.

“I am confident Aki will be an inspiring leader who will connect deeply with our community and advance the strategic goals of the school and university. We are proud to welcome her to the Sam Fox School,” Colangelo said.

A licensed architect and widely admired educator whose work has been exhibited internationally, Ishida is author of “Blurred Transparencies in Contemporary Glass Architecture: Material, Culture, and Technology” (2020). In both her writing and design work, she investigates the temporal and impermanent aspects of architecture, emphasizing the ways buildings continue to change and evolve over the course of their lifespans.

“The physical constructs of a building are often understood to be firm, stable and long-lasting,” Ishida said. “But architecture’s mutable qualities carry equal importance. Questions of social justice, resource consumption, cultural symbolism and the spatial effects of buildings are inseparable from the decisions that architects make.”

A regular guest critic in the Sam Fox School, Ishida chaired the 2019 Fitzgibbon Charrette, a one-day sketch problem during which students selected and refined one of their studio drawings to highlight a particular phenomenon or experience. Ishida also chaired the 2020 Laskey Charrette, an intensive, weekend-long workshop that challenged students to experiment with modular assembly in cast concrete.

“It is an immense honor to lead the college with such talented and committed students, faculty and staff,” Ishida said. “I look forward to building upon its strengths to cultivate an inclusive, intellectually rigorous and forward-looking community of designers and scholars. Together, we can create a more sustainable, imaginative world, for and by a more diverse community of people.”

Ishida will succeed Heather Woofter, who led the Sam Fox School’s architecture programs from 2017 until summer 2023, when she was appointed dean of architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Linda C. Samuels, a professor of architecture and chair of urban design, served as interim director for the 2023-24 academic year.

About Aki Ishida

Born in Tokyo, Ishida earned a Bachelor of Architecture in 1995 from the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. She began her career with Rafael Vinoly Architects in New York, as part of the core design team for a new Princeton University stadium, then earned a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design in 1998 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Ishida spent four years with James Carpenter Design Associates in New York, where she gained experience in the artistic and technical applications of glass, then worked with acclaimed architect I.M. Pei as a full-time consultant on the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. In 2005, she co-founded Ishida/Crandall in New York and established Aki Ishida Architect in 2008. She is licensed in the states of New York and New Jersey and is a LEED-accredited professional.

Before joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 2012, Ishida led studios at the Rhode Island School of Design, The Pratt Institute, The Parsons School of Design and Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. Every summer since 2009, she has taught architecture courses in Columbia University’s Pre-College Program.

At Virginia Tech, Ishida led design studios; served as a senior fellow in the Institute for Creativity, Arts & Technology; directed the Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-Centered Communities destination area; and served as a faculty fellow in the provost’s office. Since spring 2022, she has served as interim associate director for the School of Architecture as well as for the School of Design, which includes Virginia Tech’s programs in industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture.

Since 2019, Ishida has been a co-principal investigator and design lead for “Medical Workspace: Information Ecosystem of Future Nurse Stations,” an interdisciplinary research project exploring how digital technologies, integrated into hospital intensive care units, might enhance communication and reduce clinician burnout. She also serves as co-PI for “Technology as Partner for Improving the Effectiveness of Teams of Clinicians,” funded by a National Science Foundation Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research Development Grant.

In 2023, Ishida won a Creative Achievement Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. She previously won the group’s New Faculty Teaching Award in 2017 and in 2016 was named one of 25 Most Admired Educators by DesignIntelligence. “Lantern Field,” an interactive audio-visual installation she led at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., won a 2013 Architectural Lighting Design Award.

Ishida’s work has been supported by grants from Japan Foundation New York, the Graduate Kinne Traveling Fellowship from Columbia University, Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant from the AIA New York Chapter, and fellowships from MacDowell and the Baer Art Center. She has served three times as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts grants and mentors faculty of color through the Dean’s Equity and Inclusion Initiative, a national group committed to nurturing academic diversity.


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