In mid-2014, I accepted an appointment from the College of Fine + Applied Arts to serve for three years as Director of the School of Architecture. Among my principal goals were to work closely with the school’s outstanding faculty to:

·         achieve reaccreditation of the school’s Master of Architecture professional degree program;

·         increase undergraduate and graduate enrollments;

·         complete and obtain necessary approvals for revised undergraduate and graduate degree programs;

·         finish transitioning the school’s undergraduate study abroad program from Versailles to Barcelona;

·         establish the school’s new Chicago Studio, in collaboration with VOA Associates (now Stantec), on a solid academic and financial footing;

·         promote collaborations with the college’s other environmental arts units, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning;

·         hire excellent new tenure-system faculty;

·         be responsive to a routine university audit of business processes, and to implement recommended improvements; and

·         ensure stable funding for core instructional and research activities by reducing administrative expenditures.

With these goals accomplished, and according to plan, the search for the school’s next Director is underway. It will be my pleasant duty to provide the search committee with information that helps it develop the deepest, most qualified, most diverse applicant pool possible.

What our Director applicants must know is that the world thinks well of the school. According to hiring professionals surveyed by DesignIntelligence Quarterly, in 2016-17 the school’s Master of Architecture degree program ranks in the Top 25 nationally for producing graduates who are prepared “for success in the profession and designing a sustainable future.” The school’s DI ranking complements its place in the 2016 QS World University Rankings for programs in the architecture, released last spring. For a second year running in the QS rankings, Illinois placed in the Top 25 globally, the Top 10 nationally, and third in the nation among public research universities.

And why not? We have exceptional students, such as those who dominated the 2016 AIA Chicago Award in Architecture student competition, taking three of four top prizes. We have exceptional alumni as well, such as Ellen Bailey Dickson, who with three other Illinois graduates was elevated to AIA’s prestigious College of Fellows last spring. And of course there is alumna Dina Griffin, who will be partnering with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to design the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Too, there’s alumna Jeanne Gang, whose magnificent vision for the Vista Tower development is now being transformed into Chicago’s third-tallest building, at 93 stories.

While the school is defined by our students and alumni—and the faculty and staff who work with them—facilities matter, too. That’s why it’s so exciting to contemplate results of the Architecture Building renovation and expansion feasibility study recently completed by distinguished alumna Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, and her colleagues at Ross Barney Architects. Improvements to the Architecture Building may still be years away, but the path toward designing that future is clear.

I hope this brief welcome conveys the sense of the energy and purpose that motivates everyone associated with the School of Architecture. Keep up to date with the School by checking out the latest news on our website, by following us on Facebook, and by reading our Alumni Newsletter. And please don’t hesitate to contact me directly about the School. I would like nothing more than to hear your thinking about our efforts to ensure that an Illinois architecture degree continues to prepare the next generation of architects for the challenges they face in the profession—and the world.


Peter Mortensen