Campus & Community

Mohsen Mostafavi is named dean of Design School

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Mohsen Mostafavi, an international figure in the fields of architecture and urbanism, will become the dean of the Faculty of Design beginning in January 2008, President Drew Faust announced today (Aug. 10).

An accomplished academic leader, architect, and scholar, Mostafavi is currently the dean of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning, where he is also the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture. Formerly an associate professor of architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and director of the Masters of Architecture I program, he served for nine years as chairman of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, one of Europe’s foremost schools of design, before his appointment at Cornell.

“Mohsen Mostafavi has an impressive record of leadership at two distinguished schools of architecture and design, and his intellectual vitality and international outlook promise to serve our Design School well,” said Faust. “His interests extend across the GSD’s principal domains of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design, and his leadership style is marked by an openness to new ideas and an instinct for crossing boundaries in creative ways. He is also a highly respected scholar and educator who has longstanding ties to the Design School and who bridges the worlds of theory and practice with unusual aplomb. It will be a pleasure to welcome him back to Harvard and to work with him as he and his colleagues create the brightest possible future for the GSD.”

“I am deeply honored and excited by my appointment to the GSD,” said Mostafavi. “I look forward to working with the School’s extraordinary students, faculty, and staff. To return to Harvard at such a pivotal moment and to have the opportunity to work with President Faust is an incredible privilege. I know she shares my belief in the importance of design as an indispensable part of making the world a better place and the importance of collaboration across the University. It is particularly gratifying to return to Harvard, where I spent many happy years.”

Mostafavi will succeed Dean Alan Altshuler, who will serve through the end of December. “I want to thank Alan for his exceptionally thoughtful and devoted service as dean of the GSD these past several years and for his willingness to carry forward his leadership through the fall term,” Faust said. “He is a remarkable citizen of the University, whose wisdom and counsel will greatly benefit Mohsen as he prepares to assume the deanship.”

As dean of Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning since 2004, Mostafavi has led a school with some 100 faculty members and nearly 800 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 30 countries. The college’s programs range from architectural design, history, and theory to urban policy and planning to the visual arts. Mostafavi was also responsible for establishing the college’s new educational facility in New York City designed to give students a unique opportunity to live and study in the center of the architecture and art world, where he has been teaching and conducting research related to ecological urbanism. He is credited for the commissioning of Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture as the designers of the College’s new Paul Milstein Hall. While at Cornell Mostafavi served as a member of the provost’s committee of deans, the social science deans committee, as a member of the board of trustees committee on buildings and property, and the university’s architecture advisory committee, in addition to representing Cornell in the National Humanities Alliance.

From 1995 to 2004, Mostafavi was chairman (the equivalent of dean) of the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London. He is credited with having bolstered the AA’s reputation as one of Europe’s leading centers of architectural study, while guiding a transformation of the studio experience for students, launching new programs in such fields as landscape urbanism and emergent technologies, and bringing to fruition an array of notable exhibitions and publications.

Born in Iran, Mostafavi received a diploma in architecture from the AA in 1976. He then undertook research on counter-reformation urban history at the University of Essex (1976-81) and the University of Cambridge (1981-84). After serving as a design critic at Cambridge and a visiting professor at the Frankfurt Academy of Arts (Städelschule), he taught at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. He then served at Harvard as associate professor of architecture at the GSD from 1990 to 1995 and directed the Masters of Architecture I program from 1992 to 1995.

As a scholar and educator, Mostafavi is particularly known for his studies of building surfaces and how they change over time, as well as his interest in the interplay of natural and built systems in the design and planning of urban environments. His books include “Surface Architecture” (MIT Press, 2002, with David Leatherbarrow), which received the 2003 Bruno Zevi Book Award of the International Committee of Architectural Critics (CICA) for distinguished contribution to architectural criticism; “Delayed Space” (Princeton Architectural Press, 1994, with Homa Farjadi); and “On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time” (MIT Press, 1993, with David Leatherbarrow), which won the American Institute of Architects’ commendation prize for writing on architectural theory. His research and design projects have been published in numerous leading journals, and he has recently edited and contributed to “Landscape Urbanism: A Manual for the Machinic Landscape” (2004) and “Structure as Space” (2006) on the work of the innovative Swiss engineer Jürg Conzett.

A member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation European Union Prize committee, Mostafavi has served on the Institute’s Gold Medal selection committee, the steering committee of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the international design committee of the London Development Agency, and chaired the European selection committee for the Holcim Awards for sustainable construction.

Mostafavi maintains a global consulting practice and is married to Homa Farjadi, a professor in practice of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania who also has a professional practice in London.