COURTESY rice university
Architect, historian, and Princeton professor Sarah Whiting has been named dean of the School of Architecture at Rice University in Houston. Whiting, 44, will succeed Lars Lerup, who stepped down earlier this year after serving as dean for 16 years.
Rice enrolls approximately 100 students in undergraduate and graduate programs in architecture. “It’s a very special school because it’s small and has a strong history of innovation and intellectual rigor,” Whiting told AN. “The dean functions as both dean and chair, so it’s not just an administrative position. There’s an intellectual mandate.”
In addition to Princeton, Whiting has previously taught at the University of Kentucky, Harvard, the University of Florida, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Perhaps best known as a theorist and critic, she is completing a book on the superblock and editing a new series of books for Princeton Architectural Press.
Whiting sees Houston as an ideal “petri dish” for architectural inquiry. “In architectural education, we still tend to learn about great European cities, along with New York—and in the more progressive schools—Los Angeles and Chicago. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, and much of urban studies tends to overlook it,” she said. She hopes to engage the school and the university in the community. “It’s time for architects to take some responsibility,” she said. Besides, given the region’s strong economy, “there is the possibility to work there,” she added.
Rice President David Leebron praised Whiting’s vision of a more engaged school. “Her aspirations for the School of Architecture align perfectly with the goals we set for Rice, in particular our commitment to broaden and deepen our interaction with our home city of Houston,” Leebron said in a statement.
A fixture on the lecture and symposia circuit, Whiting is one of the leading architectural scholars and educators of her generation. “It’s a wonderful appointment,” said Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture. “Rice is lucky to have her, and Princeton will surely miss her.”
Whiting’s husband and business partner Ron Witte will join the faculty at Rice, and the two will relocate their firm, WW Architecture, to Houston. The firm is currently working on a private house and has designed a renovation for the Juilliard School’s drama division, set to begin construction in summer 2010.