The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSOA) has announced that Michelle Addington, an architect and mechanical/nuclear engineer who has served as dean of the school since 2017, will conclude her tenure at the end of the 2022–2023 academic year.
Before coming to UT Austin, Addington served as the Gerald Hines Chair in Sustainable Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture and was jointly appointed as a Professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Prior to that, she taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and has held visiting teaching positions at a range of universities both stateside and abroad including the Technical University of Munich and Temple University in Philadelphia, where she received her Bachelor of Architecture. Addington also holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tulane University, Master in Design Studies and Doctor in Design degrees from Harvard, and an honorary M.A. from Yale. Outside of her teaching, Addington has worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and at DuPont.
Addington, who replaced environmental planner Frederick Steiner following his 15-year deanship, brought a “broad, interdisciplinary perspective to the school” thanks to her varied educational and professional background per UT Austin’s announcement. She is also a noted expert in sustainability and this deep expertise, particularly her research and work in addressing climate change, will become her key focus after her deanship ends. Addington will maintain a presence at the university and continue to lead UT Austin’s Campus Sustainability Plan.
Addington was one of several architects who recently spoke to AN contributor Bill Millard for a feature article on the ways in which the profession needs to step up and rise to the occasion in the battle against climate change. This article was referenced by Addington in a letter to the UTSOA community discussing her decision to step down from the deanship to shift focus on the urgency of the climate crisis.
“Many of you know of my deep commitment to sustainability, and the recent IPCC report has made it clear that we can’t wait any longer to take aggressive action,” wrote Addington in her letter. “Fifty years of sustainability initiatives addressing the built environment have not stemmed the stunning worldwide rise of emissions and other impacts related to our fields. While I came to UT five years ago with expertise in energy conservation systems and behaviors, I have learned so much about the broader urban and regional domains, and the impacts and influences far afield. It is time for me to pull it all together and do what I do best.”
Addington’s shift out of her deanship role echoes that of Amale Andraos, former dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, who announced in May 2021 that she would transition out of the role to focus on climate-related issues as special advisor to Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger with a focus on the Columbia Climate School.
With the switching of gears to further her make her mark in the realm of climate research, Addington leaves behind a transformative legacy at UTSOA in the role of dean. As noted by the university, Addington “shepherded meaningful collaborations between academia and practice, hired and mentored award-winning educators, engaged the collective capabilities of faculty to create an inspiring educational environment, and reinforced the institution’s standing as one of the top-ranked architecture schools in the U.S.” Among her myriad accomplishments have been the expansion of the school’s Race and Gender in the Built Environment Initiative and the recent establishment of two new endowments to foster new and more diverse voices in architecture. The university referred to Addington as an academic leader who is a “firm believer in the importance of addressing issues from the center rather than at the edges” and as a “staunch advocate for embedding efforts like diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as a focus on sustainability, into the core of how we think, teach, and talk about what we do.”
During her tenure, Addington has also overseen the completion of UT Austin’s West Mall Building into a digital teaching space and helped to position the university as a research hub dedicated to exploring solutions to pressing issues in rapidly-growing Austin including housing, transportation, gentrification, and more.
AN is excited to follow Addington’s next chapter as an authoritative force at the intersection of the built environment and climate action. We will also report back when a new dean of the UTSOA is announced.