Building the Future

Ken Tadashi Oshima
Ken Tadashi Oshima, Professor of Architecture

When Ken Tadashi Oshima, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Architecture in the College of Built Environments (CBE) at the University of Washington (UW), was 10 years old, he helped his mother design their family home in Colorado. As the two worked to bring together traditions of Japan with the United States, it gave him the first inkling of how people could shape their surroundings.

And Dianne Harris, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and Professor of History at the UW, had always been interested in landscapes, cities, and buildings—even before she realized she could build a profession out of their study. Built environments inspired questions about the past: Why did they look the way they did? Who were they built for? Who felt welcome in those spaces and who were they designed to exclude?

“Designed spaces matter far more than we think they do. They are highly consequential in everyday life now and in the past, even if we haven’t always understood them to be so,” she said.

This spring, Harris and Oshima were named Fellows of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). This honor is given to those who have distinguished themselves by a lifetime of significant contributions to the field. Their contributions may include scholarship, service, teaching, and stewardship of the built environment.

The SAH and inclusivity
Dianne Harris
Dianne Harris, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of History

“It’s a tremendous honor to be named an SAH Fellow,” said Harris. “I’ve learned more than I can say from my colleagues who are SAH members and from my involvement in the society. I’m truly grateful for their recognition of my work and contributions to the field.”

Oshima concurred. “It’s a great honor to join this esteemed group. I think they have done a lot over the past several decades to expand the field of architectural history beyond a Euro-centric purview and be more inclusive to feature different histories of built environments. It’s not just one book or one project: It’s broader,” he said.

SAH efforts focusing on inclusivity include “Race &”, a podcast exploring the influence of race and race-thinking on the built environment; an affiliate group, the Race + Architectural History Group, promoting research activities that analyze the racial discourses of architectural history; and the SAH IDEAS initiative, which shapes, supports, and informs the Society’s interrogation of structures of power and helps maintain a strong commitment to sociopolitical equity and environmental justice.

Oshima and Harris have both organized annual SAH conferences bringing together participants from around the world, helping build a knowledge of history of cultures that may have been previously overlooked. More recently, the COVID pandemic has offered a silver lining in terms of people’s ability to share in the learning through online conferences. Those who may not been able to afford travel could attend conferences that previously weren’t financially feasible through virtual means. This has resulted in a more diverse and globally inclusive audience.

Although the SAH offers many different initiatives, such as conference sessions and roundtable panels on race and architecture, it also facilitates research collaboration among groups and on committees, Oshima added.

This inspiration comes through at the UW as well, he said. “Within our College [CBE], EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) has become foremost in how we gather and structure our research and teaching. The world can be so polarized. Fostering support and connections between all communities is crucial in how we can understand, treat each other, and learn.”

The campus itself also inspires Harris. Although one of the most beautiful she’s ever seen, she says, with a stunning setting that’s unparalleled, she remains conscious of being an uninvited guest on this land and cites the UW’s official acknowledgement that the land where the UW sits is the homeland of Coast Salish peoples, land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

“For me, that acknowledgement comes also with particular responsibilities that includes, among other things, teaching our students as much as we can about the deep and complex history of the lands we occupy,” she said. “That’s part of what we do as architectural, urban, and landscape historians.”

What buildings represent

At the UW, Oshima credits CBE’s strength in historian/practitioners together with the Humanities, Histories and Futures initiative to bring together faculty and students that bridge the domains of history, theory, and practice. Students come to understand design in the broader context of understanding what has been built, but also actively shape the future, focusing on how to solve contemporary problems and benefit everyday life in a more sustainable way, he explained.

“Architecture of the built environment is fundamental in that it’s connected to both science and humanities, as well as economics and society,” he said.

History is omnipresent: Every event and every moment of daily life takes place somewhere, in some space. We can travel and view buildings, cities, or landscapes and learn about their history, but it’s not a building alone that explains its history.

That role is filled by historians of built environments, who search for many sources from which they construct historical narratives. It involves rich, compelling, interdisciplinary work that uncovers how people lived their lives in the near and distant past around the world.

“Everything has a history, and the built environment is no exception,” Harris said. “In my view, understanding the past is the only way for us to understand the future, even if it’s also sometimes enough to simply understand the past.”

When we think about history, we can look at it through tens of thousands of years of the natural and built environment—or more immediately, we can look at existing buildings. We can look at how they are constructed, how they are demolished, and why. Oshima studies how people live, aspire to live, and how those changes should be sustainably addressed in design.

Rather than seeing buildings as static, Oshima looks to an organic, metabolically evolving built environment. “Buildings can be renovated or transformed over time to adapt to different demographics or uses. Rather than tearing down a structure, it can be reimagined. Today, structures such as the Pacific Place Shopping Center in downtown Seattle now face the challenge to meet different needs of the downtown population and small businesses, underscoring the necessity for design to be open to change on a variety of scales and temporalities” he said.

Looking ahead

As part of a large public research institution, CBE interacts with the broader student body as well as the interests and research of faculty throughout the UW, including the College of Arts & Sciences. In the last year, Oshima says, CBE has fostered connections between disciplines such as humanities, history, and environmental studies to address changes to the environment. Climate change involves science but also a humanities-based understanding of human habitations and how it affects society.

Both Harris and Oshima have explored in detail how architecture and the built environment can shift from a Euro-American-centric view to one that is more inclusive of the world at large. Although Harris is a relative newcomer to the UW, she has been working on questions that focus on race, belonging and exclusion in the built environment for more than 30 years. Decades of her work have focused on the ways the built environment and its representations in drawings, prints, advertisements, photography, and texts is linked to notions of racial, ethnic, and class identity.

And Oshima has always been interested in helping students engage in a broader dialogue and expand beyond borders and cultures, keeping history in mind.

“I always look to the past, present, and future so we don’t make the same mistakes. I seek to provide open-ended frameworks for students and encourage them to make their own choices and create their own domains. Imagine what you can do—and actually start to build it,” he said.

Carin Moonin is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon.

UDP Professionals Council Autumn Quarter Lecture Presents: Gil Kelley

Gil Kelley is the general manager of Planning, Urban Design, and Sustainability for the City of Vancouver, British Columbia. He is an internationally recognized urban strategist, having served as chief planner for several West Coast cities (including San Francisco, CA and Portland, OR) and as an independent advisor to cities and governments across the globe. Vancouver, BC is one of North America’s most innovative cities in the field of urban planning. The City recently adopted a Greenest City Action Plan and is currently working on a major comprehensive plan update, called “Planning Vancouver Together.” Kelley will share his insights into how he uses a forward-thinking approach to address challenging planning issues, including equity, climate change, and civic engagement. On November 5, 2020 Gil Kelley spoke to our UDP community- watch his presentation here!

BE Studio Envisions a New Seattle Neighborhood

Smith Cove arial photo
A view from Smith Cove of a proposed new neighborhood in Seattle’s Interbay area.

Architecture and planning students love to wrestle with big ideas. And while their end-of-the-quarter presentations sometimes include out-of-the-box ideas, they usually don’t have the attention of public officials. But this time was different.

Students with the University of Washington Built Environments Studio recently had former Governor Gary Locke, State Representative Gael Tarleton, and Seattle Office of Community Development’s Sam Assefa sitting in the front row, saying things like “this could happen if we start planning now” and “the public needs to see this.”

The project these students are exploring — building a new neighborhood in Seattle from scratch — is unique in the city’s modern history. The neighborhood is slated for 25 acres near the Magnolia Bridge. And so, people with influence over this project came to nod, clap, and encourage these students to keep dreaming.

Read More

Building New Global Connections

The UW Landscape Architecture Croatia Design/Build program gives students the unique opportunity to make a lasting, physical impact in their host community. Professor Daniel Winterbottom, an expert in the creation of healing and therapeutic gardens, leads the program.

American and Croatian teammates together after final construction of the reflexology path.

With Professor Winterbottom as their guide, students explore the role of restorative landscapes in the built environment through hands-on learning. They study the history of healthcare in Croatia while also exploring the unique culture, food, and architecture heritage of the region. Finally, the students gain practical experience, working together to solve a real-world design/build problem. Last year, students were tasked with creating a new outdoor physical therapy rehabilitation space at the “Prim. Dr. Martin Horvat” Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital.

Located just outside the city of Rovinj, on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, the hospital is among the oldest orthopedic-rehabilitation institutes. It specializes in offering modern hydrotherapy treatments to patients coming from throughout Europe. The close proximity to the temperate waters of the Adriatic Sea allows the hospital to offer both indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy facilities during much of the year. For the students, this means having the opportunity to design a functional, therapeutic outdoor space to serve both patients and staff. The build portion of the program further allows students to become adept with key landscape construction techniques, materials, and project management approaches – skills that often aren’t practically addressed in a traditional classroom setting.

Professor and students sit around a table littered with design drawings
Professor Winterbottom leads a workshop on techniques for hand representation.

For Elizabeth Lange, a Master of Landscape Architecture Student, the most memorable part of the experience was the opportunity to build strong connections and foster teamwork with her fellow American and Croatian classmates.

“Every day it was a lot of work and long days, but it was fun to be with the people in the program and learn new things,” she shared. “I became very close with my classmates because of this program.”

Elizabeth also felt that the unique opportunity to participate in a design/build program was particularly useful for rounding out her educational experience, especially as she prepares to enter professional practice in the near future.

“A design build program forces you to think about your design and the practicality of it,” she explained. “In design school, we don’t normally construct what we design, so the sky is the limit in some sense, but in a design/build that isn’t the case. You can think of grand ideas but then you also have to factor in the budget and feasibility of it in order for it to work in the real world. I think that is an important thing to experience in school going forward.”

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the study abroad experience is the way in which it allows students to frame their own life and experiences in the context of a broader perspective.

For Elizabeth, her time in Croatia gave her valuable personal insights and allowed her to build stronger relationships with others – both key hallmarks of a successful study abroad experience.

“I learned a lot about myself and my abilities during this program through my relationship with my friends and through the relationship of design,” Elizabeth shared.

One of the design teams present to the hospital director and therapists.
MLA Sarah Wallace cuts rebar for project construction.
Students test out the new boardwalk.

Photo credits: Rhiannon Neuville and the 2018 Croatia Design Build class.

Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative Wins $1M Grant

The Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative and Co-PI’s Mark Jarzombek and Vikram Prakash are happy to announce its receipt of funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This $1,000,000.00, three year award will allow GAHTC to fund the production of teaching modules, as well as Teacher-to-Teacher Workshops and Global Connections Fellowships. This is the third installment of a grant that was first awarded in 2013 for a total of $3.5 million.


At a time of rapid technological change and professional specialization, we can easily forget that the most important mission of schools and universities is to offer inspiring and horizon-expanding teaching to the next generation. Survey courses play a particularly important role as they open the world to students and help give them critical purchase on their own landscapes and lives. A good survey course balances breadth with depth, but in an ever-expanding world that balance can be lost, meaning that the problem is not just how to teach students, but how to prepare teachers. The GAHTC’s mission is to provide cross-disciplinary, teacher-to-teacher exchanges of ideas and material, in order to energize and promote the teaching of all periods of architectural history in a global way, especially at the survey level. Via our online platform, our workshops, grants and conferences, we support teachers in the class room.

Goals and Implementation

We will therefore focus less on outreach and digital innovation and more on the primary mission of GAHTC, providing member-made quality teaching material free of charge to teachers. We will use the upcoming grant term to round out our library content and work toward a sustainability for the digital platform, through the auspices of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning.

We will strengthen the breadth of our library content by focusing on under-represented areas that we feel are important to the discipline, such as gender studies, aboriginal studies, African studies and First Societies.

By focusing on these core goals, we can make sure by the end of the grant cycle that GAHTC’s materials are well curated, easily accessible and known to the broader community interested in global architectural history teaching content. Having a reputable body of material that is easily accessible and known to the community gives GAHTC the best chance to become a lasting resource.

SENSOL Crosswalks project selected for Amazon Catalyst Fellowship

In July, seven new teams were selected as Amazon Catalyst Fellows. The teams are a mix of UW faculty, students, and staff from eleven departments across campus. Each team received funding to pursue a big idea focused on one of this round’s themes: Computational Social Science or Urban Transportation. One winning team features CBE students, Janie Bube, Graduate Student, Landscape Architecture and Emma Petersen, Graduate Student, Landscape Architecture and Colton Brailsford, Undergraduate Student, Community, Environment & Planning


Summary: An off-the-grid LED and solar crosswalk that lights up directly under the pedestrian as they cross to increase awareness and commuter cooperation.

Description: Crossing a street is often a fraught affair for a pedestrian when there is no traffic light, even when they are at a crosswalk. Will drivers see them? And even if they do, will they stop? A cross-disciplinary team of graduates and undergraduates is designing and building the SENSOL Modular Crosswalk, a hybrid solar and LED crosswalk. The hybrid system will power luminaires embedded in a temporary, modular speed bump like structure. This will improve safety and visibility without permanently changing roadways. The SENSOL crosswalks will be triggered when feet, wheelchairs, or bicycles pass over them, illuminating their exact location, visible at both a distance and up close by cars, bicycles, buses, and other pedestrians.

CBE Strategic Planning: Retreat Saturday, October 5

Dear colleagues,

We are looking forward to seeing all of your at CERC this Saturday, October 5, for the CBE Strategic Planning Kickoff Retreat. The retreat kicks off with a continental breakfast at 8am. Business begins at 9am sharp. You can see event details below.

All our best,
CBE Strategic Plan Facilitation Team
Retreat Logistics
Saturday, October 5
9am to 5pm (with breakfast starting at 8am)
Building 5, 7543 63rd Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
8:00 Continental Breakfast
9:00 Kickoff

10:30 Scenario Planning
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Task Group Planning
4:00 Task Group Formation
4:45 Wrap-Up and Next Steps
5:00 End
Other background documents, including the Planning Cubed Report, 2019 CBE Organizational Analysis, and 2012 Strategic Plan are available on our website:

CBE Strategic Plan Facilitation Team

Susanne Adamson, Administrative Coordinator, CBE Strategic Plan
Mark Baratta, Director of Operations
Ann Marie Borys, Associate Professor, Architecture
Suzanne Cartwright, Director of Community Engagement, Real Estate
Carrie Sturts Dossick, Professor, Construction Management, and Associate Dean of Research
Nick Dreher (co-lead), BLA Academic Adviser, Landscape Architecture
Ken-Yu Lin (co-lead), Associate Professor, Construction Management
Vikram Prakash, Professor, Architecture, and Chair, CBE College Council
Jan Whittington, Associate Professor, Urban Design & Planning

Strategic Planning Kickoff

Dear colleagues,

We hope you are enjoying your summer and can take a few moments to read this short update on the 2019-20 CBE Strategic Planning process.

First, we’d like to thank the p-cubed group once again for their work in the spring and to introduce the strategic planning facilitation team. At the recommendation of p-cubed, a facilitation team was formed this summer with its first meeting on 7/16.

The facilitation team consists of faculty and staff from all five college department. It is not a steering committee. Rather, the facilitation team aims to help guide a process that includes voices and perspectives from across the college.

Strategic planning facilitation team:
Susanne Adamson, Administrative Coordinator, CBE Strategic Plan
Mark Baratta, Director of Operations
Ann Marie Borys, Associate Professor, Architecture
Suzanne Cartwright, Director of Community Engagement, Real Estate
Carrie Sturts Dossick, Professor, Construction Management, and Associate Dean of Research
Nick Dreher, Undergraduate Academic Adviser, Landscape Architecture, Co-Lead
Ken-Yu Lin, Associate Professor, Construction Management, Co-Lead
Vikram Prakash, Professor, Architecture, and Chair, CBE College Council
Jan Whittington, Associate Professor, Urban Design & Planning

Second, we ask that you mark your calendar for the CBE College-wide Retreat on Saturday, October 5. This retreat will kick off the year-long strategic planning process and your attendance is crucial to make this a success.

The nature of this work is deeply collaborative. Please reach out to us (co-leads: Nick Dreher, and Ken-Yu Lin, if you have any questions, feedback, or concerns about the process.


CBE Facilitation Team

Organizational Analysis Report

CBE Organizational Analysis Report


The College of Built Environments partnered with an external consultant, Julius Erolin (the Consultant), to conduct a brief college-wide organizational review (the Review). The goal of the Review is to gather perspectives across the College on the current strengths, challenges and opportunities of the College. It is not intended as a “fact-finding” exercise. It is a process of understanding how various stakeholders “see” and experience the College.

The Review is part of the “Dean’s Dialogue”, a larger and longer process of listening, learning and planning for Dean Renée Cheng. Given the larger dialogue engaging the broader College community, the Review was designed to be narrow in scope. It is focused on gathering perspectives from faculty and staff, and student and PAC leaders.

The Consultant collected information from individual interviews, focus groups, a survey and review of relevant documents. 105 individuals participated in seven focus groups, 134 completed the survey, and 11 were interviewed. Information from the concurrent “visioning” sessions were also used for this Review. 109 individuals participated in six visioning sessions. Participation in the data collection process was very high among faculty and staff, and more limited with student leaders and external community members. This report summarizes the findings and conclusions from those sources. It also includes recommendations based on the Review results.

Dean’s Dialogue Update

CBE Colleagues,

Firstly let me apologize for neglecting to bring the Minnesota snow infrastructure with me when I brought the Minnesota weather! I hope you are all managing with the disruptions and that we will get back into the swing of things soon.

Secondly, I have a few short updates to share with you on the Dean’s Dialogue process:

-The report from the survey and interviews has been delayed due to a family emergency which is resolving but has put Julius behind his schedule for our work. We believe the report will be ready by beginning of next week, thank you for your patience and understanding.

– We have tentatively planned to have Trevor return March 7/8 to help me conduct the external stakeholder focused part of the Dean’s Dialogue. This will primarily be through the Professional Advisory Committees and key partners in the community. Edgar and Keisha are helping to coordinate, so please let them know if you have suggestions on the invitation list.
– Trevor will also help consult with the communications efforts that have been ongoing, updated in my previous email.

-we are tentatively planning to have Julius return on March 13/14 or 14/15 to help build from the listening + learning towards planning. This will likely be focused around what would be effective ways to discuss mission/vision/values (just as a reminder, his expertise is on process, you all are the experts on content).
– I’m also asking him to offer insights on strategic approaches to equity, diversity and inclusion efforts and provide advice and feedback on how we might use our efforts to have greatest impact.
– He will also present material on the intercultural developmental inventory so we can plan future training and assessments, looking at how it might fit (or not) with training already done and with others that UW has found to be effective.

-My office hours will continue (look for announcements from Susanne Adamson ) but I will be reducing from 4 hours per week to 2 for the next few weeks so I can have time to see more of the classes and studios in action. Feel free to stop me and chat if you see me wandering around your spaces, or if there are particularly productive (and/or less disruptive) times for me to swing by, please advise Susanne.

-Not directly related to the Dean’s Dialogue, but something where the outcomes will be discussed: we are preparing for the CBE stop on the “Provost’s Walking Tour” where he has been visiting each of the colleges for 2-3 hours to better understand our opportunities and challenges. This is not a showcase, he particularly pointed out that he is quite familiar with all the great things we do and would like to hear more about what we hope to do and any obstacles or challenges we face. While we will be unable to tour him through very aspect of the college, we may be asking for a sample of studios, classrooms or other spaces to have examples of work posted or faculty or students available to talk about work. More information will be coming soon. His visit is Wednesday 2/27 in the afternoon, timing and agenda TBD.

Thanks everyone for your grace and resilience under difficult conditions!


p.s. if you are wishing for a bit of help achieving more grace and resilience, HERE is a resource on teaching strategies and tips for working with unexpectedly shortened class times.