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.

Two CBE students named to 2022 Husky 100

The University of Washington recognized two students from the College of Built Environments for the 2022 Husky 100. Congratulations to Talia Kertsman and Andrew Hengstler!


Talia Kertsman, Community, Environment, and Planning major

“I came to the UW seeking a depth of understanding around questions keeping me up at night – questions about the future of cities and how to sustain belonging in all spaces. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to grow in Seattle and learn from those working to preserve spaces of cultural value. I hope to work at the intersection of equitable community development and education, thinking about how students and educators can co-create spaces of learning, inside and outside the classroom.”


Andrew Hengstler, Construction Management major 

Blonde boy in dark clothing smiling in front of a dark brown door“Strong communities promote positive progress. I have focused my years at the UW working to foster this sense of community, empowering others to rally and grow together. Within my career, I seek to develop built environments that encourage community collaboration, where people are not separated by class or culture. By creating environmentally and socially sustainable habitats, we can both protect nature and preserve our vital sense of community.”


The Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students who are making the most of their time at the UW. Those named include undergraduates and graduate students who have founded start-ups, conducted research, and advocated for social justice.

Ken Tadashi Oshima named a Society of Architectural Historians Fellow

Ken Tadashi Oshima is Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he teaches trans-national architectural history, theory and design.

Headshot of Ken Tadashi Oshima, he's wearing a black shirt and grey jacket

He has also been a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and UCLA, and has taught at Columbia University and the University of British Columbia. He earned an AB degree, magna cum laude, in East Asian studies and visual and environmental studies from Harvard College, an MArch degree from University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in architecturalhistory and theory from Columbia University. From 2003 to 2005, he was a Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in London.

Dr. Oshima’s publications include Kiyonori Kikutake: Between Land and Sea (Lars Müller/Harvard GSD, 2015), Architecturalized Asia (U. Hawai’i Press/Hong Kong U. Press, 2013), GLOBAL ENDS: towards the beginning (Toto, 2012), International Architecture in Interwar Japan: Constructing Kokusai Kenchiku (U. Washington Press, 2009) and Arata Isozaki (Phaidon, 2009).

He curated GLOBAL ENDS: towards the beginning (Gallery MA, 2011), Tectonic Visions Between Land and Sea: Works of Kiyonori Kikutake (Harvard GSD, 2012), SANAA: Beyond Borders (Henry Art Gallery 2007–2008) and was a co-curator of Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive (Museum of Modern Art, NY, 2017) and Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond (UPenn, UCSB, Kamakura Museum of Modern Art, 2006–2007).

He was an editor and contributor to Architecture + Urbanism for more than 10 years, co-authoring the two-volume special issue, “Visions of the Real: Modern Houses in the 20th Century” (2000). His articles on the international context of architecture and urbanism in Japan have been published in journals including Architectural Review, Architectural Theory ReviewJournal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Kenchiku Bunka, Japan Architect, L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, and the AA Files.

Dr. Oshima was president of the Society of Architectural Historians from 2016 to 2018 following service on the SAH Board of Directors and Executive Committee from 2008 to 2016. He joined SAH in 2000 and is a Life Member.


The Board of Directors names as Fellows of the Society of Architectural Historians individuals who have distinguished themselves by a lifetime of significant contributions to the field. These contributions may include scholarship, service to the Society, teaching and stewardship of the built environment.

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2021 AIA Seattle Honor Awards

On Monday, November 8, AIA Seattle hosted the 71st annual Honor Awards for Washington Architecture to celebrate excellence in design.  The Honor Awards is a nationally recognized program that provides an important opportunity for the design community to share and celebrate its achievements, both among practitioners and with the community-at-large.

As in previous years, the UW Department of Architecture community was widely recognized, with multiple awards going to our faculty, alumni, PAC members and their firms. We are proud of the strong connection our program maintains with Seattle’s thriving professional community and our robust, active Professionals Advisory Council that supports our students and faculty in profound ways. 

Sixteen award winners were selected by the jury from 103 submittals.  Included among the awardees were Associate Professors and architects Elizabeth Golden and Rick Mohler.  They received an Honorable Mention for the Seattle Street Sink program, a community-based network of handwashing stations designed in response to the lack of public hygiene infrastructure.  

Other notable recipients with close ties to UW include:

  • The Miller Hull Partnership, who received an Award of Honor for Loom House, as well as an Award of Merit for the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health, right here on the UW campus
  • LMN Architects, who received an Award of Honor for their work on the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal
  • Rob Hutchison of RHA, who received an Award of Merit for the Rain Harvest Home
  • Olson Kundig, who received an Award of Merit for ANOHA—The Jewish Museum Berlin 
  • Susan Jones of atelierjones, who received an Honorable Mention for Constitution SHED

Congratulations to all who were recognized for their stellar design work in our region!

Visit the Online Gallery to learn more about the projects, as well as project team and collaborator information. Missed the live show? You can catch the replay here.

Celebrating the Husky 100

Each year, the Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma in all areas of study who are making the most of their time at the UW. The Husky 100 actively connect what happens inside and outside of the classroom and apply what they learn to make a difference on campus, in their communities, and for the future. Through their passion, leadership, and commitment, these students inspire all of us to shape our own Husky Experience.

In honor of their many contributions to the University of Washington, each member of the Husky 100 is eligible to receive exciting benefits, and to participate in a range of activities and opportunities offered by the UW’s on- and off-campus partners.

The students from the College of Built Environments represent a range of disciplines and causes: Lan T Nguyen and Reese O’Craven.

Lan Nguyen, PhD student of Urban Design and Planning and Husky 100 2021 recipient

“Xin chào! In my research and practice, I center the knowledge, culture, and lived experiences of BIPOC, immigrant, and refugees in risk communication, disaster preparedness, public health, and community resilience. As a community development scholar-activist, I work in and with communities to advance social and spatial equity and justice. As an educator, I support students in the classroom and careers. My UW experience allowed me to apply knowledge to practice for social change.” – Lan Nguyen





Reese O’Craven, CEP student and Husky 100 2021 recipient

“We live in a world that is beautiful and diverse, yet deeply unequal and unsustainable. My work and academics focus on the intersection of human connection and sustainability: I intend to devote my career to moving the needle towards a future where wealth is more evenly distributed, communities are designed to be resilient and connected, environmental stewardship and sustainability are valued, and overall wellbeing and happiness are greater.” -Reese O’Craven



Congratulations to all the students selected for this year’s Husky 100 award! To learn more about their experiences, please visit the Husky 100 page.

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Exploring Artistically Significant Landscapes

Fall in the Quad, University of Washington Seattle campus, October 2013. Photo by Katherine B. Turner
Fall in the Quad, University of Washington Seattle campus, October 2013. Photo by Katherine B. Turner

Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Thaisa Way has been appointed chair of the Dumbarton Oaks Fellows in Garden and Landscape Studies. Way, who has been a Senior Fellow with Dumbarton Oaks since 2011 will serve a one year term.As one of six Senior Fellows, the group serves as advisors to the Director of Dumbarton Oaks in relation to the Garden and Landscape Studies Program.

As chair, Way will play a guiding role in the fellowship selection process and work with Senior Fellows to foster and nurture scholarship in urban landscape histories. “We provide opportunities for scholars to come and fully immerse themselves in their studies, in one of the world’s best landscape libraries and rare books collections,” Way said.

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is a research institute in Washington D.C. overseen by the Trustees of Harvard University. The Garden and Landscape Studies program was established in 1972 to support advanced scholarship in garden history and landscape architecture. Dumbarton Oaks is one of the few institutions in the world with a program devoted to garden and landscape studies that is targeted at both humanities scholars and landscape practitioners. The program encompasses the analysis of culturally and artistically significant landscapes from around the world, spanning from ancient times to present day.

In her role as a Senior Fellow, Thaisa Way will curate a collegium on histories of drawing in landscape architecture, focused on urban landscapes in fall 2017. Previously, Dr. Way was the lead for the spring 2015 Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscape Symposium “River Cities: Historical and Contemporary.”

Along with Thaisa Way, Dumbarton Oaks Senior Fellows include: John Beardsley, Dumbarton Oaks; Sonja Dümpelmann, Harvard University; Georges Farhat, University of Toronto; Kathryn Gleason, Cornell University; Gert Gröning, Universität der Künste Berlin; Ron Henderson, Illinois Institute of Technology.

For more information contact Allie Rock in the College of Built Environments Advancement Office at: or Thaisa Way at: