Sarah Whiting, a member of the Princeton University School of Architecture faculty and an expert in urban and architectural theory, has been named dean of the Rice University
School of Architecture.
Whiting will take the helm Jan. 1, 2010, from John Casbarian, the school's longtime associate dean who is serving as dean until Dec. 31, 2009. Lars Lerup stepped down as dean earlier this year after 16 years and will return to Rice in 2010 as a professor.
"Sarah Whiting's strengths as a teacher, author and designer are clear, and she brings abundant energy and intellect to Rice," President David Leebron said. "Her aspirations for the School of Architecture align perfectly with the goals we set for Rice in the Vision for the Second Century, in particular our commitment to broaden and deepen our interaction with our home city of Houston. Under Sarah's leadership, we expect our already acclaimed school to be at the forefront of innovation in architecture education and enterprise."
Whiting, a native of Evanston, Ill., comes to Rice with extensive experience. Before joining Princeton in 2005, she was at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design for six years. Prior to that, she taught at the University of Kentucky, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Florida.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts at Yale, a master of architecture at Princeton and her Ph.D. in the history, theory and criticism of art, architecture and urban form at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As a principal of WW Architecture, a firm she co-founded with her husband, Ron Witte, she is currently working on projects for the drama division of the Juilliard School in New York and the Golden House, a private residence in Princeton, N.J. Before forming WW, she worked with Rem Koolhaas at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she was a designer on a number of architectural, urban and writing projects, including the master planning of Euralille, a business center in Lille, France, that opened in 1994.
Perhaps best known for her professional criticism, Whiting has published dozens of articles on urban and architectural theory. In addition to editing several journals, she has edited books on Ignasi de Solà-Morales and James Carpenter and is the series editor of "POINT," a new architectural book series to be published by Princeton University Press next spring. She is the author of the forthcoming book "Superblock City."
"I feel the variety of her experiences is a real asset," said Rice Provost Eugene Levy. "She's been on the faculty of a diverse set of institutions, which has fostered a broad set of perceptions and openness to thinking about the challenges of the discipline and the challenges of leadership that will be extremely valuable."
"Leading the Rice School of Architecture is a dream job," Whiting said. "Because it is small, everyone -- faculty and students alike -- is engaged. The dean is not a distanced administrator like at big architecture schools, but is right in there focusing the school's ambition."
Whiting calls architecture "a public form of culture."
"Architecture can -- has to -- invigorate the public realm," she said. "This is a two-pronged project: It is an intellectual project for academia and an immediate project for practice."
Whiting takes over a school that has earned a sterling reputation in recent years. The School of Architecture was ranked No. 8 in the nation by the Design Futures Council in January and has been among the top 10 programs for the last decade. The school's graduate program has consistently been among the country's top 20.
She could not help but notice that Rice University was named last week as the Princeton Review's No. 1 school for "best quality of life" and last month as one of the Chronicle of Higher Education's "Great Colleges to Work For."
"Both were absolute affirmations of what I sensed when I came to campus," she said. "Everything felt just right poised for new possibilities. I cant wait to take on those new horizons come January."