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Architecture Dean Bernard Tschumi to Step Down After 2002-03 Academic Year

Bernard Tschumi

Bernard Tschumi, who transformed Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation into an international model for architectural education, will step down as dean on June 30, 2003. He will devote more time to his expanding architectural practice, which includes designing new museums in New York, Athens, and Sao Paolo, among other projects, and will remain on the Columbia faculty.

"Fifteen years is an architectural generation," said Tschumi, who became dean in spring of 1988. "It is time for a new person to take over, and for the school to enter a new phase in its evolution."

The "evolution" that Tschumi led at Columbia was lauded by architects, architecture educators and University officials.

"On opposite ends of the College Green area stand two monuments to Bernard Tschumi: the visually striking Alfred Lerner Hall, a product of his gifts as an architect, and the internationally renowned Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, a testament to his vision as a dean. Bernard says that 'the combination of Columbia and New York is unbeatable,' to which I would only add that the combination of Columbia and New York and Tschumi is even more so," said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. "We thank Bernard for the enormous contributions he has made to Columbia, and I look forward to working with him through the next academic year as he completes his tenure as dean."

Columbia Provost Jonathan Cole remarked, "In his years as dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Bernard Tschumi has built at Columbia the best and most desirable school of architecture in the nation. It is the place where the most lively and promising young architectural students want to study. Tschumi has built a faculty that represents the best of different ways of thinking about design; he believes in the clash of ideas and discourses; he is truly international in his focus. In short, he has taken the school to unprecedented heights.

"A man of extraordinary intellectual and architectural gifts, Bernard has been able to do the near impossible -- create a lively, dynamic school while becoming one of the world's leading architects. Tschumi has been a visionary in bringing new computer techniques to bear on design within the School and has insisted that students of architecture be conversant with the most advanced literatures that bear on cities and social and other contexts for design.

"He has been a pleasure to work with. I have learned much from Bernard over the years and I look forward to his continued presence in the School as a member of the faculty and colleague. Beyond all of this, I anticipate viewing many more vibrant and extraordinary pieces of architecture designed by Bernard over the coming years." "Bernard Tschumi brought an international perspective to what had been one of America's leading architectural schools, transforming it into an essential modal point in the global network of the architectural avant-garde," said Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture and a former Columbia faculty member. "He will be a very tough act to follow."

"Bernard has given some of the best years his life to Columbia," architect Frank Gehry said. "It's great for his students and associates and all of us that he is focusing on active practice and that he'll make even more beautiful buildings for all of us."

A permanent U.S. resident who holds both French and Swiss citizenships, Tschumi is the principal of Bernard Tschumi Architects, with offices in New York and Paris. He came to the United States in 1976 from London's Architectural Association, where he was on the faculty and known primarily as a theorist and intellectual. As dean, he has continued to write and produce books, which include the Event-Cities series (1994 and 2000) and a collection of theoretical essays, Architecture and Disjunction (1994), currently in its fourth printing from MIT Press. Tschumi has also taught on the architectural faculties at Princeton, Cooper Union and Yale.

Tschumi was catapulted into public view as an architect in 1983 when he won the commission for Paris's Parc de la Villette in a competition against 471 other entries. The 125-acre, $300 million public facility containing dramatic buildings, walkways, bridges, and numerous gardens was completed over a 15-year period and has been a central force in the urban transformation of the northeast sector of Paris.

Since 1983, Tschumi has designed and completed such award-winning buildings as the French National Studio for Contemporary Arts, the Rouen Concert Hall and Exhibition Center, the Interface Flon Rail and Bus Station in Lausanne, Switzerland and new architectural schools at Marne-la-Vallee, France and Miami, Florida. He is also the designer, with Gruzen Samton Associated Architects, of Columbia's Alfred Lerner Hall, completed in 1999 and hailed by Time as one of the international best buildings of the year.

Tschumi is the recipient of France's Grand Prix d'Architecture and Legion of Honor and England's Royal Victoria Medal, as well as numerous national and international prizes for his buildings.

In 1988, when Tschumi opened his New York architectural office, he was confronted by another opportunity, as Columbia was looking for a dean of architecture. The timing was right, Tschumi explained, because architecture schools were becoming places of invention rather than tradition. Even so, he said, commenting on the special urban dimension of the school, "I wouldn't have wanted to be a dean anywhere but Columbia. The combination of Columbia and New York is unbeatable."

Tschumi created an unbeatable combination of his own. Sensing the role that computers would play in architectural design today, he made Columbia the most advanced school of architecture in the use of computers in studio work. In a profile on the school in September 2000, Architecture reported that Tschumi "fostered one of architecture's most significant forays into the digital age. Rarely in any generation does a single academic institution have a sweeping effect on the profession at large the way Columbia has" under Tschumi.

Most importantly, to stimulate a sense of invention at the school and to use it as a laboratory for ideas, he gave junior faculty the freedom to be creative, expanding their research in the context of their studios. The result was that the school developed tremendous energy and began attracting faculty from all over the world, as well as students wanting to work with people at the forefront of the profession.

Columbia now has, in Tschumi's estimation, the most creative architecture faculty of any school in the world, and prize committees routinely comment on the high proportion of winners who belong to Columbia's faculty. The students, many of whom come to the school with degrees in architecture and a desire to fine-tune their creative abilities, constitute arguably the best group of young architects anywhere today.

Under Tschumi, the school has developed a highly successful post-professional program, the degree in Advanced Architectural Design, as well as a Ph.D. in architecture. Working with the Urban Planning division of the school, Tschumi started the Urban Technical Assistance Project (U.T.A.P.) that is aimed at providing help and support to the Empowerment Zone located in the Harlem community. Applications to its architecture programs have increased by 50% in the last decade, making the school one of the nation's most competitive and selective.

During his time as dean, Tschumi tenured faculty in architectural theory as well as practice, including Stan Allen, Steven Holl, Laurie Hawkinson, and Mark Wigley. Others who have taught or currently teach at the school include Greg Lynn and Hani Rashid as well as such international visiting architects as Tadao Ando, Ben van Berkel, Coop Himmelblau, Zaha Hadid, and Alejandro Zaera-Polo. Frank Gehry has become a Distinguished Professor on the faculty, teaching special seminars to students in New York or his Santa Monica, California office.

A $250,000 deficit has been turned into a $1 million reserve budget, allowing for future growth, and the school's Master of Architecture program is currently accredited through 2007. Among the school's noted publications, Abstract, the annual collection of student work, has become a bestseller, eagerly snapped up by young architects and large corporate firms. The weekly lecture series also is one of the best in the country, drawing about 400 people from the city and beyond each Wednesday.

But the most important measures of Tschumi's achievement are that architecture schools such as Yale and Princeton recently have sought deans from Columbia's faculty who could do for them what Tschumi did for Columbia, and that Columbia has more influence on architectural education and young architects than any other institution today.

"After years of gray eminence," Architecture commented, " Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation has gotten red hot."

Published: Jun 21, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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