New Design Dean

 

Marilyn Jordan Taylor has been named dean of the School of Design. A longtime partner at Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), whose urban design and planning practice she led for over 20 years, Taylor is also the first architect and first woman to chair the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research and educational institution. On October 1 she will replace outgoing dean Gary Hack, who oversaw a doubling of the school’s student body during his 12-year tenure [“Gazetteer,” March|April].

SEAS Dean Eduardo D. Glandt GCH’75 GR’77, who chaired the search committee, described Taylor as a public intellectual with a proven ability to lead in both the corporate and academic realms. “She was everyone’s choice,” he said. “From the very beginning to the very end, we wanted her, and we still are in awe that we got her. This is a person that anyone would want to have.”

Taylor, who grew up in tiny Montezuma, Iowa—population 1,432—is known best for her work in the urban realm. “I think I first saw a city when I was about 10, and I was mesmerized,” she said in an interview. “And I think that the sense of opportunity that cities still offer—the sense of mobility, economic, social, and physical—makes them profoundly compelling places.”

Among her signature projects are the master plan for Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus and the International Arrivals Building at John F. Kennedy airport.  The founder of SOM’s airports and transportation practice, Taylor also became the first woman in the firm’s history to serve as its chairman. She is a past president of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and has also been a visiting professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

“Design education is hugely important and oftentimes undervalued, particularly in American society,” she said, voicing excitement over the opportunity to extend Penn Design’s reputation and influence, particularly in the areas of urban planning and sustainable design. “We are in the century of the city. We need to learn to live much more lightly on the land. For me that means living in transit-served places, and increasing density. That doesn’t mean we all have to live 100-units-to-the-acre—we’re not all going to be Hong Kong—but we need to live in more compact urban forms so that all the aspects of sustainability for our society and for the globe can be fulfilled.”—T.P.


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