Rice University
Rice Magazine| The Magazine of Rice University | No. 3 | 2009

Rice Names Architecture Dean Sarah Whiting

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 School of Architecture.

Whiting will take the helm Jan. 1 from John Casbarian, the school’s longtime associate dean who has been serving as dean since 16-year veteran Lars Lerup stepped down from the position earlier this year. Lerup will return to Rice in 2010 as a professor.

“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.”

Before joining Princeton in 2005, Whiting served for six years on the faculty of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Prior to that, she taught at the University of Kentucky, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Florida. She earned her Ph.D. in the history, theory and criticism of art, architecture and urban form from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Sarah Whiting’s strengths as a teacher, author and architect are clear, and she brings abundant energy and intellect to Rice,” said President David Leebron.

As a principal of WW Architecture, a firm she co-founded with her husband, Ron Witte, Whiting currently is working on projects both for the drama division of the Juilliard School in New York and for 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 involved with a number of architectural, urban and writing projects, including the master planning of Euralille, a business center in Lille, France, that opened in 1994. Witte also will join the architecture faculty, and Whiting and Witte will relocate WW Architecture to Houston.

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. She also is the author of the forthcoming book “Superblock City.”

Whiting is no stranger to the Rice School of Architecture. She has served on end-of-term project reviews many times over the past decade. She also has lectured at the school several times, most recently at the Paul A. Kennon Memorial Symposium last spring.

“Sarah has a distinguished record of achievement in the profession and in the history and theory of architecture,” Casbarian said. “Based on my initial conversations with her, she has a very compelling vision for the future of the school.”

Whiting said she brings to the School of Architecture a strong commitment to the humanities, to emerging developments in science and technology, and to the overlap between these realms that architecture is uniquely able to exploit. “Architecture’s combination of form and space affects the public by forming an aesthetic realm,” she said, “but it also fosters new experiences, relationships, economies and possibilities.”

It is a “happy coincidence,” Whiting said, that her views mesh so well with Rice’s Vision for the Second Century: “Two of the school’s strongest attributes are its historic commitment to innovative practice and its focus on the contemporary city. Cities like Houston, in particular, often have been ignored in urban studies, even though they are the paradigmatic cities of the 21st century.”
These strengths, Whiting said, form a terrific basis for moving the school forward. “Everything felt just right — poised for new possibilities,” she said. “I can’t wait to take on those new horizons come January.”