Folan Named Head of Department of Architecture for Fay Jones School

John Folan
Photo courtesy of John Folan

John Folan

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – John Folan will be the next head of the Department of Architecture for the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, effective July 1.

Folan is the T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor of Architecture and founder and director of the Urban Design Build Studio at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has done extensive work in design-build, housing design and community engagement. Folan is a registered architect and a LEED Accredited Professional. His work in the public interest arena that focuses on regionally specific, appropriate replicable design solutions predicated on community vested entrepreneurial opportunities for residents is informed by work in private practice.

"John Folan arrives to the region, the university, the Fay Jones School and the Department of Architecture at a propitious moment," said Peter MacKeith, dean of the school. "His skill and accomplishments in public interest design of high educational and community impact match precisely the ambitions and initiatives of the school, the land-grant mission of the university, and the needs of the region, particularly in housing design along the entire income spectrum. His nationally recognized commitment to professional education and professional practice will build upon and expand the legacy of the department, and his passion for the materiality and constructed quality of architecture will enhance our students' advancement into their careers and further the reputation of the department and school."

Ken McCown, head of the Department of Landscape Architecture, led the eight-member search committee that recommended Folan.

"John's passion and dedication to helping people and places in communities is a catalyst for interdisciplinary work," McCown said. "He has a wealth of successes in Tucson and Pittsburgh showing how architecture programs can be entrepreneurial and proactive in using design for the public interest. This service and practice-based research ethos aligns with the state university, along with his commitment to providing a high standard of education that can be inclusive of all type of students. John's work is on an important forefront of design education -grounded in place, connected to issues and anticipatory of architectural practice in the coming years."

Folan joins the Fay Jones School, which also includes the departments of landscape architecture and interior design. There are currently 50 faculty members and 550 students in the school, which has grown 23 percent in the last five years. In addition, the school also has three outreach components: the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, the U of A Resiliency Center and Garvan Woodland Gardens, the university's botanical garden in Hot Springs. It also partners with other universities and programs in the University of Arkansas Rome Center.

"It is a great honor and privilege to be joining the faculty and staff at the Fay Jones School as department head in architecture," Folan said. "The architecture department possesses a uniquely strong legacy in critical regionalism that sustains great influence in shaping global thought and practice. The potency of that impact is predicated on an ever-increasing commitment by the school as a tripartite collaboration between architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design. The University of Arkansas, as a land-grant institution with a commitment to innovative problem solving that demonstrates relevance to place, industry and the public, provides the strongest of institutional contexts to perpetuate my personal commitment to the implementation of work through participatory practice."

Folan has taught at Carnegie Mellon University since 2008. There, he and the Urban Design Build Studio have worked with underrepresented urban communities in Allegheny County on the development and implementation of catalytic projects through participatory design processes. The work prioritizes public interest, social justice and equity as a productive end. In 2011, he founded and assumed responsibility as the executive director of PROJECT RE_ to expand the capacity of the Urban Design Build Studio through strategic partnerships with other non-profit entities in addressing problems of regional significance at scale.

His work with the studio and community partners has been recognized with numerous American Institute of Architect Design Excellence Awards, AIA/ACSA Collaborative Practice Awards, AIA/ACSA Housing Design Education Awards, and three Design Corps SEED Awards for excellence in Public Interest Design. Among AIA awards for public interest work with the Urban Design Build Studio is the AIA Impact Design Practice of the Year in 2018.

Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon University, Folan was a tenured associate professor at the University of Arizona, where he was a founding member of the Emerging Materials Technology group. He also co-founded and served as an executive board member of the Drachman Design Build Coalition, a university affiliated, non-profit corporation dedicated to the design and construction of environmentally specific, energy efficient, affordable housing prototypes.

His teaching was recognized at the University of Arizona with six consecutive Robert C. Geibner Awards, the Daryl Dobras Award, and the university's highest teaching honor, The Five Star Faculty Award.

Folan's applied research in practice has included net-zero residential, cultural and institutional commissions in the United States, Japan, Africa and Europe. Executed within variable urban and rural landscapes, the projects have consistently engaged construction as an inherently centered, collaborative accomplishment predicated on broad consideration, sensibility and ethics. Included in this body of work are the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Wildlife Federation Headquarters and the United States Embassy Compound in Nairobi, Kenya.

His work in practice has been critically reviewed in more than 50 journal articles, has been included in several published compendia, has been documented in two building monographs, and has been recognized by more than 30 national and international professional merit award programs.

Folan received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, High Honors, from the University of Illinois and a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a Kahn Fellow and recipient of the Henry Adams Medal.

About the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design: The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas houses professional design programs of architecture, landscape architecture and interior design together with liberal studies programs. All of these programs combine studio design education with innovative teaching in history, theory, technology and urban design. A broad range of course offerings equips graduates with the knowledge and critical agility required to meet the challenges of designing for a changing world. Their training prepares students with critical frameworks for design thinking that also equip them to assume leadership roles in the profession and in their communities. The school's architecture program was ranked 26th in the nation, and the 12th best program among public, land-grant universities, in the 16th Annual Survey of America's Best Architecture and Design Schools, a study conducted in 2015 by the Design Futures Council and published in DesignIntelligence.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs.


Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design

Peter McKeith, dean
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design


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