Friday, the Yale School of Architecture announced that New York-based architect Deborah Berke will be stepping up as dean next July, the first woman to lead the school in its 100-year history.
“As a practicing architect and a long-time faculty member in the School of Architecture, Professor Berke is ideally positioned to lead it toward a successful future as it begins its second century,” said University president Peter Salovey in a statement.
Berke succeeds Robert A.M. Stern, who has headed the architecture school since 1998.
She first came to teach as an adjunct professor at Yale in 1987 and has since taught a range of graduate level courses, most recently a seminar on materials and a design studio.
The architect, who established her eponymous architecture and interior design firm Deborah Berke Partners in 1982, is enthusiastic about the new role, one that she sees as multifaceted: “As dean, one is an ambassador and a fundraiser, but also an academic leader, a role model, a supporter of faculty and students, and a member of the larger university community.”
One of the architect’s primary initiatives for her deanship will be to encourage cross-pollination with the greater Yale community. “The goal is to bring people—whether they’re from psychology, engineering, urban design, or cultural anthropology—to architecture,” Berke says. “It is also about architects exchanging ideas with them.”
Another important aim for Berke will be to increase diversity among both students and faculty, an objective she points out is important not just to architecture schools, but to the profession: “[Lack of diversity] is a problem in architecture. I would like to place Yale in a leadership role.”
During her tenure, Berke will live in New Haven, Connecticut, while continuing to lead her 60-person firm.
Berke holds a Master of Urban Planning in urban design from the City University of New York, as well as a BFA and a B.Arch from the Rhode Island Institute of Design, which awarded her an honorary doctorate of fine arts in 2005. Berke and her firm have received numerous awards and accolades, including the inaugural Berkeley-Rupp Architecture Professorship and Prize from the University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design in 2013, given to an architect whose work advances women in the profession.
Berke will speak at Architectural Record’s Innovation Conference October 7th.
Yale is one of several architecture schools that has recently ushered in new leadership, including a cadre of women deans at prominent institutions; Princeton announced architect Monica Ponce de Leon as dean of its architecture school this spring and architect Amale Andraos took over as dean at Columbia’s last year. “I think its fantastic that there are so many women deans in architecture schools,” Berke says. “Does it mean that the pendulum is swinging? No, I think it means that there are many women qualified for these positions.”