Casbarian named interim dean of Rice Architecture

John Casbarian, dean emeritus and the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture, has been appointed interim dean of Rice Architecture as of June 1.

He will take the place of Sarah Whiting, the William Ward Watkin Professor of Architecture, who is leaving to become dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Whiting came to Rice as dean in 2010.

John Casbarian

John Casbarian

This will be Casbarian’s second stint as the school’s dean, having taken on the role after Lars Lerup stepped down from the position to return to the faculty in 2009.

“I have great confidence in John’s leadership and am immensely grateful for his readiness and enthusiasm to take the reins at this time,” said Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. “During his 46 years on the faculty at Rice, he has developed a detailed knowledge of the school and university more broadly, and has earned the respect of colleagues across campus.”

A Rice alumnus who joined the faculty in 1973, Casbarian is also the school’s director of external programs and founding director of the Rice School of Architecture, Paris, the university’s only satellite campus.

He also served as associate dean from 1997 to 2009 and has been largely responsible for nurturing the school’s internship initiative, the Preceptorship program, a hallmark of the undergraduate curriculum, which he continues to direct.

Once again, Casbarian looks forward to the challenge, especially as plans develop for the school’s physical expansion with the addition of William T. Cannady Hall.

“I am both honored and humbled to follow in Sarah’s footsteps, and look forward to working with a superlative faculty, dedicated staff and incredible students in not missing a beat during the transition,” Casbarian said. “Thanks to Sarah’s remarkable leadership the school is in the best shape ever, a trajectory of excellence that I am determined to keep moving forward.”

Casbarian is also a leading practitioner with the firm he founded in 1972, Taft Architects, with Danny Samuels, a Rice professor in the practice of architecture, and the late Robert Timme.

Taft is an internationally recognized Houston firm with more than 65 major design awards to its credit. The firm’s work has been exhibited extensively, including at the Venice Biennale, and has appeared in more than 200 articles in books and journals worldwide, including The New York Times, Time and Newsweek. The Rice Children’s Campus, one of the first buildings on campus to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification, is among the firm’s designs.

Casbarian earned his bachelor of arts in architecture at Rice in 1969, a master of fine arts degree at the California Institute of the Arts in 1971 and a bachelor of architecture at Rice in 1972. He returned to Houston after an apprenticeship with César Pelli and Craig Hodgetts in Los Angeles. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome where he was recipient of the Graham Foundation Rome Prize in Architecture in 1986.

In 2010, Casbarian received the Texas Society of Architects Edward Romieniec Award for Outstanding Educational Contributions, the highest award granted to an architectural educator in the state.

In addition to holding joint distinguished professor appointments at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois, Clemson University and the University of Houston, Casbarian and his partners held the Davenport Chair at Yale University. Together they are recipients of the Houston AIA Educator Award, the Houston AIA Firm Award and the Stars of Design Award for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture from the Design Center of Houston.

Casbarian has contributed to the Rice community through his service on numerous committees. He was magister of Lovett College with Natalye Appel from 2000 to 2004 and an inaugural member of the Faculty Senate, serving for three consecutive years. He was appointed faculty representative to the Rice Centennial Commission, and in 2017 he was Rice Homecoming and Reunion co-chair.

“John is very much respected and admired both here at Rice and among architecture professionals,” said Rice President David Leebron. “We are extremely fortunate that he is willing to undertake the role of interim dean, and I look forward to working with him as together we continue to advance our extraordinary school of architecture.”

The university will soon begin an international search for a permanent dean.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.