New Leadership in Architecture

Amy Kulper, head of the Architecture department

“Teaching is a real passion of mine,” says Amy Kulper, who has been appointed the new head of RISD’s Architecture department effective July 1. In her former role as an associate professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, she earned the Donna M. Salzer Award for Teaching Excellence—not once but four times—and was nominated for other awards recognizing outstanding educators on multiple occasions.

Now Kulper is thrilled that she’ll have the opportunity to both teach and lead the department at RISD. “I’m stepping into the role of department head from the outside,” she notes, “so working directly with students will help give me the lay of the land and ultimately make me a better administrator.”

“The RISD philosophy completely resonates with my thinking.”

Newly appointed head of Architecture Amy Kulper

Drawn to RISD’s hands-on approach to learning, Kulper says: “The RISD philosophy completely resonates with my thinking,” adding that “the globalization of design culture has allowed makers’ thinking to take over. It’s exciting to leverage those ideas and educational paradigms when the world is so receptive to them.”

A strong believer in collaboration—both within the Architecture department and across campus—Kulper has been meeting with departmental faculty members since last fall and hopes to build on the group’s strengths as global creative professionals comfortable with combining outside practices with pedagogy.

In her own highly conceptual work, Kulper explores the intersections of history, theory and design. A collaborative project she contributed to last summer was a finalist in the Van Alen Institute’s Memorials of the Future design competition, where it received an honorable mention for Futurism and Reinterpretation. VOICEOVER proposes a method for presenting a diverse range of perspectives related to national monuments in Washington, DC. Mechanical parrots would (theoretically) hover above each monument broadcasting recorded stories from an oral archive preserved at the Library of Congress.

Rather than pursuing an architecture practice, Kulper prefers to focus on research and publishing. For the past six years, she has served as design editor for the Journal of Architectural Education and she’s also on the Editorial Advisory Board for the journal Architecture and Culture.

“I hope RISD will encourage me to think and teach differently, and I’m looking forward to capitalizing on a sense of renewed curiosity.”

Though she hopes to continue these interests, Kulper is also creating space in her professional life for what she expects will be a steep learning curve in the coming year. She’s looking forward to building on successful initiatives at RISD, such as the new 4+2 program with Brown University in which students who earn a BA in Architecture at Brown can continue on for a two-year Master of Architecture degree at RISD.

“I’m also excited to work for an institution that encompasses its own extraordinary collection,” Kulper says, referring to the holdings at the RISD Museum and other campus resources. “When I was teaching at UCLA, I’d take students across town to the Getty. Here at RISD having the museum and the Nature Lab so accessible allows the collection to become a real teaching tool and makes for a better education overall.”

Eager for the creative boost that comes with a change in environment, Kulper concludes by noting, “I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for this opportunity. I hope the differences at RISD will encourage me to think and teach differently, and I’m looking forward to capitalizing on that sense of renewed curiosity.”

Simone Solondz

May 12, 2017