Photo of Dean Igor Marjanovic standing outside

Igor Marjanović

Igor Marjanović is the William Ward Watkin Dean and Professor at Rice Architecture.

He joined the community of scholars at Rice University on July 1, 2021, and recently sat down with The Architect’s Newspaper to reflect on the state of architectural education today. Below is an excerpt from that conversation.

AN: What would you say are the primary differences between the institutions where you have studied or taught and the one you’re entering as dean? What excites you most about Rice Architecture and Houston?
Marjanović: Houston is an amazing urban laboratory with a confluence of many pressing global issues: climate crisis, urbanization, globalization, and migration. Yet despite these universal trends, Houston has some very specific conditions, too. As the most diverse city in the country in terms of its demographics, Houston is the center of a new multicultural world. This positions Rice Architecture at the forefront of global discourse on architecture and identity, allowing the school to engage the universality and diversity of Houston—and the world—all at once. With its generalist approach that fuses practice and theory and defies specialization, the school moves swiftly between scales, paradigms, and modes of working, and I look forward to joining such a dynamic group of faculty members.
What would you say is the general pedagogical approach to architecture and urbanism at Rice?
Rice Architecture has many forms of engagement for such a small school, and although I have a lot to learn about my new academic home, one thing seems clear: the school has constantly invested itself in situating architecture in the larger world. These engagements include local outreach through Rice Design Alliance and the Construct design-build projects in the community, as well as the international ambit of Rice Architecture Paris. The Preceptorship program places seniors in architecture offices worldwide, while the legendary publications Architecture at Rice situates the research by architects within the public realm. As such, the school produces both practicing architects and public intellectuals—or, what I would call “scholar-practitioners,” who are equally inspired both by artifacts and arguments of architecture.
You have studied for both a masters and a doctoral degree in architecture—how have your past educational and professional experiences informed your approach to architectural education and administrative leadership?
I loved being an architecture student, so I stayed in school for as long as possible. I pursued a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree, always savoring the immense breadth of architectural education—be it in Belgrade, Moscow, Chicago, or London. In Belgrade, I studied at a time of war when students led many anti-war protests. As architecture students, we made posters and roadblocks that prevented police movement. I was lucky to have mentors who encouraged me to bring this political angle into my own work, teaching me that the worlds of architectural and political imagination are not separate, but indeed one; that our ability to draw can help visualize both beautiful buildings and more just societies.
Given the intersecting crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and racial violence in the US, what shifts would you like to see during your tenure at your new institution?
There is no question that we live in a historic moment that is ripe for social, environmental, and cultural change. Yet, history has taught us that change is a multi-generational process: emancipation was halted by segregation; the Great Society was eclipsed by neoliberal capitalism, and so on. As I reflect upon the shifts that we need to make today, I think that we need to build intellectual and political stamina so our institutions can be true agents of change over many years and generations. This, I believe, is a challenge not only for Rice Architecture but for educational and cultural organizations worldwide.
Learn more about Dean Marjanović and his work here.


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