Amale Andraos, the new dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said she wants to bring a global perspective and a strong environmental focus to the position.
As she takes over this fall, Andraos will become the 11th female dean or president out of Columbia's 20 schools, marking the first time in history a majority of individual school leaders are women.
“I think it's a very exciting moment for women in the field of architecture and for women in leadership positions, and I recognize that I come after a long line of women who had fought to get here,” Andraos said in an interview with Spectator on Thursday. “I feel very privileged to be in this position, so I'm glad to hear I'm tipping the scale.”
Andraos, a Beirut native who has lived in various parts of the world from Saudi Arabia and France to Canada and the Netherlands, said that her international experiences and viewpoints have pushed her to “create a relational mode of thinking where you are always thinking of cities in relation to one another or thinking about the past in relation to the future, never in this kind of center-periphery framework.”
“There is a sense of opening up as many territories as possible that has happened, that I want to build on,” Andraos said, referring to Columbia GSAPP's network of Studio-X urban studies labs around the world.
Currently, there are four Studio-X's in Beijing, Amman, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro. Three more will soon open in Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Moscow—and Andraos has more cities in sight.
“I hope that there will continue to be great collaborations between faculty here and research here, and the directories of the Studio-X network,” Andraos said.
In addition to bringing a global focus to GSAPP, Andraos also said she wants to “bring a strong environmental concern” to both the school and the wider University campus.
“Climate change should be ground zero for our conversations. I was in Beirut this summer and there was no water, and that's impacting the social unrest. It's very real now, and I think that that's a ground for conversation,” she said.
Part of Andraos' job as the dean of GSAPP is to advise the University president on architectural decisions regarding Columbia's campus. Andraos said she hopes to continue having conversations with University President Lee Bollinger on the Manhattanville campus similar to what her predecessor, Mark Wigley, did before.
Andraos added that she thinks the Manhattanville expansion provides an exciting learning opportunity for the school.
“What's nice is that it's going to be done in an organic enough way that I'm sure it will be possible to learn from the first shared infrastructure and the first shared spaces and to tweak that as we go along,” she said.
Being dean is just the next chapter in Andraos' career at Columbia. She arrived at the University in 2011 as an associate professor at GSAPP, and is also the co-founder of WORKac, a New York-based architecture firm.
After the search committee had completed its work, Bollinger asked Andraos to become the dean. “I couldn't say no,” Andraos said with a smile.
In an email, Wigley said he's looking forward to what Andraos will achieve as dean of the school.
“Amale Andraos is a brilliant and thoughtful architect who is leading the school into an exciting new chapter,” Wigley said in an email. “I deeply love the school. It brings together amazing thirsty students from around the world with equally amazing faculty. Amale will guide the intense creative interaction between them in new and very serious ways.”
“I am really looking forward to the rapid evolution of the school as Amale galvanizes its unique capacity to address the most important questions facing our shared world,” Wigley said.