Michael Speaks, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, has just been appointed Dean of Architecture at Syracuse University. Mark Robbins left that post to direct the International Center of Photography in New York. Speaks, who has been at UK since 2008, cited a number of initiatives as his legacy in Kentucky, including many that engaged directly with urban and rural issues in the Commonwealth. “I arrived here at an inauspicious time, a very economically challenging one, ” he told AN. “One of our goals was to make sure that as many studios engaged with real world problems as possible.”
One such project, called Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences (HBEER), developed prototypes for affordable, highly energy efficient housing, using local building materials and prefabricated assembly. Two HBEER prototypes have been built and a market roll-out is in the works. Another initiative focused on river cities in the region, from small towns to mid-sized cities, the results of which fostered masterplanning processes in many of those communities. Speaks was also deeply involved in architecture and planning initiatives in Louisville and Lexington, including a Studio Gang-led masterplan for a block in Lexington, a Space Group-led masterplan in downtown Louisville, and the recently concluded competition to day light a creek in downtown Lexington, won by SCAPE/Landscape Architecture.
Under Robbins, the Syracuse School of Architecture was deeply involved in redevelopment projects in that city, involving design-oriented architects and landscape architects, something Speaks hopes to continue when he arrives. “You never know until you are on the ground, but there are certainly a lot of potential to connect with the kind of work that Mark did.” He also plans to continue to focus on teaching students how to compete in globalized economy and to be better prepared for contemporary architectural practice.