John Folan

CFA 212A | 412.268.6260

John Folan

T. David Fitz-Gibbon Associate Professor
Director, Urban Design Build Studio

John Folan is the T. David Fitz-Gibbon Professor of Architecture, and Founder and Director of the Urban Design Build Studio (UDBS) at Carnegie Mellon University. John and the UDBS work with underrepresented urban communities in Allegheny County on the development and implementation of catalytic projects through participatory design processes. The work prioritizes public interest, social justice, and equity as a productive end. In 2011, John founded and assumed responsibility as the Executive Director of PROJECT RE_ to expand the capacity of the UDBS through strategic partnerships with other non-profit entities in addressing problems of regional significance at scale. His leadership in the realization of PROJECT RE_ has straddled transactional and physical dimensions of purpose in the promotion of entrepreneurial opportunities for under-represented populations, provision of job skill development, and demonstration of innovative design centered construction; supporting simultaneous aspirations of community restoration, resident empowerment, and material resource advocacy.

John’s work with the UDBS and community partners has been published widely and exhibited internationally with dedicated installations at the 2016 XX Pan American Bienal de Arquitectura Quito, Ecuador and the 2014 Hong Kong/Shenzhen (UABB) Biennale. The work has also been recognized with numerous American Institute of Architects (AIA) Design Excellence Awards, AIA/ACSA Collaborative Practice Awards, AIA/ACSA Housing Design Education Awards, and three Design Corps SEED Awards for excellence in Public Interest Design. In 2018, the UDBS was named the AIA Impact Practice for sustained ability to span a wide range of design disciplines tied together by a common goal to design and create a better world through innovative, scale-able, and measurable solutions.

John’s work in Pittsburgh represents an extension of efforts in university-affiliated community-based design and construction initiated while he was a tenured faculty member at the University of Arizona. In Tucson, Arizona John co-founded, co-directed, and served as an executive board member of the Drachman Design Build Coalition (DDBC); a university affiliated, non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to the design and construction of environmentally specific, energy efficient, affordable housing prototypes. Projects completed by John in collaboration with the DDBC implemented in Tucson's Urban Empowerment Zone have been recognized with three consecutive AIA Arizona Awards for Residence of The Year, the 2011 AIA/ACSA Collaborative Practice Award, and the 2016 Design Corps SEED Award for excellence in Public Interest Design. Urban strategies employed in the implementation of the DDBC work influenced the collaborative development of the Drachman Institute’s legislative proposal for regionally-specific sustainability guidelines. The work was recognized with the first place award in the 2008 National Urban Policy Initiative Competition (NUPIC).

John’s work in the Public Interest arena focused on regionally-specific, appropriate, replicable design solutions predicated on community vested entrepreneurial opportunities for residents is informed by work in private practice. Registered as an Architect since 1995 and a LEED Accredited Professional since 2008, John's applied research in practice has included net-zero residential, cultural, and institutional commissions in the United States, Japan, Africa, and Europe. Included in this body of work are the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Wildlife Federation Headquarters, and the United States Embassy Compound in Nairobi, Kenya. The fundamental thread in his research and creative practice across the span of his career has been understanding of material, productive process, and people in the translation from drawing to building.