Waterloo appoints new O’Donovan Director of the School of Architecture

Pearl Sullivan, Dean of Engineering at the University of Waterloo, has announced the appointment of Professor Ila Berman to the position of O’Donovan Director of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture.

An architect, theorist, and curator of architecture and urbanism, Berman comes to Waterloo from the California College of the Arts where she was the Director of Architecture for six years.

Originally from Toronto, she holds a professional degree in architecture from Carleton University and a Masters and Doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Her research investigates the relationship between culture and the evolution of contemporary material and spatial practices.  In diversity and scale, her work ranges from the design of furniture and installations to research on cities and large urban landscapes.

“Waterloo Architecture operates at the intersection between design, culture and technology. It is part of one of the strongest engineering universities in the country, and will be at the forefront of the technological wave,” said Professor Berman.

She cites Waterloo’s multidisciplinary programs in mechatronics, computer science and systems design as fields of growing influence, and the space where engineering and architecture are most likely to converge in the future, with specific reference to new areas in architecture such as computation and parametric design, robotics, responsive systems, interaction design, rapid prototyping, and the advanced visualization of data.

At Waterloo, the School of Architecture plans to introduce new undergraduate and graduate degrees in Design – programs that integrate industrial and communication design with interaction design, a field that focuses on the design of interactive products, environments and systems. Through research and design “labs” and incubators, she is committed to growing industry partnerships in Canada’s tech triangle, in collaboration with the City of Cambridge and the University of Waterloo, and working with a larger network of global institutions to further expand the school’s internationalist perspective.

Waterloo Architecture currently receives 1,400 applications annually, but fewer than 75 students are admitted following a rigorous interview process. Berman plans to double enrollment and to intensify expertise in response to four areas: technological innovation, environmental issues, globalization and urbanization.

“Architecture, as a discipline, has changed dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Professor Berman. “New information and digital design technologies are going to radically transform the future of architectural practice in ways that we are only beginning to anticipate. The digital revolution is as important to this generation as the industrial revolution was in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“We also need to give our students a broadened global perspective. To be relevant, our degree programs need to be linked to the real world so that we can actively participate in cultural evolution and exchange.”

It’s a philosophy very much in keeping with the Waterloo’s commitment to excellence and innovation, and Waterloo Engineering’s vision for educating for the future, with a focus on experiential learning.

“I am very pleased to welcome Professor Berman to the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo,” said Pearl Sullivan, Dean of Engineering. “A key outcome of education is to prepare next generations who can synergize knowledge to add value.  In the case of technology, the field is expanding and changing rapidly each day. New programs in digital design will stretch the envelope of what is possible. Our educational mandate is clear: we need to teach people to think in new ways. ”

Berman succeeds Professor Eric Haldenby, who held the post of Director at Waterloo Architecture for 25 years, substantially raising the school’s profile during his tenure.