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Mark Jarzombek named interim dean of the School of Architecture and Planning

Historian, critic, and theorist has been a faculty member since 1996 and associate dean since 2007.
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Mark Jarzombek
Mark Jarzombek

Professor Mark Jarzombek has been named interim dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P), effective July 1.

Jarzombek, who has served as SA+P’s associate dean since 2007, succeeds Adele Naude Santos, who announced on Jan. 28 that she would step down and return to the faculty after 10 years as dean.

“A distinguished historian and critic, Mark has pioneered the understanding of architectural history through a global lens,” Provost Martin Schmidt wrote today in an email to faculty and staff within SA+P. “An enthusiastic proponent of MIT’s practice-oriented approach to graduate education, he is also leading the School to explore the frontier of digital learning; his widely subscribed edX course — 4.605x: A Global History of Architecture — was the first-ever MOOC on architectural history.”

Schmidt said that Anne Spirn, professor of landscape architecture and planning, will take over from Jarzombek as chair of the committee that is leading the search for a permanent dean. The committee expects to conclude its work this fall.

Jarzombek has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1996. He is an architectural historian, critic, and theorist who has emphasized taking a global perspective in examining the history of architecture. He has written, co-authored, or edited seven books, as well as dozens of articles and book chapters.

His most recent book, “Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective” (Wiley Press, 2013), surveys building practices among societies in the distant past. He is the co-author, with Vikram Prakash and Francis D.K. Ching, of “A Global History of Architecture” (Wiley Press, 2006), and has written on topics ranging from the Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti to modern architecture — as well as a study of William Welles Bosworth, designer of MIT’s “main group” of buildings dating to the Institute’s 1916 relocation from Boston to Cambridge.

Within the last year, Jarzombek has taught 4.605x, the first course on the history of architecture offered through edX, the platform for online learning that MIT co-founded with Harvard University; he recently received a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop and share teaching materials for architectural history worldwide. Jarzombek has also played a prominent role in building diversity at SA+P.

Jarzombek began his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago before transferring to the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, in Zurich, where he received his architectural diploma in 1980. He received his PhD from MIT in 1986. After teaching at Cornell University from 1987 to 1995, he spent the 1995-96 academic year as a visiting professor at MIT before joining the permanent faculty. He was promoted to full professor in 2005, and served as director of MIT’s History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program from 1996 to 1999, and again from 2002 to 2007.

Santos, who has appointments in both the Department of Architecture and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, oversaw a period of growth and renewal for SA+P, including increased applications in its graduate programs, extensive faculty hiring, and refurbishment of the school’s physical facilities, including the construction of a building for the MIT Media Lab. Upon her decision to return to the faculty, MIT President L. Rafael Reif lauded Santos’ “remarkable eye for talent” in recruiting new faculty.

When Santos announced her decision to step down, Schmidt asked the MIT community for its insights and suggestions to help identify the best candidates for a permanent dean for SA+P. All correspondence sent by email ( or letter (Room 3-240) will be treated as confidential.

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