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Virginia Tech’s Aki Ishida recognized as one of the nation’s top architectural educators

February 8, 2017

Aki Ishida
Aki Ishida has earned her second national recognition of the year as a leading architectural educator.

Aki Ishida, assistant professor of architecture in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has earned a prestigious award naming her one of the nation’s leading new faculty members in architecture.

Ishida will receive the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 2016-2017 New Faculty Teaching Award at the organization’s national conference in March. The award recognizes demonstrated excellence in teaching performance during the first 10 academic semesters of a full-time architectural teaching career.

This marks Ishida’s second prominent national recognition of the year. DesignIntelligence named her one of the 25 Most Admired Educators for 2016.

“It’s a humbling honor to be recognized,” Ishida said. “The past five years at Virginia Tech have been a great education for me as a teacher, designer, and scholar. I have been inspired by my students to deepen and share my knowledge of architecture, by the fellow faculty to be a better teacher and scholar, and by my colleagues to collaborate on works of art, architecture, and technology.”

Ishida joined Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design as full-time faculty in 2012 after a distinguished 17-year career as a professional architect and adjunct lecturer. She is also a fellow of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. She founded her own firm, Aki Ishida Architect PLLC in New York City, after working for Rafael Vinoly Architects, James Carpenter Design Associates, and I.M. Pei Architect. A New York state-licensed and LEED-accredited architect, she left her mark on projects ranging from museums, hipster bars, and public art installations to Princeton University Stadium.

A graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and the University of Minnesota, Ishida also taught at Rhode Island School of Design, The Pratt Institute, Parsons The New School for Design, and Konkuk University in Seoul, Korea. Each summer, she teaches architecture courses for high school students at Columbia University.

At Virginia Tech, Ishida has led students in interactive projects that merge art, architecture, and engineering, including the award-winning Lantern Field at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., and The Cloud in Ballston, Virginia. Her students have also collaborated to design exam and recovery rooms for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering, reconceptualized parks and trails in Manhattan, built immersive public art installations, and participated in a Japan travel program to study traditional and contemporary architecture.

“Aki is a professional role model of interdisciplinary design,” said Jack Davis, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “Her teaching and work incorporates influences from multiple cultures, disciplines, and technology fields for the benefit of our students, colleagues, and general public. It’s a joy to experience and witness the student engagement.”

In addition to teaching second-year architecture students this semester, Ishida is advising eight thesis students and co-leading two faculty-student research and design projects. With the smART field, Ishida is part of an interdisciplinary team devising new paths for Virginia Tech’s Drillfield that integrate illumination, data collection, and energy harvesting into the pavement. She is also working with the international dance troupe and institute Diavolo on a set design that merges light, motion, and architecture. Her written scholarship currently focuses on the glass transparency at the Glass Pavilion in Toledo and the metaphor of the glass ceiling.

In selecting Ishida for the award, the ACSA jury commented, “Aki goes beyond the expected classroom deliverables and really focuses on the learning process of her students. She has a great understanding of how architecture and its elements can be taught through immersion in different cultures."

Among Ishida’s many admirers are students and recent graduates who cite her as a driving force in their own aspirations and success.

“Aki encourages her students to experiment and fosters the environment for unexpected results,” said Nicholas Coates, a 2015 architecture graduate of Virginia Tech and recipient of the SOM Prize, a prestigious $50,000 travel and research fellowship. “She encompasses one of the most enriching qualities that educators can possess: being learners themselves. She is a professor that continues to grow and evolve with each and every endeavor – a shining role model for her students and the university as a whole.”

Ishida will present her work and receive her award at the 105th ACSA Annual Meeting, March 23-25 in Detroit.

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