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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / January 

Innovative architect to speak about the future (of architecture) on Feb. 6

January 24, 2018

James Timberlake
James Timberlake is an award-winning architect whose firm, KieranTimberlake, has been recognized for its environmental ethos, research expertise, and innovative design and planning.

James Timberlake, an award-winning architect and FAIA and LEED Fellow, will discuss the future of architecture in a university-wide lecture hosted by Virginia Tech’s Macromolecules Innovation Institute (MII) and College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS).

Timberlake's lecture will highlight the rapidly evolving nexus of macromolecular science and engineering with architecture and advanced manufacturing.

Timberlake is a founding partner at KieranTimberlake, an award-winning architecture firm recognized for its environmental ethos, research expertise, and innovative design and planning. Current clients include the U.S. Department of State, New York University, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Timberlake’s lecture is titled "How Do We See the Future (of Architecture)?" and will take place on Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Street and Davis Performance Hall. The talk is free and open to the public.

"When you think of a firm that is innovative in their use of new materials and technology, KieranTimberlake is the one," said Joe Wheeler, professor of architecture in CAUS and an affiliated faculty member of MII.

Timberlake’s visit is made possible thanks to a gift by Covestro, formerly known as Bayer MaterialScience.

Wheeler said KieranTimberlake has been a model firm because it has been forward-thinking in a space dominated by anachronistic design.

"From our experience in research, we find that the building industry is stubborn and set in their ways," Wheeler said. "When a new automobile comes off the assembly line, it’s a snapshot of the technology of the times. But when a new house is built, it’s like you could be walking into the same house 20 years ago."

An example of KieranTimberlake’s modern mentality is the Cellophane House™ that was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. Wheeler said this project reinvented what a house was — instead of building the structure and adding in technology later, KieranTimberlake wrapped the house with a “smart skin” that had temperature and shading sensors embedded into the structure itself.

This lecture also represents MII’s nurturing of multidisciplinary research activities between the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, the College of Science, and the College of Engineering.

"There’s an untapped, exciting potential for Virginia Tech, bridging an architecture program that is a top-five nationally ranked program with our internationally recognized macromolecular science and engineering program, which is also a top five program," said Tim Long, director of MII and professor of chemistry in the College of Science. "When you combine two top-five nationally recognized programs together, good things happen."

Chris Williams, associate director of MII and associate professor of mechanical engineering, remarked that this type of cross-disciplinary collaboration is crucial to tackling the challenges of tomorrow for architects.

"To address forecasted challenges in housing, teams are needed to concurrently design the architectural structure along with novel materials and their affiliated advanced manufacturing and fabrication technologies," Williams said. 

Long added that he hopes students attending the lecture will see the value and potential in these partnerships. 

"If we want houses of the future, we have to nurture the relationship between architects and materials scientists and engineers," Long said. "If we don’t do that, it’s all going to be visionary. It’s not going to be reality."

Under Timberlake’s guidance, KieranTimberlake has received more than 200 design citations, including the AIA Firm Award in 2008 and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2010. A recipient of the Rome Prize in 1982-1983, Timberlake was also an inaugural recipient of the Benjamin Latrobe Fellowship for architectural design research from the AIA College of Fellows in 2001. He has co-authored six books on architecture, including the influential book "refabricating Architecture."

In addition to his architectural practice, Timberlake has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, Yale University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas at Austin, among other institutions. He was appointed by the Obama administration to serve on the Board of the National Institute of Building Sciences in 2012.

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