We are pleased to announce that John Comazzi, Associate Professor of Architecture in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, Jim Drinan, Executive Director of the American Planning Association, and Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture, have been appointed to the AAO Board of Directors. This month, we're featuring a Q&A with John Comazzi.
John Comazzi and his first book, Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography
1. For our members who haven't met you, please briefly describe yourself.
I am an Associate Professor of Architecture in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Through my work – research, teaching, and practice – I focus on issues related to design pedagogy, active learning environments for PreK-12 education, design criticism, mid-century modern design, and architecture photography. I have practiced in architecture and planning firms in Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, and Minnesota, and taught at the University of Michigan (1999-2006) before joining the faculty at the University of Minnesota.
Bonus: I am an avid baseball fan (Detroit Tigers!).
2. As a way to get to know you, what are you working on now or what recent projects would you like to share with our readers?
As for research, I am currently writing a monograph on the Miller House and Gardens in Columbus, Indiana (1953-57) – one of the most extraordinary collaborations ever assembled for a mid-century Modern dwelling: Eero Saarinen & Kevin Roche (architecture); Alexander Girard (interior architecture); Daniel Kiley (landscape architecture); Balthazar Korab and Ezra Stoller (photography); J. Irwin and Xenia Miller (clients/patrons). This work builds on the research conducted for my first book on the life and career of Balthazar Korab, one of the most celebrated photographers of mid-century Modern architecture and design (Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography, 2012). Last year, I also curated an exhibition of Korab's photography at the Dallas Center for Architecture (one of the Founding Members of AAO).
John photographing the Miller House during the AAO Members Weekend in Columbus, Indiana
As for teaching, I am currently working on a project with a group of graduate architecture students to design, fabricate, and install several outdoor learning pavilions at a nature center in Minnesota.
Bonus: I won a red ribbon in the baking category at the Minnesota State Fair for my ginger-lemon scones.
3. Tell us about the skills and expertise that you bring to the AAO Board.
Through my work in the areas of design pedagogy and active learning environments, I have been affiliated with AAO for several years as the co-chair of the Architecture and Design Education Network (A+DEN) along with Kelly Lyons (Curator of Education, Cranbrook Art Museum), so I’m hoping to leverage my interests and expertise there to keep developing resources for that vital network. Through my position in higher education, I’m looking to facilitate stronger reciprocal relationships between AAO and schools of architecture, design, planning, and landscape architecture. Furthermore, through my interests and scholarship in mid-century Modern architecture and design, I hope to advocate for the stewardship and preservation of a Modern design legacy in the built environment that is increasingly threatened due to age and neglect.
4. What excites you most about AAO?
In my interactions with AAO and A+DEN over the years, I have always been inspired by the open exchange of ideas and best practices… it’s just such a diverse network of institutions and individual practitioners. The connections and relationships that I have made through the AAO Network have transformed my perspective and approach to my own work in very tangible and meaningful ways. So, I enter the board humbled by the depth and breadth of the current AAO Network and excited to do my part to help shape future developments for AAO and to keep expanding its already rich membership base.
John at the A+DEN Workshop during the 2015 Design Matters Conference
5. What impact do you hope to see AAO achieve by the end of your board term?
Building on the successes that we have already achieved through A+DEN, I hope to leverage the broader AAO Network to forge stronger relationships between PreK-12 design educators and programmers and institutions of higher education that together are preparing our next generation of design practitioners. AAO is uniquely positioned to convene meaningful conversations about design pedagogy at various levels (early education through higher ed), so I hope to play an active role in helping advance those conversations. Two other goals of mine would include seeing the expansion of the AAO Network internationally, and a further broadening of AAO's membership to include professionals and organizations from allied disciplines, including planning, urban design, landscape architecture, environmental design, and interior design (and possibly others). AAO has already been growing its membership to reflect greater representation in both of these areas, so I intend to continue supporting those efforts as part of my tenure on the board.