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Department of


Associate Professor

Rob Whitehead

Associate Professor, Architecture

Mailing Address

Architecture Department
158 College of Design
Ames, IA, 50011

Contact Information

Phone: (515) 294-8276
Office: 499 Design


BArch, Iowa State University, 1993
MArch, University of Texas at Austin, 1995

On the Web

Research Interests

Critically integrating structural design considerations of process, production, and performance into technically engaging and experientially rich architecture. Emphasis on thin shell and long span structures. 

Integrating contemporary material, and fabrication considerations into the design for deployable structures. Designing structures for resiliency and service in disaster relief, recovery, and preparedness scenarios. Work is prototyped in design-build scenarios.

Development & integration of alternative pedagogical methods for teaching building technology integration and analysis including haptic learning techniques and design-centric lab work. Scholarship of teaching and learning looks at ways to emphasize the role of productive failures in design, particularly in the design ideation and testing phases of structural design.

Portfolio and dossier of scholarly work, teaching, and extension:

Current Projects

Structures by Design: Thinking, Making, Breaking (Routledge, 2019) is a new type of structures textbook for architects who prefer to learn using the hands-on, creative problem-solving techniques typically found in a design studio. Instead of presenting structures as abstract concepts defined by formulas and diagrams, this book uses a project-based approach to demonstrate how a range of efficient, effective, and expressive architectural solutions can be generated, tested, and revised. Each section of the book is focused on a particular manner by which structural resistance is provided: Form (Arches and Cables), Section (Beams, Slabs, and Columns), Vectors (Trusses and Space Frames), Surfaces (Shells and Plates), and Frames (Connections and High-Rises).

University Faculty Fellow for High Impact Practices, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Activities include production and coordination of: Project-Based learning workshops, Engaged Faculty Institute on Service-learning activities, development of CELT monograph series, and advocacy of open-educational resources and Student Innovation Center activities. 

Design-build prototypes for "Structures in Service: Design for Disaster Relief" . Applications include: portable treatment and educational environments for refugees, deployable origami inspired folded plate shelter, retrofitting seismic protections for masonry veracular structures, modular tent flooring system, pneumatic cast concrete for remote locations, etc.

Examining the historical relationships between concrete thin shell designs, engineering, and construction methods. Particular emphasis on pre-computational shell design (e.g., Eero Saarinen and his structural engineers). Historical evolution of form-finding and testing of thin shells including integration of physical models and computational analysis. 

Current Scholarship