AMES, Iowa — Douglas Spencer, an internationally renowned architectural theorist, has been named the next Pickard Chilton Professor in Architecture in the Iowa State University College of Design.

Spencer, an associate professor and director of graduate education in the ISU Department of Architecture, is widely recognized for his research and writing on the politics and theory of contemporary architecture.

Iowa State alumni Jon Pickard, FAIA, RIBA, and William D. Chilton, FAIA, RIBA — the founding partners of Pickard Chilton, a collaborative global architecture practice headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut — created the endowed professorship in 2011 to support the recruitment and retention of Iowa State faculty who are leaders in the advancement of progressive architectural education. Both Pickard and Chilton received bachelor of arts degrees in architecture from ISU in 1976.

The inaugural Pickard Chilton Professorship was held by Thomas Leslie, Morrill Professor in architecture, from 2011-2019.

During his initial three-year renewable term as the Pickard Chilton Professor, Spencer intends to research his next book, which will address the architecture of public transit systems in relation to a number of international urban, economic and political contexts.

“The Department of Architecture is fortunate to have a faculty member with Dr. Spencer’s internationally recognized standing,” said department chair Deborah Hauptmann.

“His work is considered of great importance to architectural discourse today, and the Pickard Chilton Professorship will provide invaluable support towards helping him achieve goals both with respect to his own research as well as advancing the reputation of the ISU architecture graduate program.”

Spencer joined the Iowa State faculty in 2018. His focus is on transforming the research-oriented master of science in architecture program and developing a new vision for the master of architecture program.

About the recipient

Spencer previously taught history and theory of architecture at London’s prestigious Architectural Association as well as the University of Westminster. He is the author of The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance (Bloomsbury, 2016) and the forthcoming Critique of Architecture: Essays on Autonomy, Theory and Political Economy (Bauwelt Fundamente/Birkhauser, 2021). He coauthored Critical Territories: From Academia to Praxis (Actar/List Lab, 2014) with Eva Castro, Eduardo Rico and Alfredo Ramirez.

The Architecture of Neoliberalism reflects on how the production and experience of contemporary architecture can be understood socially and politically. Critically well received, the book has been described in the Journal of Architectural Education as “a milestone in architectural criticism… an indispensable reference for all those concerned with the social and political meaning of their work.”

“I am deeply appreciative of the support and opportunity provided to me in my research and writing by Jon Pickard and William Chilton,” Spencer said. “The Pickard Chilton Professorship will enable me to develop and enrich my own scholarship, and to share the results of this with students and colleagues at Iowa State and peers in the profession.”

Spencer has published and presented widely, including at Harvard University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Yale University, University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania in the United States; Federal University of Goias, Brazil; Istanbul Technical University, Turkey; and Museum of Architecture and Design, Ljubljana, Slovenia. He guest lectured at the opening event for Platform Austria — the Austrian entry in the Venice Architecture Biennale 2020 — at the Center for Architecture in Vienna.

Spencer is co-teaching a spring 2021 studio on the “Ecologies of Repair,” part of the international Green New Deal Superstudio.

He holds a bachelor of arts with honors in the history of art, design and film studies from Sheffield City Polytechnic, a master of arts in cultural studies from Thames Valley University and a PhD in architecture history and theory from the University of Westminster, all in the United Kingdom.

Spencer will be recognized in a virtual ceremony later this spring.

The professorship fund was established through a gift made through the Iowa State University Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to securing and managing gifts and grants that benefit Iowa State University.


Doug Spencer, Architecture, dcs1@iastate.edu
Deborah Hauptmann, Architecture, hauptmann@iastate.edu
Kim McDonough, ISU Foundation, kmcdonough@foundation.iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, hsauer@iastate.edu