AMES, Iowa — Following an international search, Kotaro Nakamura has been named the chair of the Iowa State University Department of Interior Design. His five-year, renewable appointment began July 1.

“Professor Nakamura’s impressive administrative experience in complex academic environments, his entrepreneurial success as the founder of one of the most respected architecture and interior design firms in Southern California, his vision for the future of the interior design profession and his genuine care for students and colleagues make him an ideal match for the Department of Interior Design, the College of Design and Iowa State University,” said Luis Rico-Gutierrez, dean of the College of Design.

“I’m pleased to welcome him to the college’s leadership team.”

Nakamura is a professor emeritus of interior architecture at San Diego State University and a founding principal of Roesling Nakamura Terada (RNT) Architects in San Diego. He previously served as interim director (2013–2015) and director (2015–2019) of the San Diego State University School of Art and Design.

Nakamura has lectured and published widely on topics such as disaster recovery design, Japanese aesthetics and sustainable architecture and design. His professional design work includes master plans for research labs, administrative buildings and housing projects, among others, and has been featured in various design exhibitions.

He has significant experience in residential, retail, commercial, medical and institutional interior design, with projects completed for Benetton; YWCA San Diego; UC San Diego Medical Center; the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California; California School for the Deaf, Riverside; San Diego County government offices and a variety of residences.

He has specialized in projects that support community engagement and development, such as the Japanese Friendship Garden Inamori Pavilion and Botanical Building Restoration at Balboa Park in San Diego, San Diego River Park Foundation Discovery Center at Mission Valley Preserve and San Pasqual Academy Transitional Housing for youths in Escondido, California.

Nakamura’s research has encompassed the development of resilient and sustainable communities and the architectural vernacular of indigenous structures, leading to expertise in energy- and water-efficient and environmentally sensitive design. His teaching has emphasized experiential design and interdisciplinary collaboration. He has taught courses in introductory, contemporary, public, commercial, residential and detail interior design.

A licensed architect in California and a LEED Accredited Professional, Nakamura has won multiple awards from the American Institute of Architects, AIA San Diego, Concrete Masonry Association of California and Nevada, Center for Sustainable Energy and American Public Works Association San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter.

Nakamura is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the National Organization of Minority Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council. He has served on the boards of the Ilan Lael Foundation, San Diego-Yokohama Sister City Society and San Diego Model Railroad Museum, among others.

He holds a master of arts in art and environmental design from San Diego State and a bachelor of science in environmental engineering from Kanto Gakuin University, Japan.


Luis Rico-Gutierrez, Dean, College of Design, 515-294-7427,
Heather Sauer, Director of Strategic Communications, College of Design, 515-294-9289,