Andrea Wheeler  PhD

Andrea Wheeler PhD

Associate Professor, Architecture
Provost’s Faculty Fellow for Student Success, Other



Campus Office: 389 Design

Mailing Address
Architecture Department
158 College of Design
Ames, IA, 50011


Research Interests

I care about the actual performance of buildings, and the social science lifestyle change.


  • What do you research/what kind of projects are you working on?

My past projects have focused on the design of educational buildings. I have been interested in both the sustainable architecture of schools and assessing how different pedagogies and teaching practices embodied in design affect students' performance. Figuring out this assessment and its methodology is a complex task, and I have worked to develop methods including children's participation. During my time at Iowa State University, I have been awarded seed research grants from the Iowa Energy Centre and the Iowa NSF/ESPSCoR Energy Utilization Platform from the Provost's Office as additional start-up funds and the ISU Centre for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities. 

I have been awarded several fellowships throughout my career at the University of Bath in the UK, the Sir Edmund Happold Senior Research Fellowship (2013), the Big XII Fellow at The University of Austin at Texas (2014) and the University of Cambridge. My current research returns to the philosophy and environmental ethics of the French thinker Luce Irigaray who was the focus of my Ph.D. thesis and who calls for the birth of new notions of what it means to be human upon the earth. Luce Irigaray is a pivotal philosopher whose work has influenced a generation of feminist theorists. 


  • How does your research make a difference?

I have characterized my scholarship over the past 15 years as having a foundational idea, the idea studied in my Ph.D. thesis, which is an idea about love. My scholarship is marked by a concern for relationships, for ways of being in the world and ways of being upon the earth together. It explores ethical modes for how we can relate to the built and natural environment and other living beings in our social environments. Fall 2022 will see a reconnection with the fundamental idea and a moving forward with its significance in the academic discourse of sustainability in architectural design. It is my mission for this research to make a difference.


Current Projects

My work engages with environmental philosophy and with, ethics and aesthetics. Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 will see a deepening of those engagements.

  • Briefly describe one of your projects.

Over the past four years, I have been invited to present research work at conferences and seminars organized and hosted by Luce Irigaray, and these have included most recently: "Thinking Love" at the University of Bristol in June 2016 and "To Be Born: Genesis of a New Human Being" at the Department of Philosophy. The University of Sussex. I was awarded a research fellow at the Centre for Research in Advanced Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge in 2018. I am a member of a Faculty Learning Community here at ISU which is a group of professors, about eight of us, who have been working together on the notion of sustainable peace. We all come from different disciplines across campus - engineering sciences, humanities, social sciences, education, and design. We all have different disciplinary perspectives on methods and how to work towards peaceful and sustainable environments. We have an edited book manuscript in preparation where we have all contributed chapters. We have been running a very successful class for Honors students that we all teach. Next year we will be hosting a National peace conference on campus.

  • How do you involve students in your projects?

I mentor Master of Science in Architecture students and graduate and undergraduate research assistants. I have encouraged those students to attend international masterclasses, conferences, and seminars, engage in fieldwork and publish their work. I happily accept proposals to mentor Master's level research projects in sustainable design.



I graduated in Architecture from Oxford Brookes University, gained an MPhil from the School of Mechanical Engineering at Oxford Brookes University, and was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham School of Architecture in 2005. My thesis examined the question of dwelling through the philosophy of Luce Irigaray, the title was: With Place Love Begins?

  • What courses do you teach?

I am a studio instructor and teach a Green and Sustainable Architecture class, ARCH 559. In this class, students learn to navigate the field of sustainability in architecture, with all its tools, techniques, and visions for the future. ARCH 558 is a highly participative seminar, and students give small research presentations on selected themes. Dialogue and discussion are encouraged, and students develop sustainable design research themes and creative options. 

  • Why should a student take your class? How does your class help students become employable?

ARCH 558 students are exceptionally employable. Those taking my class have a strong advantage over and above their peers. They are able to discuss foundational ideas in the history and theories of sustainable design and critically engage with the different tools and methods available to designers, knowing their advantages and disadvantages. The problem of sustainability is not going away anytime soon, and neither is the need for designers to be able to understand the imperative of sustainable design.

  • How does your prior experience contribute to the classroom discussion and the way you teach?

I came to Iowa State after spending six years working on architecture-related research projects at Loughborough University and The University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, within commercial practice and government. During this time I was awarded a prestigious three-year ESRC/EPSRC interdisciplinary fellowship to examine sustainable schools and sustainable behaviors and subsequently worked as a research fellow for a central UK government research unit, Defra's Sustainable Behaviors Unit in Westminster, London. This prior experience taught me how important and transferable the skills of the academic environment are to professional practice and to policymakers. In 2018 I gained tenure at Iowa State University, and in 2021 was elected Faculty Senate President. Leadership has been a curiosity throughout my career. As a first-generation student, it was well into my career before I recognized the benefit of mentorship and support, and I have now cultivated a network of coaches and critical friends. It’s a great team. I bring to my classroom and its rich discussions, a broad background in scholarship and research and insight gained from practice in tools and methods of participatory action research and situational leadership.

  • What is one thing you try to teach ALL of your students?

Sustainable design is all about making situationally specific design decisions in different social, economic, and ecological contexts. There are so many visions of a future and so many associated methods, that designers have a responsibility to be able develop a level of technical and theoretical understanding of this field and be able to act within it. 

  • What is your teaching style?

I am a student-centric teacher.

  • What are your expectations for students?

I would like all of my students to have gained from my design studios and seminars a degree of self-efficacy, the importance of persistence (in studies and in career development), and a sense of belonging to a professional body of architects and designers working to develop a vision for a sustainable future.

Selected Publications

  • Conference in University of Paris 8 and Sorbonne University. International Colloquium. Vers une Pensee Sensible, 7-8 June 2021 (cancelled due to COVID)
  • Interdisciplinary Sustainable Peace Faculty Learning Community Member
  • Visiting Fellowship at The Center for Research in the Advanced Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) The University of Cambridge, UK May – June 2018.