Kimberly Elman Zarecor

Kimberly Elman Zarecor PhD

Professor, Architecture

Signature Research Areas


Campus Office: 1620H Howe Hall

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


BA, Art History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst --1996

MArch, Columbia University --1999

PhD, Architecture, Columbia University, --2008


Research Interests

Professor Zarecor is trained as an architect and architectural historian who holds a M.Arch. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Since 2005, she has been a faculty member in the Department of Architecture where she teaches architectural history, design studios, and a research methods course. In 2022, she joined VRAC (Visualize.Reason.Analyze.Collaborate), a visualization and human machine interface center at ISU. She is a faculty affiliate and member of the supervisory committee in the HCI program where she supervises M.S. and Ph.D. students. 

NOTE: For Fall 2024, Prof. Zarecor is not currently accepting new graduate students. 

Trained as a specialist in the history of postwar architecture and urbanism in Eastern Europe, Professor Zarecor has been working on research about rural Iowa and quality of life in shrinking communities since 2017. She leads the Rural Shrink Smart Initiative (, which is funded by a .5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (2020-2024). The research team is working with rural Iowa communities to understand how some communities are able to improve perceptions of quality of life even as their populations shrink. The team is developing educational resources and new data science tools that will help other communities to adopt successful smart shrinkage strategies. This research was inspired by her previous work on Ostrava in the Czech Republic, which is a shrinking post-industrial city. The research breaks new ground in the research literature by asking what smart shrinkage looks like in rural places.

Her work on the Rural Shrink Smart Initiative has led to new collaborations with colleagues at Iowa State including the TechTHRIVE project, which she leads with Dr. Eliot Winer from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Evrim Baran from the School of Education. The primary objective of TechTHRIVE is to establish ISU as a national leader in promoting and enabling a rural innovation economy through research on cutting-edge technologies for rural applications and STEM educational initiatives designed to meet the needs of rural learners. The dual focus on technology and education could enable future transformational change in rural Iowa through new industries and higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs to encourage more young people and professionals to remain in, or return to, rural areas. This project received support from Iowa State from 2021-2024. Press release:  

For 2023-2025, the team has an EAGER grant from NSF to work with the Storm Lake Community, including the school district and Iowa Central Community College, to use Extended Reality environments to build interest in cybersecurity careers among English Learner (EL) students:

From 2021-2023, the team had a planning grant from NSF to work with the Storm Lake Community School District in Iowa:

These two grants have made it possible to do outreach and research activities in the Storm Lake community that are being developed into additional grant proposals. 

In addition to her teaching, research, and service as a faculty member at ISU, Prof. Zarecor is currently an expert working with the Innovation and Technology Ecosystems team in the NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP/ITE). She previously worked as an expert in the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate assisting with the Smart & Connected Communities program.

While developing the Iowa-based research, Prof. Zarecor continues to be a sought-after scholar of architecture and urbanism in Eastern Europe with a focus on the former Czechoslovakia. Her 2011 book with University of Pittsburgh Press, Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960, focuses on the intersection of architects, housing design, and the state apparatus in the early years of Communist Party rule. It follows the development and deployment of standardized mass-housing types such as the prefabricated structural panel building and examines the relationship between communism and architecture. It was awarded an honorable mention by the Czechoslovak Studies Association for the 2011-2012 Book Prize and was an official selection for the Book Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Academia Press published a Czech translation of the book in February 2015 in the series, Šťastné zítřky.

Since the book, she has been looking at themes that expand into questions of socialist/Second World urbanity, communist visual culture, histories of radical leftwing political thought in architecture, and the professional culture of architectural practice in the postwar period. She was a Faculty Fulbright Research Fellow in the Czech Republic in 2011-2012, a 2013 and 2023 Erasmus Mundus Fellow at Charles University. In addition to her book, she has published a number of journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and other texts.

She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), and a member of the board's Executive Committee (2023-2024).

ORCID research profile:

Current Projects


"Rural Smart Shrinkage and Perceptions of Quality of Life in the Midwest" in Handbook of Quality of Life and Sustainability, Socio-spatial and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Springer International Handbooks of Quality of Life, 2021. Co-authors: K. Zarecor, D. Peters, S. Hamideh.

"Architecture in Series: Housing and Communist Idealism." In The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures. A. Skrodzka, X. Lu, and K. Marciniak, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190885533.013.2.

Passe, Ulrike, Janette Thompson, and Kimberly Zarecor, eds. 2020. SUS-RURI: Proceedings of a workshop on developing a convergence sustainable urban systems agenda for redesigning the urban-rural interface along the Mississippi River watershed held in Ames, Iowa, August 12–13, 2019. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Digital Press.

"Smart Shrinkage in Small Towns: Understanding Why Some Rural Communities Thrive as They Lose Population in The Midwestern United States." Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 64. (November 2018): 39-49. Co-authors: D. Peters, S. Hamideh, K. Zarecor, M. Ghandour.

"The Collective House in Litvínov," "The Collective House in Zlín," & "The Collective House in Czechoslovak Architectural Culture during and after World War II." (in Czech) In To Live Together: Collective Houses in Czechoslovakia and Europe in the 20th Century. Hubert Guzik, ed. Prague: Arbor Vitae, 2019.

"Hannes Meyer's Legacy in the Czechoslovak Postwar Building Industry” (in German). In Hannes Meyer und das Bauhaus. Im Streit der Deutungen. Thomas Flierl and Philipp Oswalt, eds. Leipzig: Spector Books, 2018.

"What Was So Socialist about the Socialist City?: Second World Urbanity in Europe," Journal of Urban History,, first published 5 June 2017.


"Prague" in Capital Cities in the Shadow of the Cold War: Planning in Eastern Europe. Emily Makaš, ed. London: Routledge, expected 2024.


NSF, Smart & Connected Communities Grant, ,532,000 (PI) - SCC-IRG Track 2: Overcoming the Rural Data Deficit to Improve Quality of Life and Community Services in Smart & Connected Small Communities 

NSF. Smart & Connected Communities Planning Grant, 0,000 (Co-PI) - Preparing the Next-Generation Rural Workforce Through Inclusive and Place-Based Smart and Connected STEM Educational Delivery Models

NSF, Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems (DISES) Research Coordination Network, 0,000 (Senior Personnel, Steering Committee Member) - Developing New Strategies for Urban-Rural Systems to Overcome Interconnected Social, Environmental, and Technological Challenges

NSF, Smart & Connected Communities Planning Grant, 0,000 (PI) - A Data-Driven Framework for Smart Decision-Making in Small and Shrinking Communities (


NPR's Here and Now, Interview with Jeremy Hobson about smart shrinkage (12 Dec 2019):

Podcast: The Shrink Smart Project – Managing Population Loss in Rural Communities (7 Sept 2018):

National Public Radio story about rural smart shrinkage (20 June 2018):


Selected Uploads