Interview with Robert Livesey

We Are More

Volume 1, Issue 04
May 8, 2015


Robert Livesey is currently the Architecture Section Head at The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture. He was acting director of the school from 1997 to 2005. Livesey co-taught with James Stirling at Yale and received the Judith Capen Teaching award.

R: Robert Livesey
A: Anthony Gagliardi
W: Wes Hiatt

A: What do you think the role of students should be in the dean’s search process and how transparent should that process be on the side of the administration?

R: It depends on the administration and the relationship with the university. Typically, the dean search is run by the university, so it depends on the president or the provost and what their agenda is. For instance, this is not true of Yale, but if a school is close to bankruptcy then they might say to themselves we need someone who can raise money. They may not want to announce that to the faculty or the students, but that would be high on their agenda. My attitude is, which varies but usually happens, is that there would be a student on the search committee. I would say that would be most typical.

A: That is a typical thing that happens with search committees?

R: Yes, where they have been interviewing me. But, it is not required. You can look in the bylaws of the university, but I doubt that they will say that is required. It is also different for state and private institutions. In terms of a search you want to look at constituent groups, and students are a constituent groups. Certainly the faculty, staff, alumni, and students all make up different constituent groups. However, that is a democratic thing and they are not forced to follow that.

A: Just for a little background, the University has appointed a search committee from the school which is composed of five members from the school.

R: In terms of the faculty who are the faculty – is there a professor, associate professor, or adjunct faculty? Is it all tenured faculty?

W: It is a mix – associates, people that just teach studios, and tenured.

W: You have been in many shifts, whether at Ohio State, Yale and elsewhere, in your experience what have you seen to be the most effective means of balancing the constituent groups, as you said, to select the new dean?

R: First of all, are they using a search firm or outside headhunter?

A: No, I do not believe so.

R: That surprises me – with the importance of the position. But, they could say no they do not need that because they know the group of people they want to look at. The question of how you find somebody – you ask around. Either a search firm does it or you do it. You advertise, put it out there, and you get a response. For instance, they would send it to all the deans of schools of architecture and ask them for suggestions or nominations. Now, they could have done that just with their alumni.

A: Do you think any agendas, such as the financial bankruptcy one you provided earlier, should be announced to the students?

R: No. I think all the students want to know, or need to know, is that this is someone who cares about education and about listening to the students. And when I say “listening to the students,” this is in quotes because I think you should always be able to speak to the dean, but I do not know if the dean is always going to do what you say.

A: When were you most involved with Yale and what was your experience with both teaching and administration here?

R: I was adjunct faculty. I originally came in to teach with [James] Stirling and then they asked me to teach in the core. So, then I taught in the core and with Stirling. Those were two separate semesters. Then sometimes I was teaching two studios in a semester because I taught with some other people as well in the Spring semester – with Harry Cobb, Stanley Tigerman, and Richard Meier.

A: What did you teach in the core?  

R: A3 – the third semester studio. Herman Spiegel was the dean that actually hired me. He really got the interesting people of the day. Teaching with Sterling, we would always have fabulous juries with really well known people on the rise, and used to have a lot of fun doing it. I think Stern has been a good dean.

A: There are many dean shifts that have happened recently or are ongoing. The primary question is does the dean give the school an image?

R: It depends. The great thing about Rudolph, when he was dean, was even though he had a very particular attitude he brought in people very different than he was. Kahn, Venturi, and Stern all taught there. I think this is also true of Stern. He has been good in that way of getting a variety of people.

A: So, in your mind that would be something the school should definitely continue?

R: Yes. I think it is fine for you to say you want to be a part of the process and you are concerned the meetings are going to take place when you are not there.

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Volume 1, Issue 04
May 8, 2015

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