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Kean Wins Award to Address ‘Urgency of Climate Change’

Green Lane Academic Building

The Michael Graves College School of Public Architecture, at Kean, and three other academic units, were selected to develop an interdisciplinary course addressing climate change.

Kean University is among five institutions to receive an award from Columbia University and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) for the development of a course addressing climate change through architecture, science and sociology.

Kean’s Michael Graves College School of Public Architecture will develop the interdisciplinary course with the University’s School of Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, School of Social Sciences and Human Rights Institute.

“Architecture plays a very significant role in climate, given the energy construction and operation of buildings. Our role at the School of Public Architecture is to engage the public in understanding that design affects all elements of the built environment, and the public should expect a higher standard,” said Michael Graves College Dean David Mohney.

Winners of the 2020 Course Development Prize in Architecture, Climate Change and Society were announced by Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and ACSA. The presenters said the urgency of climate change demands a singular focus including both humanities-based and creative and technical endeavors.

Assistant Professor of Architecture Gabriel Fuentes, one of the Kean faculty members developing the course, said “climate change is a global public issue and Kean University is a public institution with a global outlook.

“This award is an opportunity to reach across the University to address the most pressing public issues of our time collaboratively alongside our colleagues in the sciences and humanities,” Fuentes said. “It places Kean and Michael Graves College alongside some of the most prestigious institutions and intelligent voices addressing climate change today. As a new school of public architecture, we have a unique opportunity to build a curriculum around issues that matter.”

The honorees, selected by a jury, include Hampton University, Howard University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Minnesota. Honorable mentions went to the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto, and American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

The Kean course will be entitled Unthinking Oil: Public Architecture and the Post-Carbon Imaginary. It is being developed by Fuentes along with Daniela Shebitz, Ph.D., executive director of the School of Environmental Science and Sustainability (SESS); Julia Nevarez, Ph.D., sociology coordinator in the School of Social Sciences; and the Human Rights Institute. Craig Konyk, MGC architecture chair, and Mohney facilitated development of the proposal.  

The course will intersect architecture with the emerging field of energy humanities, and address the political and aesthetic dimensions of climate change. The underlying premise is that climate change is a cultural problem. 

“Only through an interdisciplinary approach can we understand and address the effects of climate change,” Shebitz said. “A course uniting the fields of architecture, sustainability and sociology is a perfect opportunity for the students and faculty of Kean to be leaders in addressing the inevitable shift away from fossil fuels that must occur in order to mitigate the enormous threat of climate change.”

Fuentes said the faculty team expects to develop the course throughout the 2020-21 academic year, and when offered, it will be open to architecture, environmental science and social science students.  


Each winner of the award receives a $10,000 prize to support development of the class within the next two years. The five winning course proposals will also be presented at the ACSA 108th Annual Meeting in California in March.