History – Department of Architecture + Interior Design

(Updated: September 2014) 

The Department of Architecture was established in 1929 and located on the third floor of McGuffey Hall. Under the direction of Harvey Hiestand, who led the department until 1938, the first class graduated in 1932 and included W. W. "Andy" Wertz, who was to be a member of the faculty for forty years. (In 1972, the Art and Architecture Library was named in his honor.)

Russell S. Potter, a principal in Potter Tyler Martin & Roth of Cincinnati, headed the Department from 1938 until 1947. In 1947, the Department moved to temporary quarters on the corner of Spring and Maple, and William Dunbar became Chair. When Dunbar died three years later, Leicester Holland was appointed Chair; but, one year later, Holland also died.

Growth of the Program (1952-1991)

In 1952, C. E. (Mik) Stousland returned to the Department as Chair, having been on the faculty during the academic year 1947-48. The Department received its first accreditation from the NAAB in 1954 and, in that same year, developed a graduate program in City Design under Professor Rudolph Frankel, who had enjoyed a distinguished career in Czechoslovakia before World War II. During his term as Chair, Stousland originated the London Study Program that was an optional year of study in London at the Architectural Association for fourth-year students. In 1971, after having led the Department for nineteen years as Chair, Stousland returned to full-time teaching.

He was succeeded by Gordon Echols, during whose administration several important changes occurred. The five-year Bachelor of Architecture program was eliminated and replaced by the four-year Bachelor of Environmental Design and the two-year Master of Architecture, a revision that had been under development for several years. During Echols' tenure, the Department moved from Hiestand Hall (the fine arts building, dedicated in 1958) to Alumni Library, which was renamed Alumni Hall. After serving as Chair for four years, Echols left to become Assistant Dean at Texas A&M. During the search for Echols' successor, Harold Truax, the Associate Dean of Fine Arts, was Acting Chair for one year.

In 1976, Hayden May, a member of the University of Cincinnati Planning Department, became the next Chair. During his administration, the Master of Architecture program grew and the undergraduate program was strengthened by the decision to integrate the first-year curriculum with Miami's School of Interdisciplinary Studies (Western College Program). May served the Department as Chair until he was appointed Dean of the School of Fine Arts in 1983. During the search for a new chair, Ann Cline served as Acting Chair for the academic year 1983-84.

In 1984, Robert Zwirn, from the office of I. M. Pei and Partners in New York, became the Chair. Zwirn brought extensive experience as a project administrator for Pei in Singapore, a broad background that included a degree in law from the Jones Law Institute at the University of Alabama, and a strong sense of ethics and social responsibility. In 1991, Zwirn stepped down from the Chair and returned to teaching, later moving to the University of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, as Director of the School of Architecture.

Planning for the Future (1992-present)

Robert Benson, who had joined the faculty in 1985 and served as Director of Graduate Studies since 1987, was appointed Chair, beginning January 1, 1992. During his first term, Benson established an internship program, improved alumni relations and development, strengthened recruitment, and worked toward the improvement and expansion of technological facilities and programming. The Department programmed and participated in the selection of architects to renovate Alumni Hall and expand it with a 32,000sf addition. Following an extensive search process, Hammond, Beeby, Babka out of Chicago was hired to design the Alumni Hall renovation.

During his first term, Benson and Dean May also negotiated the transfer of resources from an earlier major in housing and interior design in the School of Education and Allied Professions to the Department of Architecture, in order to begin an undergraduate professional program in Interior Design culminating in a BFA degree. This new degree involved a phase-out/phase-in process whereby the former degree program was terminated and a brand new one created in the Department of Architecture, with a new curriculum, new faculty, and new administrative practices to parallel those in place in the Architecture program. The name of the department was subsequently changed to “Department of Architecture + Interior Design” in 1998. The Alumni Hall renovation, in addition to addressing the need for facility updates, was also necessary to accommodate about 75 new majors in Interior Design. In 2002, when it first became eligible, the new BFA applied for professional accreditation from the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER)—subsequently renamed the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)—and was granted a full six-year term accreditation. 

During Chair Benson’s tenure, the former Bachelor of Environmental Design (B.E.D.) degree was changed to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Architecture. The intent was to provide better disciplinary identity within the pre-professional program. Also, a dual degree option was established in 1996 between the M.Arch. and the M.B.A. programs within the Richard T. Farmer School of Business (subsequently discontinued). Benson was reappointed in March, 1997, to a second term of five years; and in March 2002 to a third term of five years.

In 1996, Hayden May announced that after fourteen years as Dean he would step down and return to teaching. A national search for a new Dean during the academic year 1996-97 was unsuccessful and May agreed to serve as Dean one more year while the division conducted a new search for his successor.

A second national search in 1997-98 was successful. Pamela Fox, Chair of the Department of Music, was appointed Dean. Dean Fox was instrumental in restructuring and re-envisioning the division. She left in 2003 to accept the Presidency at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. Following brief service by Interim Dean Curt Ellison (2003-04) and Dean Jose Bowen (2004-2006), Robert Benson vacated the Architecture + Interior Design Department Chair position (where he had served for 15 years) to become Interim Dean (2006-07). During the spring of 2007, James Lentini was hired from the College of New Jersey, where he had served as Dean of the School of Art, Media, and Music.

Following Robert Benson’s departure to assume the Dean position, John Weigand served as Interim Chair (2006-07). A year later, at the request of the faculty, he was appointed as permanent Chair. Weigand, a registered architect with extensive practice experience in Chicago, had been hired in 1995 to conceptualize and direct the new BFA in Interior Design. He thus brought to the Chair position experience with both of the undergraduate majors. He has currently served in the Chair position for eight years. 

During 2006-07, the university voted to terminate the divisional status of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (Western College Program), along with its residency component. The WCP has since been reestablished as a program within the College of Arts and Science. Since the Department had shared the Western College first-year “living-learning” residency program for over 25 years, it needed to revise its first-year curriculum. First-year students entering fall 2007 lived in various university dorms across campus and enrolled in “main campus” first-year liberal education courses, as is typical practice. This curricular shift has worked well, especially since all current entering Miami students are required to select a “living-learning community.” These LLC’s, in many ways, have replaced the earlier residency requirement in the Western College Program.

Since the most recent 2009 NAAB visit, the Division and Department have been relatively stable In terms of faculty, programming, and administrative assignments. In 2012, the name of the division was changed from “School of Fine Arts” to “School of Creative Arts.” Within the year, it was further modified to “College of Creative Arts” in conjunction with the university’s efforts to assign “college” status to its divisions.