Towers, Joel


Joel  Towers
MA, Architecture, Columbia University
Executive Dean, Parsons School of Design

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Areas of Expertise:
Sustainable design, urban ecology
Joel Towers is Executive Dean of Parsons The New School for Design, a role he has served since 2009. Towers has led the design and development of cutting-edge programs, curricular innovation, and the implementation of a new, more inclusive governance structure. He also serves as an Associate Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design.

Prior to his appointment, Joel was the Dean of the School of Design Strategies at Parsons, one of five schools that were formed as part of a major academic restructuring effort to foster cross-disciplinary learning. Under his leadership, the School of Design Strategies played a significant role in the development of new undergraduate programs in Urban Design and Environmental Studies as well as graduate programs in Transdisciplinary Design, Design and Urban Ecologies, Theories of Urban Practice, and Strategic Design and Management.

Towers came to The New School in 2004 as the first director of Sustainable Design and Urban Ecology. In 2006, he became the inaugural director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center and Associate Provost for Environmental Studies. In each of these roles he advanced institutional aims on a broad and ambitious scale, demonstrating a clear understanding of the shared intellectual paradigms emerging
between the liberal arts, social sciences, and design. A prime example of this approach was the university-wide Environmental Studies programs Towers helped to create in partnership with Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts.

Prior to joining The New School, Joel taught in Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, developing cross-disciplinary teaching and research focused on sustainability and urban ecology in relation to urban design and architecture. A practicing architect for the past two decades, Joel co-founded the firm Sislian, Rothstein and Towers (SR+T Architects). For several
years the firm maintained offices in New York and Berlin. Today the work generated through SR+T continues in new collaborations that extend the realm of traditional practice into construction, materials development, real estate development, and sustainable design.

Joel received his Masters in Architecture from Columbia University and his B.S. in Architecture from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.
Courses Taught:
  • Critical Ecologies
  • Senior Seminar: Designer’s Ethos
  • Core Colloquium: Home Turf
  • Senior Seminar: Design, Ethics, and Environment
  • Laboratory 1
  • Laboratory 2
  • The Chase Community Design Competition (team-taught)
Recent Publications:

“Learning Deficiency,” PRINT (July/August 2005), adapted and reprinted in textiles (2005) and by European Outdoor Group (essay that discusses teaching sustainability and the curricular, pedagogical, and contextual impact on academic institutions)

“Green Roofs: Re-imagining the City,” in Green Roofs: Ecological Design and Construction (2004) (essay looking at vegetative roof structures as a harbinger of an emerging urban ecology) (also served as a contributing editor on the volume)

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