Theocharopoulou’s professional background has provided her with the tools to meet that challenge. She received her diploma in architecture from the Architectural Association in London and subsequently founded an architectural firm in Greece. She went on to earn a master of science degree in advanced architectural design and a PhD in architecture history and theory from Columbia University. Before coming to Parsons, she taught in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia.
Theocharopoulou defines design as “an argument that reflects how one sees the world. It has a formal component but also social, cultural, and political dimensions. To make these dimensions more explicit, you could consider what constitutes ‘good’ design—is the iPad as ‘good’ a design as the LifeStraw portable water filter? This is an example of the exciting questions our field is challenged to think about.” She and the students enrolled in the MFA ID program, as well as those in the MA Design Studies program, just launched by Parsons’ School of Art and Design History and Theory, will work together to frame answers to questions like these. Theocharopoulou says, “I run my classes as discussions based on texts that students read and respond to critically in writing before each class. In my best classes, there is a feeling of collective discovery of the material.”
When Theocharopoulou is not teaching, she is working on two new books and developing a conference series called ECOGRAM: The Sustainability Question, which she founded with a colleague from Columbia University in 2008. For Theocharopoulou, sustainability is the crucial issue that will most profoundly affect constructed environments in the future. “Design education will change dramatically as sustainability becomes more of a mainstream concern rather than an idea disputed in certain academic circles. This is already happening, of course. It means that more historical and theoretical research will be needed, and I find that very exciting. I believe that Parsons is taking sustainability and the broader issues it raises for the design professions very seriously and that the university will potentially become a leader in this area within the decade.” With a faculty of forward-thinking designers and scholars like Ioanna Theocharopoulou, Parsons is already becoming a pioneering force in design for the 21st century.