Joel Towers is a Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design at Parsons School of Design in The School of Constructed Environments. He is also the Director of The Tishman Environment and Design Center, and a University Professor at The New School. In 2009 he was appointed Executive Dean of Parsons School of Design. He finished his second term in that role in 2019 and, after a decade of service, returned to the faculty. Under his leadership Parsons completed major curricular reforms, launched several new graduate and undergraduate programs, constructed an integrated, 27,000 sq. ft. cross-disciplinary making facility and raised millions of dollars in scholarship, research, and capital funds. With the intent to expand the school’s reach and research capabilities, Towers supported multiple industry leading design and research labs and expanded the ranks of full-time faculty. Today the school is one of the most internationally diverse anywhere in the US with nearly half of the undergraduate student body coming from other countries. It is consistently ranked the top school for Art and Design in the US by QS World University Rankings.
Towers joined Parsons in January of 2004 as a member of the full-time faculty and the first Director of Sustainable Design and Urban Ecology. In 2006 he was named Associate Provost for Environmental Studies and founded The Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School. TED C, as the center is known, fosters the integration of bold design, policy, and social justice approaches to environmental issues to advance just and sustainable outcomes in collaboration with communities. From 2007-2009 he was the founding Dean of The School of Design Strategies and Associate Dean of Parsons. In 2019 Towers was named to the leadership group of the NPCC (The New York City Panel on Climate Change) which reports to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resilience and is charged with providing authoritative, actionable information on future climate change and its potential impacts to support City decision-making.
Towers received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Michigan School of Architecture and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. In 1992, after working with William McDonough Architects where he directed projects including The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability that helped codify that firm’s environmental thinking, Towers co-founded Sislian Rothstein and Towers Architects. For eighteen years SR+T completed award winning projects and was a testing ground for the integration of research, scholarship and creative practice.
architecture, sustainable design, transdisciplinary design, urban design, urban ecologies