School of Architecture and Design, New York Institute of Technology
by Maria R. Perbellini, AAIA, OAI, Dean and Professor 

Dean’s Newsletter April 2020: 

I do hope you and your families are well.

This letter integrates and updates information from March 13, 23, 30, and April 11 Dean’s Messages. I would like to take a moment to reflect, in this time of uncertainty and physical distancing, on us, our lives, our collective agency, our grit, and our remarkable resiliency.

I have been impressed with the adaptability of our faculty and staff to prepare for, and enact, the transition to digital teaching and learning. We have done this quickly, with competence and synergy, revealing a mutual spirit of great camaraderie. I am immensely thankful for your tireless work and efforts. I am also extremely proud of our students for slipping into this temporary, but unavoidable, situation. They have been brave and strong in the face of adversity.

We continue to have an “open door” policy for students to reach out to the Dean, Dean’s Office, and faculty. We unconditionally welcome our students’ feedback and concerns as we are here to help navigate and resolve their difficulties with technology, coursework, and resources. Most importantly, we are here to help ease their hardships. It is essential to reassure our students, be positive, mentor, and guide them with optimism.

As tech savvy as we are at SoAD (yes, we are!), this transition has presented us with unforeseen challenges, but also opportunities, to be creative and smart. We are already into the second month of what is called “Emergency Remote Teaching” (ERT). And now all summer classes will be delivered remotely as per Provost Gonzales’ message to faculty on April 1:

“Given the current and projected state of COVID illness, as of now, courses in all summer terms (unless noted otherwise in future communications) must be offered in remote teaching modalities (e.g., synchronous and/or online asynchronous deliveries).”

The New York Tech Deans meet several times a week with the Provost and the Academic Affairs team to effectively collaborate on organizational and redesigned actions that this unprecedented and urgent situation requires. This coordination is essential to guarantee a prepared response with thoughtful measures for all our academic units. I send kudos to our SoAD leadership team for incessantly working on a range of undertakings, including recruitment activities and initiatives online, by phone, by email, and through social media.

We can’t exactly predict how this new reality will affect us or for how long, what the likely consequences will be on our student retention and enrollment, the effects of the Pass/Fail policy, the extent of operational layoffs and furloughs, and the impact on our curricula. What I do know is that we are proactively addressing digitized learning as both a short- and long-term opportunity to reimagine our design pedagogies, to accept the idea that nothing will be the same again, to reframe our profession and its ethical and more sustainable responsibilities, and to be sensitive to the intellectual nourishment and culture of our school through ephemeral platforms.

With a view to trying to reproduce our shared culture in the SoAD, evident in studio discussions, reviews, lectures and events, I encourage you to participate in group activities online, in your studios, and other courses, and to remain in touch with each other and support each other. We are promoting productive discussions through SoAD Town Hall meetings and engaging students and faculty in the Student Affairs Committee, where ideas arose of the possibility of expanding communication forums for students. I suggest you start chatrooms and adapt social media as online vehicles that substitute, at the moment, for our SoAD in-person shared culture. As they arise, we will share listings of online activities of interest at New York Tech and through other institutions and partnerships.

We are seriously prioritizing the preparedness for a new mode of learning and teaching digitally for the duration of the spring and summer sessions. While we do not have all the answers about tomorrow, next month, or next semester, I can say that we are doing what’s best for our students to facilitate the successful completion of their courses. It is admirable how we did what we did, especially in the little time we had. We know it is not perfect, it is not easy, and let me say again: THIS IS OK. We are architects, creative designers, and passionate intellectuals, and we know that change has to happen for things to be reinvented.

Online learning is different from emergency remote teaching; it is harder in its connotations, but this time can bring us the momentum to talk about how we teach, more extensively about pedagogy in general, and critically thinking about the future we want to have. While some assignments are no longer possible, we can transform our classes into excellent online courses and even online degrees (or/and hybrid combinations) step by step, day by day, if we work in solidarity to help our students and our colleagues make this transition. It’s about flexibility, accommodation, open mindset, and teamwork. We must work on our motivation, be unified, and stay connected.


The Accreditation Commission of the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) met on April 3, 2020 and granted accreditation for six years to our B.F.A. in Interior Design program. Congratulations to the Interior Design Department for the excellent outcome! This is a tremendous accomplishment that speaks of the important role Interior Design plays in advancing technology, innovation, and interdisciplinary design strategies.

Stay informed with recent communications from SoAD, New York Tech administration, and appropriateunits. Iaimtocontinuefluid,open,andregularcommunicationfromtheDean’sOffice and the SoAD community. We will relay crucial news and useful resources related to remote learning, teaching activities, midterms and final reviews, graduation, summer courses, the fall semester, and any important issues as appropriate.

Dean Maria Perbellini has been invited to be a member of Padiglione Italia’s Advisory Board for the 2020 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy.

Dean Maria Perbellini is happy to spearhead the intellectual nourishment of our school and provide funding in support of the SoAD lecture series and exhibitions, symposia, seminars, FabLab resources, S-Lab projects, faculty development, specialized workshops, special projects and events, studio and thesis ateliers, and student scholarships.


Professor Jonathan Friedman sent a thoughtful contribution on “architectural model making and design studies under these exceptional circumstances.” Here is an excerpt:

Regarding Design Models in Quarantine

“In this unprecedented time of enormous difficulties, here are a few brief stories regarding model supplies, model making, and design invention. The leaders of our school know that now is not the time to waste money and certainly not the time to go out to get materials. The issue is to make and study space. And whatever materials are at hand, the challenge to make flimsy sheets into sturdy structures is an effective way to investigate architectural issues of light, form, scale, mass, and void.

When Jullian de la Fuente was working as a young man in Le Corbusier’s office in the 1950s and 60s, he saved sketches and other materials (sometimes rescued from the wastebasket!) which he brought to the University of Kentucky as a visiting professor in the 1970s. These were curated and made into an exhibition, documented in the catalog atelier Rue de Sevres 35, by Jullian de La Fuente and Anthony Eardley, Lexington, 1975. These brief stories and illustrations are taken from that time and catalog….”


Altwicker, M. Professional Recognitions: T3/Toronto; Toronto, Canada – Senior Architect, 3XN Architecture – 11-story office building; tallest commercial mass timber building in North America, completion 2021. LEED Platinum

Campani, F. Aluminaire House Reconstruction. Professor Campani is the Secretary and Financial Officer of the Aluminaire House Foundation, NY, which has the mission to relocate the 1931 Aluminaire House of A. Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey to a permanent, appropriate location. Two sites in Palm Springs, Calif., are under consideration: College of the Dessert (part of the University of California system) and Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM).

Del Signore, M., & Gandhi, F. “Intelligent Micro-Infrastructure: High- and Low-Tech Design in

Climate Vulnerable Cities” in UIA 2020 RIO 27th World Congress of the International Union of Architects Conference.

Del Signore, M., & Lorenzo-Eiroa, P. Informed Interscalar Fluidity, Exhibition and Installation curators with SOAD thesis students and Sergio Elizondo, 2020 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, Palazzo Bembo, GAA/European Cultural Center, Venice, Italy.

Del Signore, M., Diniz, N., & Melendez, F. Data, Matter, Design: Strategies in Computational Design, Book, Routledge, N.Y., 2020.

Gandhi, F., & Martinez, J. Taking Puerto Rico by Storm. A group of 18 interdisciplinary students from New York Tech traveled to Puerto Rico for 10 days to build a storm station at the CAUCE (El Centro de Acción Urbana, Comunitaria y Empresarial) in the small town of Río Piedras.

Jung, H. T. Standardized Flexibility and Its Predicament, Paper, AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, Society) Conference, Tallahassee, Florida.

Kim, D. An outsider’s short reflection on the question of Architecture and the Humanities: Is There a Relevant Relationship Today? Architectural Critics Journal, 20 (Winter), 14-23.

Kim, D. Invited exhibitor, for the Future School Exhibition at the Korean Pavilion at the 2020 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy.

Lorenzo-Eiroa, P., & Mieses, A. “Ecoinduction III: Rezoning New York City through Big Data” in Data and Design: Methods of Computational Design Strategies, ed. Marcella Del Signore, Nancy Diniz, and Frank Melendez, Routledge, N.Y. 2020.

Schwarting, J. M. “Waterfront Management Study Report – Storm Surge Water Runoff & Rising Tides,” Report commissioned by The Incorporated Village of Port Jefferson, N.Y.


Out There…

Dean Perbellini joined Northeast Schools of Architecture Deans and the AIA Center for Architecture in New York City to share initiatives and experiences during this time of confinement. This common platform will keep the school connected to a larger, resonating culture of architecture and promote a meaningful interchange.

PPE Production for Hospitals

Promoting social engagement, togetherness, and unity, Dean Perbellini spearheaded SoAD’s partnership with NYITCOM, the College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Engineering and Computing Sciences in a New York Tech team endeavor under the coordination of Vice President Suzanne Musho. This collective effort focused on making PPE to help meet local hospitals and the health care sector’s urgent needs via materials fabrication and distribution. Our SoAD FabLab Staff and Computational Design Faculty are well prepared, digitally specialized, and eager to contribute to designing, 3-D printing, and 2-D laser-cutting face masks and face shields.

This SoAD collaboration includes the participation of Dustin White, Director of Digital Technologies & Fabrication, FabLab supervisor Mauricio Tacoaman, and Associate Professor Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa, together with thesis students, including Ari Begun, Peter Leonardi, Alexandra Panichella, Karina Pena, and Benjamin Sather, all of whom we are immensely proud of and grateful for their commitment to this initiative. They are remotely engaged with design and fabrication ideas (experiential, community-based, and hands-on learning experiences) for the custom-designed face shield and face masks. This is an amazing opportunity for them to contribute their creativity, talent and character, leveraging digital skills, sharing resources and real-life experiences, and fostering solidarity.

Student Support

Student Emergency Fund application: Support for students facing financial challenges caused by COVID-19.

Loaner Computers: Students must complete a Computer Loan Request form.

Emergency CARE Grant is also available to students and covers general financial challenges. Interested student must meet these criteria

During the annual Big Give, our school raised $22,780 for SoAD students from 48 donors, placing fourth among the leaderboards and second among New York Tech schools and colleges! We also have been very successful in our fundraising efforts for scholarships and financial support. Considering that the crisis is affecting everyone, the generosity of our faculty and alumni was, and continues to be, amazing. THANK YOU!

Please allow me to THANK YOU, our SOAD faculty, leadership team, and staff, for the extraordinary work you are doing together to prepare and support our students. In the past several weeks, we have developed plans to ensure we can provide excellent service while protecting the health and safety of everyone. I am immensely grateful for our unity and for your trust. I have unshakable confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles with vigor, strength, and optimism. Your generosity, attention, and care have resonated deeply with me.

Yours sincerely,

Maria R. Perbellini, AAIA, OAI

Dean and Professor


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