Letter to architecture student body from Director Clive Knights
Author: Clive Knights
Posted: June 10, 2019

Dear students,

For the past twelve years I have had the privilege of leading the architecture program here at Portland State University, from 2007 to 2012 as Chair of the Department of Architecture, and from 2012 to the present as the founding Director of the School of Architecture. Having accomplished many of my goals as Director, I have decided this year not to seek re-election but instead to take a much-needed year-long sabbatical before returning to the inimitable pleasures of teaching and researching as a regular faculty member.

I came to the United States from Sheffield University, UK, to participate in the birth of a new architecture program, and I am filled with pride when I pause for a moment to reflect on what my colleagues and I have been able to create here at PSU, particularly over the past 12 years. This includes a full re-model of Shattuck Hall, a NAAB-accredited professional Master of Architecture degree with both 2-year and 3-year tracks; two graduate certificates, one in Public Interest Design and one in Urban Design; and a pre-professional Bachelor’s degree that just keeps on growing. It is humbling to note that since I took office we have graduated over 500 undergraduate architecture majors, and 150 graduates with Master of Architecture degrees, the majority of the latter gainfully employed by the regional design community. As the cost of higher education escalates it has been particularly rewarding to see local practices begin to commit to student scholarships and prizes as we aim to fill the Portland design community with a new generation of innovative thinkers, designers and makers.

During this time, I have been honored to nurture the growth of our academic programs, including the Center for Public Interest Design, a research unit whose work continues to have profound social impact locally, nationally and internationally. Our Research-based Design Initiative, bringing graduate students into direct contact with the profession through collaborative building performance investigations, continues to flourish due to the dedicated support of the participating local firms. Over the years, the school has presented 5 international research symposia, welcomed 15 renowned Distinguished Visiting Professors to teach in our studios and seminars, and brought more than 25 internationally recognized guest speakers to campus.

None of this would be possible without the loyalty, imagination and sense of common purpose embodied in the cadre of exceptional full-time faculty I have the honor of calling my colleagues, alongside our outstanding administrative staff.  In fact, our faculty numbers have grown from three to twelve since 2007. We have also built an exemplary and diverse array of talented adjunct professors, drawn from local practice, who continue to share their unique expertise in the classes they teach. In addition, we have benefitted greatly from the generosity of volunteer critics, presenters and mentors from practice who have enriched the educational experience enormously.

The greatest measure of accomplishment in education, of course, lies in the success of our students. As undergraduates you continue to be accepted at the best graduate programs across the nation and as graduate students you have consistently won honors in the AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Annual Student Design Awards. Those of you participating in our design-build programs have collectively won AIA Portland Chapter Design Awards as well as international recognition for your public interest design work from the global SEED Network.

Our goal as a school has been to promote a culture of interpretive making in communicating the aspirations of the communities we work with across the contemporary city, and I feel confident that we have accomplished this, as exemplified in the work that you all consistently produce. I want you to know that even after 35 years of teaching studios and seminars, there is never a single class session that passes without my own sense of enrichment and learning from the vitality of your thoughts and ideas. You make my job a constant pleasure, and a source of wonder and revelation, for which I am deeply grateful.

My last day as Director will be August 31, 2019, at which time I feel fortunate to be passing the rudder of this awesome vessel into the capable hands of Professor Jeff Schnabel. I am excited to witness and support the continued growth of the School of Architecture as a member of the faculty under Jeff’s leadership. I am looking forward to a sabbatical focused on my own creative growth through collage and monotype print making as I continue to explore how the rhythms and cycles of the human body are cultivated into the spatial settings of our lives together, framed by innovative architecture.

Thank you.

Clive Knights
Professor and Director
School of Architecture
Portland State University