New Chair in the Division of Multidisciplinary Design


Nicole Porter, Ph.D., has been named chair of the University of Utah’s Division of Multidisciplinary Design in the College of Architecture and Planning

Nicole Porter, Ph.D., has been named chair of the University of Utah’s Multidisciplinary Design Division (MDD) in the College of Architecture and Planning, effective August 1, 2022. Porter will oversee the education, curriculum development, research, programs and divisional recruitments. She was named after extensive international research that began last year and included virtual public presentations and student meetings.

MDD currently offers a Bachelor of Science and a Minor in Design. The holistic curriculum explores physical, digital, and platform design, encompassing a curriculum comprising four substantive areas applicable to design education: studio, technical, history/theory, and practice.

Porter is the author of more than 40 publications and conference presentations presented in 20 different countries. She is the world’s authority on the relationship between landscape and place branding, exemplified in the book “Landscape and Branding: the promotion and production of place” (Routledge, 2016). Porter is also internationally recognized for her pioneering work at the forefront of mind-body-environment relationships and well-being, synthesizing built environment design theory with mindfulness-based interventions (MBI).

Discover the new chair

With a background in landscape architecture (Ph.D.), architecture (MA) and planning (Bachelor of Planning and Design/Architecture), Porter has worked in academia in Australia at the University of Melbourne and the University of Canberra before joining the University. from Nottingham, England, in 2011. His interdisciplinary work integrates theory, design studio teaching and public engagement, with teaching linked to research activities that respond to local landscape issues in diverse urban and non-urban.

What attracted you to this position at U?

I am excited about what has already been put in place within the Multidisciplinary Design Division in a relatively short time: an innovative curriculum, an enthusiastic and growing student community, and a dedicated and creative faculty. This environment is particularly attractive because it integrates design thinking, process, pedagogy and research in a truly multidisciplinary context.

My own experience is in different disciplines. I started with fine art, then architecture and planning, then I discovered landscape architecture, the wider spatial and built environment and natural and built environments. More recently, my work has branched out to incorporate mindfulness and wellbeing, investigating how the physical (and digital) spaces we design and inhabit affect our mental and physical health, and how we might engage with those and understand better through mindfulness and being. aware of the present moment. I think that especially if we want to tackle the big global challenges, environmental issues, public health and social cohesion, we have to creatively bring together different disciplines, and this is where it has to be done.

Finally, as a landscape architect, these majestic mountains are an attraction in themselves – an inspiring and beautiful landscape in which to work and learn!

What skills do you bring to this position?

Having conducted research, taught and practiced in Australia and Europe, I bring curiosity and a global perspective to this position; as well as continually learning new things and meeting new people and places. I enjoy collaborating with others, and the MDD program is as much about learning to stay curious and collaborating to bring design and non-design actors together to discover new ideas, opportunities and solutions.

How do you feel about being in a college where all three presidents are women?

It’s really positive and shows a great vision for the college. At the University of Nottingham, I served as Head of Faculty in our institution-wide Research Academy (the equivalent of the U Graduate School) where I worked with inspiring colleagues from diverse backgrounds, learning a lot from this experience. Extending leadership opportunities to a diverse group of people with different perspectives and skills is how we achieve great things, rather than relying on people with the same ideas and approaches. Having an authentic mix of voices is essential whenever you want to tackle complex issues, make balanced decisions, and make meaningful change in the world.

What do you think of the program and how do you see the future of MDD?

I am impressed by the ethic of care that guides the College of Architecture and Urbanism, with its fundamental principles of “responsibility, resilience, respect and response”. I consider them fundamental for the program and the division. My vision is to continue to reinforce and embed this ethic of care in all that we do, so that the MDD division is the preeminent place for creative individuals, organizations and communities to collectively design places, products and systems that support the mutual development of people. and the planet.

One of the first things I will do is have conversations with students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders to collectively co-design this vision as we move forward.

What gives you passion ?

Many things! My first intuitive answer is to say that I am passionate about valuing and creating exceptional places and landscapes, but I am also passionate about how these places support communities and individuals. If you don’t have welcoming, healthy and inspiring places – parks, buildings, streets – you will struggle to cultivate a friendly, open and healthy community.

I also became passionate about getting back to some of the fundamentals of design and just paying attention to the simple things that we too often can be too distracted or busy to notice. There’s always new technology and software to learn, but it’s important to remember the fundamentals like observational drawing and listening with empathy. Mindfulness-based practice teaches us to have present-moment awareness, which is a way of engaging with the world that is personally beneficial; its application in research and education for designers is where I also see enormous potential, as it reinforces these fundamentals.


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