Published June 5, 2020
Associate professor and former chair of architecture Omar Khan is headed to the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, where he has been appointed head of school, effective Aug. 1.
The Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture in Pittsburgh, Pa., is one of five divisions within the CMU College of Fine Arts and is noted for its focus on sustainable urbanism and graduate research in architecture.
Since joining UB in 2004, Khan has pursued research at the intersection of design and computing, particularly responsive architecture and smart technologies in design and fabrication.
The past seventeen years have provided me with the opportunities to explore my research, work with world class faculty and teach wonderful groups of students. It has been gift to have the space to experiment, develop new teaching methods and explore the limits of architecture through interdisciplinary engagements with media study and engineering. I can’t thank the school enough for its intellectual generosity and support.
- Omar Khan
He served as chair of the architecture program from 2011-2018, and has taught both undergraduate and graduate-level studios and seminars as a member of the Situated Technologies Graduate Research Group. He also co-directed UB’s Center for Architecture and Situated Technologies (CAST), which explores pervasive computing technologies, including artificial intelligence, and their intersection with architecture.
Khan reflected on his time with UB: "It is a bittersweet departure for me to leave UB as I have spent most of my academic career here. The past seventeen years have provided me with the opportunities to explore my research, work with world class faculty and teach wonderful groups of students. It has been gift to have the space to experiment, develop new teaching methods and explore the limits of architecture through interdisciplinary engagements with media study and engineering. I can’t thank the school enough for its intellectual generosity and support."
At UB, Khan also served as co-lead of UB’s Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotics Technology (SMART) Community of Excellence, where researchers across architecture, engineering, computing and management collaborate with industry to explore robotic technologies for manufacturing. Khan’s cultivation of collaborative research in digital manufacturing with Boston Valley Terra Cotta led to the annual Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW). Now in its fifth year, ACAW has received international attention for its generation of innovative façade solutions in terra cotta in partnership with architects, engineers and ceramacists from around the world.
“Over the course of his tenure, Omar has been integral to the teaching, research and industry engagement mission of the School of Architecture and Planning,” says Dean Robert G. Shibley. “From his leadership as chair to his work with Boston Valley Terra Cotta to his design guidance in the renovation of our home in Hayes Hall, he has brought vision and energy to our program in ways that have elevated our global reputation.”
Kemper E. Lewis, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and co-director of SMART said Khan played an instrumental role in mobilizing the transdisciplinary program. “Omar has been a visionary leader, creating and deploying innovative initiatives at the intersection of automation, architecture, and engineering. His impact and leadership within SMART has enabled the community to reach unprecedented excellence in research, education, and engagement.”
During Khan’s tenure as chair of architecture, the program expanded its graduate offerings, deepened industry collaborations and saw the ascendance of its reputation through expanded design-build experiential learning and an historic increase in sponsored faculty research. He also helped oversee UB’s debut in the U.S. Department of Energy’s international Solar Decathlon, which won second place overall with its solar-powered GRoW Home. In addition to his support of the Hayes Hall renovation, Khan played a lead role in developing the SMART Fabrication Factory a maker research space in Parker Hall.
In looking to the future - and the disruptions of the current climate - Khan says the school is well positioned to respond.
"The challenges that we all face societally and specially in higher education in the coming years cannot be overstated. These past few weeks have demonstrated how ill-equipped we are to respond productively to many of these. However, I feel that the School has spent the last decade laying the foundations for addressing them better than most. In spite of tight resources it has never been limited in its imagination and willingness to act. Although I will not be part of its future, I will always look on in admiration and affection."
Khan has received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, New York State Council for the Arts and the Department of Education and is a past fellow of the New York Foundation for the Arts. In addition to his leadership of Liminal Projects, Khan is partner with Jordan Geiger in Gekh, a design consultancy.