Elgin Cleckley



Princeton University, Master of Architecture; Fontainebleau School of Arts, Fontainebleau, France; University of Virginia, Bachelor of Science in Architecture


Elgin Cleckley, NOMA, is an Assistant Professor of Architecture with an appointment in the School of Education and Human Development and the School of Nursing. He is the Undergraduate Architecture Program Director and Director of Design Thinking. He is the Director of Design Justice at UVa’s Equity Center (Democracy Initiative Center for the Redress of Inequity Through Community-Engaged Scholarship), where he leads the school’s NOMA Project Pipeline: Architecture Mentorship Program.  

He is the principal of _mpathic design, a multi-award-winning pedagogy, initiative, and professional practice. After studying architecture at the University of Virginia (’93) and Princeton University (’95), he collaborated with DLR Group (Seattle), MRSA Architects (Chicago), and Baird Sampson Neuert Architects (Toronto) on award-winning civic projects. He was a Muschenheim Fellow at the University of Michigan and has taught at the University of Illinois, Chicago.  

Before returning to teach at UVa in 2016, Elgin was the 3D Group Leader and Design Coordinator at the Ontario Science Centre (Toronto), Science Content and Design Department, and Agents of Change Initiative (2001-2016). This work produced the world’s first museum/design thinking architectural space (the Weston Family Innovation Centre - WFIC). WFIC features award-winning exhibitions, educational facilities, and public art, with works from David Rokeby, Michael Awad, Steve Mann, and Stacy Levy receiving several Canadian Association of Science Centres Awards.  

Elgin is a recipient of UVa’s Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award (the highest teaching award an Assistant Professor can receive at the University), UVa’s Distinguished Public Scholar Award, and the Armstead Robinson Faculty Award. He has received three Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Awards - for Creative Achievement (for a _mpathic design advanced studio on The Great Migration), Diversity Achievement, and Faculty Design. He was nominated for a State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, receiving a US Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award, Campus Compact Virginia’s Community Engagement Award, and an AIA Virginia Award. His scholarship received a Dumbarton Oaks Mellon Fellowship in Urban Landscape Studies / Harvard University, supporting the development of his forthcoming 2023 book with Island Press, _mpathic design, supported by an NEA Grant. Elgin’s scholarship is a recipient of additional fellowships from MacDowell and Loghaven.  

Selected writings include Empathy Pedestals (LSU Press), Site Lines: A Journal of Place, International Journal of E – Planning Research, Next City, Medium, MANIFEST: A Journal of the Americas, the Journal for Interprofessional Education and Practice, AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, and Society), and Bridging the Gap: Emergent Ideas on Architectural Pedagogy and Practice Design (Routledge / Manchester School of Architecture).  

_mpathic design has presented at over ninety national and international conferences in architecture, design, education, and health, including the World Congress of Architects. _mpathic design’s practice includes collaborations with Dartmouth, CIMA Consulting, The Trace (NYC), Farmers Footprint, Albemarle County Public Schools, the City of Lynchburg, the Anne Spencer House and Garden (Lynchburg), and the Albemarle County Office of Equity and Diversity, for the Charlottesville Memorial for Peace and Justice (with the Equal Justice Initiative). _mpathic design recently exhibited at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, with past exhibitions at UVa’s Equity Center, Rotunda, and the School of Architecture.  

Elgin is a vital supporter of the UVa School of Architecture’s JEDI initiatives, leading the school’s NOMAS Chapter to receive Third Place in the Barbara G. Laurie Student Design Competition (2016). He was an integral part of the team creating the school’s named scholarships and BIPOC mentoring program. He served nationally as Chair of ACSA’s Leadership Committee (2021-2022), a member of ACSA’s Education Committee (2021), and a current board member of the Design Futures Forum.


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