Phoebe Crisman



Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Master of Architecture in Urban Design, degree with distinction; Carnegie Mellon, College of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Architecture


Phoebe Crisman AIA is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia, where she teaches design studios and lectures on architectural theory, urbanism and sustainability. Crisman is Director of the Environments + Sustainability track of the Interdisciplinary Major in Global Studies. She also directs the Global Sustainability Minor, which in conjunction with the Major form the UVA Global Sustainability Initiative. An affiliated faculty member of the McIntire Business Institute's Certificate in Sustainable Business, she is also an associated faculty member of the  South Asia Center. From from 2009-2012 Crisman was Associate Dean for Research and International Initiatives for the School of Architecture. During that time, she co-founded and co-directed the UVA India Initiative. In 2014-2015 she was a Richard D. Donchian Fellow in Ethics at the Institute of Practical Ethics and Public Life. Currently Crisman is a Fellow of the Institute for Humanities & Global Culture and was awarded a 2018-2019 Mellon Indigenous Arts Fellowship.

Educated at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Carnegie Mellon University, Crisman conducted post-graduate research as a Fulbright Fellow in the Netherlands. A licensed architect and urbanist with over thirty years of professional experience, she practiced with firms in Chicago, Cambridge and Hong Kong prior to establishing Crisman+Petrus Architects. Her professional work, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), the Discovery Museum and Urban Bridges, has been widely published and has received numerous design awards. In 2018 she was awarded the Prize for Public Interest Design by The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design.

In her teaching, research and practice, Crisman focuses on the design of sustainable relationships between specific cultures and built environments. Working in overlooked places and with people underserved by design, she has developed a model of engaged design research to test abstract ideas and create more sustainable communities. Agency through architecture and the critical engagement of complex social and ethical considerations are crucial to this work. Employing ecological and cultural sustainability strategies across multiple scales, she investigates complex relationships between human inhabitation, environmental restoration, and sustainability education. Crisman has extended this research to the international context through her India Initiative research and teaching, which focuses on the specific challenges and opportunities found in the emerging megacities and enduring villages of the Indian subcontinent. This research works across scales from the city to the architectural detail. One aspect of her work engages fragmentary and overlooked places, processes and materials.


Crisman has written several peer-reviewed book chapters, including "Rupturing the Surface of the Known" in Transgression: Towards an Expanded Field of Architecture (Routledge, 2014); "Inhabiting the Edge: Architecture and Transport Infrastructure Intertwined" in Peripheries(Routledge, 2012); "Environmental and Social Action in the Studio" in Agency: Working with Uncertain Architectures (Routledge, 2010); and "A Case for Openness" in The Hand and the Soul: Aesthetics and Ethics in Architecture and Art (University of Virginia Press, 2009). She has published numerous peer-reviewed essays, including "The Value of Design Research in the Architecture Academy," in Arhitectura (Romania); "From Industry to Culture: Leftovers, Time and Material Transformation in Four Contemporary Museums" in The Journal of Architecture (UK); "Outside the Frame: A Critical Analysis of Urban Image Surveys" in Places; "Reflections on a Drawing" in Room One Thousand; and "Working on the Elizabeth River" in the Journal of Architectural Education. Along with M. Gillem, she edited The Value of Design (ACSA Press, 2009) and co-authored Global Sustainability with Mark White (Cognella, 2014). Crisman received the Journal of Architectural Education Best Design as Scholarship Article Award in 2009. She has delivered over sixty peer-reviewed conference papers and has presented over seventy invited lectures and presentations ranging from a US congressional briefing to diverse academic and professional events.

In her design practice, Crisman explores eco-effective design strategies that incorporate complex infrastructure systems, greater land use density, site specificity and community engagement. She explored these issues in the Urban Bridges project by designing a series of sustainable, high-density bridge buildings over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston. Crisman began this agenda while transforming a 27-building abandoned industrial complex into the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) with Bruner/Cott & Associates.

Recently she has completed an intertwined series of projects focused on sustainable strategies for the co-existence of waterfront industry and ecological regeneration along Virginia's Elizabeth River. Funded by a Virginia Environmental Endowment Grant, she completed a Sustainable Revitalization Plan for 330 acres of industrial land at Money Point, in collaboration with The Elizabeth River Project and the UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation. Crisman+Petrus Architects received the EDRA/Places Planning Award for their work on the Money Point Plan and the project was featured in the Winter 2007 issue of Places journal. Crisman was awarded the VSAIA Prize for Design Research & Scholarship by the Virginia Society AIA. Currently she is working on the design of several off-the-grid structures for the Paradise Creek Nature Park in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Crisman led a multidisciplinary team of UVA students and community partners to design and fabricate the Learning Barge — a floating, self-sustaining environmental education field station on the Elizabeth River. Construction was completed in Fall 2009 and the Elizabeth River Project, an environmental NGO, offers popular daily field trips are offered to area school children and adults. The project has received numerous design awards, including the NCARB Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy, National Student Collaborative Design Award from the American Institute of Landscape Architects, Go Green Honor Award from the James River Green Building Council, and the Youth Council for Sustainable Science and Technology P3 Design Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The Learning Barge team won the US EPA P3 Sustainability Award competition on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Most recently, the project was honored with an Excellence on the Waterfront Award from The Waterfront Center.

In acknowledgment of her innovative teaching, Crisman received the Collaborative Practice Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the AIA Education Awardfrom the American Institute of Architects. During Spring 2010 she sailed around the world teaching on Semester at Sea's Sustainability voyage and she taught aboard the Atlantic Exploration voyage in Fall 2013. Crisman was elected as Southeast Director to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Board of Directors. She was appointed by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) to represent the architecture academy during several B.Arch and M.Arch professional program accreditation reviews. Crisman was appointed to the University of Virginia Press Board of Directors and currently serves on the American Institute of Architects Virginia Board of Directors and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Advisory Council.

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