Willkens Wins Teaching Award

Willkens Wins Teaching Award

Danielle Willkens, an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, was recently honored with a 2017-2018 New Faculty Teaching Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). The award is jointly sponsored by the ACSA and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) to “recognize demonstrated excellence in teaching performance during the formative years of an architectural teaching career.”

Prof. Willkens acknowledges that her own research and design practices guide her teaching philosophy, informed by investigating dusty archives, sketching in historic structures, and navigating construction sites. Her personal experiences have led her to find balance between architectural history and design, supporting her belief that Architects in training can “actually curate history through research and building.” Leading architectural history courses and design studios for summer design option through fourth year students in the Bachelor of Architecture program at APLA, Danielle explores her belief that “underscoring the instructional and practical intersections between architectural design and architectural history can enrich the learning levels of understanding, application, and synthesis for students,” and she does so through a reexamination of how the typical architecture history course in professional architecture schools is taught. Danielle’s students have observed that Prof. Willkens “challenged [them] to question why architecture developed the way it did and to consider the responsibility [they have] as designers to shape its future.”

Additionally, Prof. Willkens has participated in the Biggio Center for Teaching and Learning, is instrumental in developing a new Minor in the History of the Built Environment, and actively practices “early intervention” in educational studies through design education advocacy. By leading design-centric youth educations initiatives, such as Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), as well as Auburn University’s Birmingham Design Camp at APLA’s Urban Studio, Willkens is actively cultivating the next generation of designers.

Since she arrived at Auburn, Willkens has been working with Associate Professor Junshan Liu from the McWhorter School of Building Science on a series of projects that record and represent the built environment using 3D LIDAR scans, UAV photogrammetry, and digital modeling. Currently, she is working with Prof. Liu, McWhorter School of Building Science Head Dr. Richard Burt, the Department of History, and the Media Production Group on ‘Walking in the Footsteps of History’, an experimental survey, modeling, and visualization project to digitally reconstruct the area south of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the 'Bloody Sunday' events occurred on March 7, 1965. Prof. Willkens’ approach to design education is outlined by her efforts to integrate critical research and architectural history into her classes through new methods, emphasizing ‘text and image’ literacy and productive collaboration through interactive projects. Her students’ work has been presented at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art through Auburn’s 2016 ‘SHOWCASE: The Work of Creative Scholarship’ and has been recognized with awards at Auburn’s This is Research Student symposium. In the words of Sarah Wahlgren, a previous student, former president of the Auburn chapter of the AIAS, and AIAS National President (2016-2017): “Danielle’s dedication, curiosity and support make her a professor I will always admire and a superior candidate for this award. I’m thrilled by the prospect of students and faculty members across the country being influenced by Danielle’s example — making architectural education stronger, more confident, and more relevant than ever before.”

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