J. Meejin Yoon, B.Arch. ’95, will return to Cornell as the next dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced July 24. Yoon is the first woman named to the position since the college was formed in 1896.
Yoon is currently the head of the architecture department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture and Planning. Her five-year term as the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean begins Jan. 1, 2019. The appointment was approved by the Executive Committee of the Cornell University Board of Trustees; she also was named professor of architecture.
“Meejin Yoon is an exemplary alumna of Cornell’s architecture program,” Kotlikoff said. “Her time as a student at Cornell was formative, and continues to inform her work as an architect and an academic. She has led key academic initiatives and contributed to the transformation of the department of architecture at MIT, and leads an award-winning design practice. I am pleased to welcome her back to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and to Cornell.”
Yoon will lead a college with 51 faculty members and 783 students. It offers undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, and features academic programs in New York City and Rome. Cornell’s undergraduate architecture program is consistently ranked first in the nation.
Praising her education and experiences at Cornell, Yoon said she hopes to use her role as dean to contribute back to the university.
“I am deeply indebted to my education at Cornell,” she said. “It was an empowering experience. From taking courses in sculpture in the Foundry, to environmental law studies, to architecture studios in Rand, as a student I felt like there were no boundaries and no limits to my education. The faculty who taught me were truly exceptional teachers and enabled students to challenge conventions and expectations around design and the built environment.”
She added, “AAP is a rich ecosystem of disciplines across the visual arts, urban planning and architecture, which provide both a broad foundation and deep disciplinary training that continues to be unparalleled.”
Yoon’s current research interests include the role of technology in contemporary design culture, the instrumentality of design in the public realm, and the social and environmental responsibility of the built environment.
She has been teaching at MIT since 2001, beginning as an assistant professor in architecture. She was named director of the undergraduate program in architecture in 2010 and became the first female head of the architecture department in 2014. She has had a hand in transforming opportunities around design education at MIT, including the creation of the design minor for students across MIT, the transformation of the Bachelor of Science in art and design major, and the expansion of cross-disciplinary subjects and studios for the graduate program.
Yoon’s focus on technology and design is applied in her independent practice, Höweler + Yoon Architecture LLP, co-founded with Eric Höweler (B.Arch. ’94, M.Arch. ’96, an associate professor at Harvard University). The practice is currently designing the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia, the future MIT Museum at Kendall Square, and several mixed-use and multifamily housing projects in the U.S. and abroad.
Yoon said the Cornell campus also inspires the work of architects. “There’s a kind of timelessness in its geological beauty and in its values,” she said. “Even though we often talk about contemporary cultures of innovation, computation and design, I do think there is a unique opportunity to conceptualize the role of design, arts and planning from the perspective of Cornell, building on its contributions to the design disciplines in the past and constructing new models of practice that apply design for today’s challenges.”
As a Cornell undergrad, in 1995 Yoon received the American Institute of Architects’ Henry Adams Medal for excellence. She graduated with distinction from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 1997 with a master’s of architecture in urban design and was a Fulbright fellow to Korea the following year.
Her books include “Expanded Practice: Projects by Höweler + Yoon Architecture” (2009) and “Public Works: Unsolicited Small Projects for the Big Dig” (2008). Yoon’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Vitra Design Museum in Germany; and the National Art Center in Japan.
Her honors include Architectural Record’s 2015 New Generation Design Leadership Award, the 2013 Irwin Sizer Award for the Most Significant Improvement to MIT Education, the Audi Urban Futures Award in 2012, the United States Artist Award in Architecture and Design in 2008, Architectural Record’s Design Vanguard Award and the Architecture League’s Emerging Voices Award in 2007, and the American Academy in Rome’s Rome Prize and Fellowship in Design in 2006.
Yoon’s appointment is the culmination of a search that began last year. She succeeds Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP from 2008 to 2018. Professor of city and regional planning Kieran Donaghy began serving as interim dean of the college July 1.