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Former student takes up top architecture school post

10 March 2014

Prof Chris Tweed

Forty years since first arriving at the University's Welsh School of Architecture as an undergraduate from Northern Ireland, Christopher Tweed now takes the helm as its head. As Head of School, Professor Christopher Tweed will oversee all of the School's research and teaching activities.

"The Welsh School of Architecture has always produced excellent graduates who go on to be employed by prestigious practices the world over, largely because they are taught how to make their innovative designs a reality – and I intend to build on this legacy," said Professor Tweed.

"Architecture is a changing profession, having to respond to emerging problems, such as doubts over energy supply, climate change, protecting our built heritage and designing future cities. Our graduates have the design creativity, historical and cultural understanding, social awareness and technical expertise needed to address these issues," he added.

Having in 1974 embarked on an undergraduate degree in Architecture at Cardiff, Professor Tweed stayed on at the School to study for a doctorate in energy in buildings.

After graduating he took a number of leading positions which included a post in the University of Edinburgh and later a role as Head of the Department of Architecture at Belfast's Queen's University. He also spent time as a visiting professor in the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania before returning to Cardiff in 2007 as Director of the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

He continued: "Many architects today risk painting themselves into a corner by privileging highly conceptual design, which is often rarefied and detached from the needs of ordinary people. Architecture needs to maintain the connection between design and people for it to remain relevant."

"At Cardiff, I want to cultivate multi-skilled students who employ an imagination infused with psychology, science, theory and art when developing and delivering a building. I want our students to embrace the grittiness of design; to have the technical prowess of knowing how to build a design."

The School's research strengths lie in three key areas: architectural science, which includes low carbon futures, sustainable design and interactions between people and the built environment; architectural history and theory, which explores the relations between architecture and its cultural context; and the integrative power of design research, bringing together the results and insights from a variety of architectural disciplines to produce award-winning buildings through the School's Design Research Unit Wales (DRUw).

Professor Tweed will bring to his new role a renewed focus in teaching students to design with a view to enhancing lives. He spelled out his vision for the School: "We live in an increasingly complex world full of wicked problems. My vision is to create an environment where we can produce students and research that will contribute to alleviating these problems. It starts with an enduring commitment to creative pragmatism and the belief that inquiry, designing and making are part of a continuum in which it makes no sense to separate means from ends. To this end we have set a new agenda around three themes - models, meanings and making – to focus the debate about the continuously evolving practice of architecture.

"I have a passion for creating an environment that enables people to do their best work, whether it is students, teachers, researchers or support staff. That, coupled with a fervent belief that the best architecture comes from imagination informed by rigorous inquiry, and is directed towards improving the quality of life for all, are what I hope to bring to my new role."

"I feel very privileged to be able to lead this wonderful school and to give something back to the institution that set the course for my entire working life."

Cardiff University's Welsh School of Architecture has a reputation of being one of the best schools in the UK. Its holistic approach to design embraces all aspects of architecture. The learning experience is focused around the studio project, based on the traditional one-to-one approach to design teaching. The studio culture is strong with high quality working space, workshops and computer aided design facilities. Academic staff are supported by visiting professors and tutors from local and leading UK practices, providing an exciting and informative mix of design approaches and experiences.

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