Drachman Institute Relaunches with Showcase Event and Appointment of Director Courtney Crosson

April 22, 2022
Drachman Institute launch

Drachman Institute relaunch event at CAPLA's Underwood Sonoran Garden, with new Drachman Institute Director Courtney Crosson at the podium. Photo by Eduardo Guerrero.

Assistant Professor of Architecture Courtney Crosson has been appointed director of the University of Arizona’s Drachman Institute by College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA) Dean Nancy Pollock-Ellwand.

The Drachman Institute is the community-focused research and outreach arm of CAPLA. The institute is committed to advancing equity, resilience, connection and belonging across the built environment through transformational interdisciplinary research, design and outreach partnerships.

Since 1986, the institute has facilitated community outreach work that connects the design and research expertise of CAPLA with community-identified needs.

Courtney Crosson

Courtney Crosson, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Director, Drachman Institute

“We are so pleased that Courtney has accepted the Drachman Institute director position,” says Pollock-Ellwand. “She brings the experience, energy and vision the institute needs to engage our faculty, students and community with built environment projects that make a real difference in our region and beyond.”

Crosson shared her vision for the Drachman Institute at a relaunch event held April 13.

“Equity, resilience, connection and belonging across the built environment—these are the current challenges we face as a community as we learn from the pandemic, face a climate emergency and innovate our infrastructure,” says Crosson. “We know that these complex challenges require us to work across disciplines and sectors to devise bold solutions.”

Crosson notes that we need research to underpin the planning and design of our communities: “We cannot begin to understand the complex issues around social equity or how to design with natural systems if we do not have research to both pinpoint issues and monitor the short- and long-term performance of design solutions.”

The Drachman Institute serves a critical role in bridging academic research with design application. “The process is a loop, continually iterating between research and design toward solutions that best meet our community goals,” she says.

The Drachman Institute relaunch featured brief presentations by CAPLA faculty and students from Drachman-supported projects over the previous two years. The projects range from crowdsourcing a public participation, data-sharing and visualization tool for neighborhood planning in Tucson, to working with the Pascua Yaqui tribe to design enhancements for the tribe’s equine therapy ranch. (View all projects below, and check the Drachman Institute website for the latest project updates.)

Crosson also introduced the institute’s new Faculty Executive Committee, comprised of CAPLA and other UArizona faculty members with a broad range of design, research and community engagement experience: Laura Carr, senior lecturer in architecture; Kristina Currans, assistant professor of urban planning; Helen Erickson, project director, Heritage Conservation Program; Kenneth J. Kokroko, assistant professor of landscape architecture; Oscar Lopez, senior lecturer in architecture; Eric D. Weber, associate professor of architecture; Diane E. Austin, professor and director, School of Anthropology, research anthropologist (BARA); and Kathleen C. Insel, professor, College of Nursing.

“Across the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, planning, real estate development, heritage conservation and sustainable built environments we hold a wide range of expertise and use a diverse set of methods from lab testing to archival work to systems modeling to field study to design inquiry and other methods,” says Crosson. “Drachman is here to connect this capacity with our communities to take on the equity and resilience challenges we face.”

Crosson replaces interim director Bo Yang, associate dean of research and professor of landscape architecture and urban planning, and former director Barbara Bryson, who retired in May 2021.

Crosson, who joined CAPLA in 2016, is a licensed architect and assistant professor of architecture. At UArizona, she teaches classes on water in the built environment and community outreach studios. Her current research advances decentralized water systems to address pressing problems facing cities—whether water scarcity in the U.S. Southwest or safe and affordable water access in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. She has won numerous national and state awards for her teaching, outreach and research. Crosson earned a Master of Architecture from Yale University and BA in Art History from Duke University.

For more information about the Drachman Institute or to partner with the institute, visit drachman.arizona.edu.