Joel Towers

Executive Dean; Professor of Architecture and Sustainability, Parsons School of Design

Joel Towers has been the Executive Dean of Parsons School of Design since March of 2009. Under his leadership Parsons has completed major curricular reforms, launched several new graduate and undergraduate programs, constructed an integrated, 27,000 sq. ft. cross-disciplinary making facility and raised more than $50 million in scholarship, research, and capital funds. With the intent to expand the school’s reach and research capabilities, Towers has established an industry leading design lab and expanded the ranks of full-time faculty. Today the school is one of the most internationally diverse anywhere in the US with more than 42% of the undergraduate student body coming from outside the country. In 2015 Parsons was ranked the top school for Art and Design in the US by QS World University Rankings and number two globally.

From 2007-2009 Towers was the Dean of the School of Design Strategies SDS at Parsons and Associate Professor of Architecture and Sustainability. SDS houses Parsons’ graduate and undergraduate business programs in Strategic Design and Management, the BFA in Integrated Design, as well as new graduate and undergraduate programs in environmental and sustainable design, urban design, and transdisciplinary design. Prior to SDS Towers was the founding Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center TED at The New School and the Associate Provost for Environmental Studies at the university. Launched in January 2006 TED supports design-led research in tandem with historical and social inquiry, placing an emphasis on innovation within the context of cultural, economic, and ecological factors. It promotes environmental literacy as central to an undergraduate education at The New School. The Center brings together core university faculty to teach and develop cross-disciplinary programs; to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field; and to facilitate faculty and post-doctoral


Towers first came to Parsons in January of 2004 as the first Director of Sustainable Design and Urban Ecology. Towers received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Michigan School of Architecture and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. In 1992, after working with William McDonough Architects where he directed projects including The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability that helped codify that firm’s environmental thinking, Towers formed Sislian Rothstein and Towers Architect [SR+T] with Karla Rothstein. Towers’ focus on ecological issues and their relationship to both design conceptualization and construction methodology underlies his research and teaching. It was also central in the work of SR+T. Towers was previously a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University where he taught advanced architecture and urban design studios and developed and taught a seminar exploring critical ecologies and environmentally reflexive architecture. He has taught numerous trans-disciplinary design studios that have included, among others, Geographer David Harvey, Senior NASA Goddard research scientist Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, and Ecologist Dr. Steward T.A. Pickett.

For eighteen years SR+T Architects supported Towers’ work as a professional architect and was a testing ground for the integration of research, scholarship and creative practice. Formed as a design studio SR+T became a multidisciplinary architecture practice with a comprehensive approach to making space. Today the work generated through SR+T continues in new collaborations that extend the realm of traditional practice into construction, materials development, real estate development, and sustainable design.

Twitter – @parsonsdesign | @joeledwintowers


On Wharton Business Radio

Trendsetters: April 19, 2017 Episode Featured ImageTrendsetters: April 19, 2017

Host Pauline Brown is joined by Joel Towers (Executive Dean; Professor of Architecture and Sustainability, Parsons School of Design) and Lucy Jones (Fashion Designer, NYC) on the Wednesday, April 19, 2017 edition of Trendsetters.

View Episode