Changing the World for the Better

Faculty Profile  – Martha Kohen, Professor, Architecture

Martha Kohen has been with the University of Florida’s School of Architecture since 2003. She is a firm believer in the power of higher education to change the world for the better. And she is seeing that firsthand through her efforts with the Puerto Rico Re_Start program, which is helping recovery efforts in the hurricane-ravaged island.


1. What is your current role and what does it entail?
I am a professor at the University of Florida’s School of Architecture, where I teach undergraduate and graduate courses such as Architecture Design Studios and Graduate Seminars.

Since 2016, I am co-director of the Center for Hydro-Generated Urbanism (CHU) that conducts funded research programs and organizes international conferences, such as our recent Gainesville Conference for the International Network of Tropical Architecture 2017 on “Tropical Storms as the setting for adaptive development and architecture” and the Puerto Rico Re_Start International Design and Research Workshop in San Juan.

Since 2014, I have been responsible for the U.S. Chapter of the UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Urban Quality and Urban Culture. In that role, I have organized and coordinated activities regarding the issues of sea level rise and the vulnerable human settlements in Florida, the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts and the Caribbean Islands.

2. How long have you been in DCP and what roles have you served?
I came to DCP as the director for the School of Architecture in 2003 and was in that role until 2008. In these 15 years, I have taught in the upper division and graduate areas of the school uninterruptedly, and completed three rounds of teaching abroad in our Vicenza Institute of Architecture for the Fall terms of 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Since 2004, I have established and am the Academic Manager of UF Cooperative Agreements with the Italian Universities of Naples, Pescara, Basilicata and Rome, where I am a visiting professor.

As a founding partner and member of the governing board of DOCOMOMO FL, I have acted as the coordinator from the School of Architecture, establishing a partnership with Smathers Library Special Collections for the Architecture Archives.

3. What inspires you?
What inspires me is the incredible power and potential of academia to shape the future of the world. We are able to join the forces of disciplinary depths and interdisciplinary cooperation, experienced scientists and practitioners with the fresh unprejudiced minds of the younger generations to create the best prospective for the advancement of society. I have been an active witness of the results.

4. Who are the most influential people in your life?
I rely on the support of a great stable family. My 93-year-old mother still rules the field, but my deeply knowledgeable husband and my remarkable children help me navigate the priorities. My teenage grandkids are beginning to have a say as well.

I do have lifelong friends across the planet, here, in Italy, in Uruguay, my home country and in Brazil, that are witnesses of my life. I rely upon them on as my personal Steering Committee. I consult them and they have influenced many of my most important decisions.

I could say that some authors of notable books, such as Jane Jacobs, and great colleagues like Alfred Browning Parker and William Morgan have been also very influential in my thoughts.

5. What do you think is the most exciting trend in your field today?
We navigate the triple challenge that needs to be achieved concurrently: advancing aggressively the resiliency of our built environment, both through the creation of new livability paradigms and the adaptation of our existing urban realms to evolving climate environments, while ensuring the prosperity of the growing population. The most exciting trend is the interdisciplinary integration that is in the making of the best proposals.

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