CAPLA's New Dean Sees 'Phenomenal Opportunity' at UA
Nancy Pollock-Ellwand has examined every kind of building and encountered every kind of city the world has to offer.
From her undergraduate and graduate studies throughout Canada to her teaching experiences in Canada, Australia and Japan, to her walking tour of England with her husband last summer, Pollock-Ellwand has acquired a breadth and depth of expertise few architects can match.
As the new dean of the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, Pollock-Ellwand seeks to impart the techniques and wisdom acquired through her wide array of experiences to the next generation of architects, city planners and landscape designers.
"It's a phenomenal opportunity to mold these students in a program that is structured in a way that I'm accustomed to, which is to leverage the strengths of these three separate disciplines in a configuration where they're all focused together to produce well-rounded, creative professionals," Pollock-Ellwand said.
Pollock-Ellwand views her industry's role through two key skills: collaboration and communication.
"You're dealing with complex issues, from city infrastructure to climate change to everything in between. If we're going to find solutions, we need to know how to work collaboratively and we need to be able to communicate our ideas clearly and effectively," Pollock-Ellwand said. "The days of the solo architect working on a set of blueprints are over. We are training people to head toward a profession that requires a variety of skills and knowledge that can impact communities both locally and internationally."
Prior to joining the UA in mid-September, Pollock-Ellwand was dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, a position she had held since 2010. Prior to that, she served as head and chair of the School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, said that Pollock-Ellwand's "multidisciplinary approach to urban reform and heritage conservation offers a collaborative perspective in the field of design."
She earned her bachelor's degree in landscape architecture from the University of Guelph, a master's in architecture from the University of Manitoba and a Ph.D. in planning from the University of Waterloo. She has an extensive background in cultural landscapes and is renowned for her research centered on the history of landscapes and urban reform. She is currently writing a book on the Olmsted Brothers company, one of the earliest and most influential landscape architectural firms in North America, and its impact on Canadian architecture.
Her interest in the UA was piqued as she observed the evolution of the CAPLA program under the former dean, Jan Cervelli, and Mary Hardin, who served as interim dean, as well as what she called the "invigorating" presence of new UA President Robert C. Robbins.
"There is a vibrancy here at the University of Arizona – something I definitely found myself wanting to be a part of," Pollock-Ellwand said.
As she has explored the UA campus, she has frequently found herself in awe of a number of the buildings, as well as the UA's overall design aesthetic.
"There is a real discipline applied to the architecture here," Pollock-Ellwand said. "I see our campus as an oasis in the city, from the ENR2 building to the beautiful garden and dome near the CAPLA building, to the UA Mall's central organizing presence. I am a big believer in the public expression of what we do as architects, planners and landscape architects."
She has also familiarized herself with Tucson's cycling opportunities and its status as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, which helped her and her husband, Geoff, become increasingly certain that this was a place they could confidently call home.
"We found a place downtown, because I think a city's downtown can tell you a story about where you live," Pollock-Ellwand said. "We're very encouraged by the city's efforts to revitalize downtown and we believe Tucson is very much on the right track."