School of Architecture College of Design

Thomas Fisher, Professor and Director of the Metropolitan Design Center

Thomas Fisher

Professor and Director of the Metropolitan Design Center


Telephone: 612-624-1013

Office: 1 Rapson Hall

Thomas Fisher


B.Arch, Cornell University, 1975

MA, Case Western Reserve University, 1979


Thomas Fisher is a professor and director of the Metropolitan Design Center. Educated at Cornell University in architecture and Case Western Reserve University in intellectual history, he previously served as the regional preservation officer at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, the historical architect of the Connecticut State Historical Commission in Hartford, and the editorial director of Progressive Architecture magazine in Stamford, Connecticut.

He has lectured or juried at over 40 different schools of architecture and 60 professional societies, and has published 35 book chapters and over 250 articles in various magazines and journals. He has published five books over the last eight years: two with the University of Minnesota Press entitled, In the Scheme of Things, Alternative Thinking on the Practice of Architecture and Salmela Architect, one by Rockport Press Lake/Flato Buildings and Landscapes, and one by the Architectural Press Architectural Design and Ethics, Tools for Survival. He also co-edited a book with Wolfgang Preiser and Jack Nasar on the design of architecture school buildings, published by Fairchild Books, entitled Designing for Designers, and has recently completed a manuscript of case studies, Ethics for Architects, to be published by the Princeton Architectural Press in 2010.

Teaching Areas

  • Arch 5411 – Architectural Theory, 2004 - 2008
  • Arch 5450 - Architecture and Ethics, 2003
  • Arch 1906 W - Waste (Not), Alternatives to a Throwaway Culture, 2002
  • Arch 5450 - Architecture and Utopia, 2002
  • Arch 5450 - Architectural Criticism, 2000 - 2001
  • Arch 5450 - Architecture and the History of Ideas, 1997-1999

Chapters / Introductions

“Unbundling House and Home,” Unbundling the Housing Crisis exhibition  2009

“Future Sense: Why Design Thinking Matters,” Interior Design, 2009

“Fracture-Critical: The I-35W Bridge Collapse” The I-35 W Bridge, 2009

“The Architecture of Social Capital,” Activist Architecture, 2008

“Seeing Ghosts” Ghosts, Building an Architectural Vision, 2008

“The Architecture School as a Type”, Designing for Designers: Lessons Learned from Schools of Architecture, 2008

“Ensuring a Healthy and Prosperous Future,” Architecture: Celebrating the Past, Designing the Future, 2008

“Public Interest Architecture,” Expanding Architecture, Design as Activism,2008

“The Epicurean House” Farrar House, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, 2007

“A New Social Contract, Equity & Sustainable Development” The Green Braid, 2007

“Reconciling Art and Design” Praxis/Practice, 2006

“Architecture’s Pre-Medieval Condition” T/here, A Journal of Architecture and

Landscape Architecture, 2006

“Home Among the Homeless” T/here, A Journal of Architecture and

Landscape Architecture, 2005

“If You’re Cold, Add Layers” in Gould Evans, Architects, 2005

“The Books Behind the Buildings” in Moshe Safdie & Associates, 2005

“Design Practice” in Professional Practice 101, 2005

“Architectural Research” Architectural Graphic Standards, 2005

“Apollo Meets Dionysus in Minneapolis” T/here, A Journal of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 2004

“What Memory? Whose Memory?” Memory and Architecture, 2004

“Seeing Ghosts” Ghost 6, 2004

“Surviving Internship” A Survival Guide to Architectural Internship, 2004

“Heir Apparent” Julie Snow, Architect, 2004

“Everything Flows,” The Architecture of Fox & Fowle, 2004

“State of Nature,” Arcadian Architecture, Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson, 2003

“Landscape Architecture, The Least Visible and Most Pervasive Profession,” Valued Places, 2002

“Value Buildings,” VIVA, 2001

“Revisiting the Discipline of Architecture,” The Discipline of Architecture,       2000

“Language, Logic, and Truth,” Kieran & Timberlake Associates, Architects, 2000

“The Industrial Design of Buildings,” On Foster…Foster On,  2000

“Introduction” Shaping Community, The Archaeology and Architecture of Monasticism, 2000

Articles or Reviews in Major Publications

Architect Magazine, “The Hilltown and the Megastructure”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “The Valence of VJAA”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “Is There Public-Interest Design in your Future?”, 2009

Architect Magazine, “The Best Betts”, 2009

Chronicle for Higher Education, “Design’s Public Health”, 2009

Architect Magazine, “Urban Nucleus”, 2009

Momentum magazine, “Our Fracture-Critical World”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “Reducing our Footprint”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “The Un-cabin”, 2009

Architect Magazine, “Take Me to the Mountain”, 2009

Journal of Architectural Education, “Making Criticism More Critical”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “The Uses of Enchantment”, 2009

Architect Magazine, “Into the Woods”, 2009

Architect Magazine, “A View from the Bridge”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “The Paradox of Awards”, 2009

Architecture Minnesota, “Up on the Roof”, 2009

Architect Magazine, “Between Islam and the West”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “An Exercise in Understanding”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “Salmela Gets the Gold”, 2008

Contract magazine, “Strangely Familiar, Work of Marlon Blackwell”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “Rapson Remembrance”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “Walker Art Center”, 2008

Batture, “The Anti-Shock Doctrine of Design”, 2008

The Chronicle Review, “Architect, Heal Thyself”, 2008

Hartford Courant, “Place as Apparel”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “Bound to Make a Difference”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “Abstract Regionalism”, 2008

Architecture Minnesota, “Compound Interest”, 2008

Fabric Architecture, “Preparing for the Inconvenient Truth”, 2008

Meet Minneapolis, “Insider Guide: 10 Architecturally Significant Buildings”, 2007

ACSA News, “2007 Administrator’s Conference Goes Global”, 2007

Architecture Minnesota, “Wee House”, 2007

Journal, Home Economics Institute of Australia, “Ethics of Housing the Poor”, 2007

Architecture Minnesota, “Sign & Symbol”, 2007

Architecture Minnesota, “True North”, 2007

M magazine “Design in your Future”, 2006

Architecture Minnesota “Practice with a Larger Purpose”, 2006

Faith and Form “Divine Plan Book”, 2006

Design Intelligence “Design Futures”, 2006

Architecture magazine “Rankled by Rankings”, 2006

Architecture magazine “Designing for the Disadvantaged”, 2006

Architecture Minnesota, “Father and Son”, 2006

Architecture magazine “Architecture’s Public Health”, 2006

Architecture Minnesota “The Zen of Storage”, 2006

Architecture Minnesota “Productive Play”, 2006

Architecture Minnesota “The Restorative Restaurant”, 2006

Architecture Minnesota “Architecture’s Public Health”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota “Inspired Infrastructure”, 2005

Faith and Form “Megachurch Madness”, 2005

Faith and Form “Monasteries as Sustainable Communities”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota “Window Watching”, 2005

Architecture magazine, “The Museum of Chance”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota, “Making Waves”, 2005

The Chronicle Review, “Office Opportunities”, 2005

Architecture magazine, “Rapson Rules”, 2005

Architecture magazine, “Body Art of Buildings”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota, “Gull Lake Getaway”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota “Going to Great Plains”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota “Poetry of Trees”, 2005

Architecture Minnesota, “Architectural Ideas”, 2005

Places, “Is Public Space a Public Good?”, 2004

There, “Shooting Stars”, 2004

Architecture Minnesota, “One World”, 2004

Architecture Magazine, “We Fiddle as People Burn”, 2004

Hudson River Heritage, “The Summer of 1974”, 2004

Fabric Architecture, “Shedding Light on Shigeru Ban”, 2004

Harvard Design Magazine, “Architects Behaving Badly”, 2004

Star Tribune, “Homeless in the Shadow of Consumerism”, 2004

Midwest Home and Garden, “An Atkins Diet for Housing”, 2004

Blueprints, “Drawn to the Edge, Meaning at the Margins of Architectural Drawings”, 2004

Architecture Minnesota “Design Awards Matter”, 2004

Architecture Minnesota “Extending the Brand”, 2004

Architecture Minnesota “Performance Architecture”, 2004

Architecture Minnesota “Sauna Sonnet”, 2004

Architecture Magazine “Moore and More”, 2003

AIA J, “The Intern Trap Revisited”, 2003

Architecture Magazine, “Have Laptop Will Travel”, 2003

ArcCA Magazine, “Our Humpty Dumpty Press”, 2003

Architecture Magazine, “Architecture in the Crosshairs”, 2003

Architecture Minnesota, “A Home for the Public Realm”, 2003

Architecture Magazine, "Honorable Intentions", 2003

Architectural Research Quarterly, “Conversation with Steven Holl”, 2002

Archvoices, AIA Online, “The Once and Future Profession”, 2002

Architecture Minnesota, “Less is More”, 2002

Architecture Minnesota, “Visual Art”, 2002

Canadian Architect, “Introduction” “Design Awards”, 2002

Architectural Research Quarterly, “The Changing Nature of the Profession”,    2002

Faith and Form, “The Benedictine’s Bauhaus”, 2002

Architecture Magazine, “Against the Tide”, 2002

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “The Guthrie Theater”, 2002

Architecture Magazine, “The Excluded Middle”, 2002

Architecture Minnesota, “A House as an Artwork to Live In”, 2002

Architecture Minnesota, “Row House”, 2002

Architecture Minnesota, “We’re All At Ground Zero”, 2002

Architecture Minnesota, “The Benedictine’s Bauhaus”, 2002

Architectural Research Quarterly, interview, “Koolhaas on Shopping”, 2001

Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Our Suburban Sprawl”, 2001

Architecture Minnesota, “Nature and Nurture”, 2001

Architecture Magazine, “An Uncommon Community”, 2001

Architecture Magazine, “The Place of Precedent”, 2000     

Architecture Magazine, “Icing an Icon”, 2000

Architecture Magazine, “In the Garden of Time”, 2000     

Minnesota Alumni Magazine, "A Geologic Gateway", 2000

Academic Lectures

South Dakota State University, Plain Green 09, “Designing a Resilient Future”, 2009

University of Minnesota, Duluth, “Campus Architecture”, 2008

University of Minnesota, “Fracture-Critical Culture” in The City, The River, The Bridge, 2008

University of Tennessee, “Writing Architecture” in Writing & Rhetoric in Practice, 2008

St. Olaf College, “Architectural Design and Ethics”, 2008

University of New Mexico, “Sustainability and Ethics”, 2008

University of North Carolina, Charlotte, “30 Years of Change in Architecture”, 2005

University of Manitoba, “Studio Culture: a 21st Century Model”, 2005

University of Hartford, “Salmela Architect, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson”, 2003

Northeastern University, “Salmela Architect”, 2003

University of Lisbon, “CALA: Architectural Form and Architectural Education”, 2003

Tulane University, “Architecture’s Paradox of Value”, 2002

RAIC Annual Meeting, University of Manitoba, “Between Education and Practice”, 2002

Marcel Breuer Symposium, St. John’s, “Breuer, the Bauhaus, and the Benedictines”, 2002

Big Ten Development Officers conference, “Design and Development”, 2000

University of Minnesota, “Architecture and Monasticism”, 2000

Public and Professional Lectures / Panel Discussions

Glass House Conversation, “Public-Interest Design”, 2009

Global Design Alliance, “New Forms of Research-based Practices”, 2009

AIA National Convention, “Alternative Careers for Architects”, 2009

American Planning Association, “Rapson as a Planning Visionary”, 2009

ACSA 2009, “Expanding Architecture, Research, Criticism, Design Thinking”, 2009

Westminster Presbyterian Church, “Achieving a Sustainable Future”, 2009

University of Minnesota Communicator’s Forum, “Sustainable Design”, 2008

AIA Minnesota, “Designing in a Fracture Critical World”, 2008

Walker Art Center, “Eero Saarinen’s Legacy”, 2008

Phi Upsilon Omicron Conclave, “Design for a Sustainable Future”, 2008

Walker Art Center, “Solutions: Design, Ethics, and Sustainability”, 2008

AIA Convention, “Architectural Research”, 2008

Guthrie Theater, “Ralph Rapson’s Educational Legacy”, 2008

Minneapolis Public Library, “Ralph Rapson, the Playful Modernist”, 2008

Target Corporation Design Week, “The Design Economy”, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education “Sustainability from A to Z”, 2007

Chronicle of Higher Education, “Technology and Higher Education Facilities”, 2006

Build Boston, “BSA Research Awards, Iconic Buildings in Boston”, 2006

AIA California “Architectural Practice and the Paradigm Shift”, 2006

American Society of Landscape Architects “F.L. Olmsted and Public Health”, 2006

Upper Midwest Assoc. for Campus Sustainability, “Sustainability and Higher Ed”, 2006

Twin Cities Chapter, CFMA, “Perspective on Twin Cities Construction Trends”, 2006

Alberta Association of Architects, Banff Session, Keynote speaker, 2006

AIA Minnesota convention, “Design Awards”, 2005

AIA Minnesota convention, “New College of Design”, 2005

American Association of University Women, “New Buildings in the Twin Cities”, 2005

ACSA administrator’s conference, “Architectural Research”, 2004

AIA Minnesota convention, “Design Awards”, 2004

AIAS, studio summit, “The Origins of Studio Culture”, 2004

AIA Convention, “Role of architects in an expanding profession”, 2004

AIAS Writing Workshop, “Writing as Design”, 2004

Conversation with Jean Nouvel, “Architects of the New Minneapolis”, 2004

Conversation with Cesar Pelli, “Architects of the New Minneapolis”, 2003

AIA Minnesota convention, “Design Awards”, 2003

Construction Specifications Institute, “Construction and Education”, 2003

Minnesota Preservation Alliance “Preservation and Economic Development”, 2003

EDRA annual meeting “Educating Designers: Confronting 21st Century Challenges”, 2003

AIAS, “Digital Technology and Studio Culture”, 2003

AIA Annual Convention, “The Definition of the Architect”, 2003

Walker Art Center, “Minimalism in Design”, 2003

AIA Minnesota, “CALA’s Connection to Ground Zero”, 2002

AIA Minnesota, “From the Rapson Era to the Jetson Era”, 2002

AIA Large Firm Roundtable Dean’s Meeting, “Leadership”, 2002

AIA national board, “The Once and Future Profession”, 2002

Society of Marketing Professional Services, “Getting Published”, 2002

Marcel Breuer Symposium,, St. John’s, “ panel of Breuer’s partners”, 2002

Royal Architectural Institute of Canada convention, “Education and Practice”, 2002

Minneapolis Institute of Arts, “Sculpting Space in the Public Realm” panelist, 2002

University of Notre Dame, “Noel Blank” symposium on recent student work, 2002

University of Texas, Austin, “Books and Buildings” symposium, 2002

Friends of the Minneapolis Library, “Cesar Pelli”, 2001

Build Boston, “Ethics”, 2001

ACSA administrator’s conference, New York, “Sustainability and Education”, 2001

AIA Point Break conference, San Francisco, “Practice and Education”, 2001

AIA Wingspread conference, Racine, “Sustainability and Education”, 2001

ACSA annual conference, Baltimore, “Paradoxes of Progress” “Writing as

Design”, “The Ethics of Sustainability”, 2001


Graduate Architecture Students’ Award, “Best Teacher”, 2006, 2007

AIA Minnesota President’s Citation, 2006

AIA Minnesota Special Award “Leadership in Architectural Education”, 2005

Minnesota Monthly, “10 Minnesotans Changing your World”, 2005

Other Professional Activities

President, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2009-2010

Board member, Urban Land Institute, Minnesota chapter, 2008 - present

President Elect, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2008-09

Scholarly meetings, publications, finance, executive committees, ACSA, 2008-09

Advisor, Boston Society of Architects Research Award, 2006

Co-chair, Research task force, Dean’s Forum, Large Firm Roundtable, 2004-2005

Chair, Search for Director of Architecture and Planning, 2004

Chair, Search for Associate VP for Capital Planning and Project Management, 2003

Member, Review Committee for Dean Robert Elde, 2003

Chair, Review Committee for Dean Marilyn Speedie, 2002

Moderator, Minneapolis Mayoral Candidates Forum, 2001

Chair, Dean’s Search, Humphrey Institute, 2001-2002

Chair, ACSA annual meeting, 2001

Advisor, Minneapolis Architect’s Selection Committee, 2001

Advisor, Guthrie Theater Architect’s Selection Committee, 2000

Board member, St Paul Riverfront Corporation, 2000 - present

Board member, St Paul Cathedral construction committee, 2000

Radio Interviews

Minnesota Public Radio, “Digital Impact on Domestic Space”, 2009

Minnesota Public Radio, “The Impact of Design in our Lives”, 2006

Minnesota Public Radio, “9/11 memorials”, 2003    

School of Architecture
145 Rapson Hall
89 Church Street
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Fax: 612-624-5743


Contact Information

College of Design

Saint Paul Offices

32 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108

P: 612-626-9068 | F: 612-625-1922

[directions and maps]

Minneapolis Offices

101 Rapson Hall, 89 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

P: 612-626-9068 | F: 612-625-7525

[directions and maps]

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