School of Architecture College of Design

Julia W. Robinson, AIA, Professor

Julia W. Robinson, AIA



Telephone: (612) 624-5733

Office: 151 Rapson Hall


  • PhD, Delft Technical University, the Netherlands 2004
  • M.A. Anthropology, University of Minnesota 1980
  • Bachelor of Architecture, University of Minnesota (with distinction) 1971
  • B. A., (Arch. Major), University of Minnesota 1968


Julia Williams Robinson, a registered architect, has written journal articles, chapters and reports that cover a wide-ranging subject matter including architectural theory, design methods, sociocultural factors, and architectural pedagogy. She is presently working on a new book, What’s So Special about Dutch Housing and Urbanism that she began as a Metropolitan Design Center Fellow in 2006-7.  The book reflects her study of contemporary Dutch architecture since 1999, including seminars, semester-long studios in the Netherlands,  and especially the M-Term trips she organized for students and professionals in 2007 and 2008. The book describes and analyzes innovations in contemporary housing and urban design in the Netherlands, exploring the reasons for its quality, and the potential and limitations for implementation in the United States.


In 2008-9 Professor Robinson taught a studio and a catalyst focused on urban design and housing using participatory design for the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.  The All 2008 studio students worked in Minneapolis, but spent a week studying in New Orleans and presenting work to the local community. In response to their intense experience students redesigned their urban scheme for a 6-block area of Claiborne Avenue and cooperatively designed individual housing projects to fit into the selected site.


In Spring of 2009, during a five-day program, the catalyst students (pictured with Ronald Lewis of the House of Dance and Feathers) responded to desires for a supermarket expressed at a community meeting.  They made a PowerPoint presentation and video that described steps to take in determining the type of supermarket that would work on a site in the Lower Ninth Ward on a site on Claiborne Avenue.  The work was presented to the community at an event in New Orleans.


The book addresses innovations in contemporary housing and urban design in the Netherlands, exploring the reasons for its quality, and the potential and limitations for implementation in the United States.


The previous book,  Institution & Home: Architecture as a Cultural Medium []. published the research for Professor Robinson’s doctoral dissertation.  Based on research completed over a 15-year period, it addresses architecture both as a medium for cultural continuity and change and as a medium for the empowerment of residents, especially those that are dependent on others or under supervision (e.g. people with developmental disabilities, people who are: elderly, homeless, hospitalized, incarcerated).


In September 2006, Robinson presented two papers at the19th IAPS International Conference in Alexandria, Egypt, held at the Biblioteca Alexandrina. The first, “Domesticity to Oppression: Values & Appropriate Housing Design", was for the Joint International Symposium "Appropriate Home: Can we design 'appropriate' residential environments?”  The second, "Landmarks in an architectural research Trajectory: Degrees of institutionality” was for a Workshop: Benchmarks in Housing Research 1965-2005 ".


In recent years Robinson has participated in two projects with the Center for Sustainable Building Research and the Metropolitan Design Center: Single Family Case Demonstration Project and the Affordable Housing Initiatives: Case Study Prototypes that studied the implications of cultural differences and similarities for the design of housing. In 2003, with Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, she studied the housing needs of Hmong families that affected the design of the first prototype. Spring Semester 2005, Professor Robinson and seminar students worked with a local Native American Dakota community to identify the members' needs and desires. Robinson was also part of a team that evaluated the constructed prototypes.


Robinson’s long-term interest in the relation between architectural research and the discipline of architecture is reflected in The Discipline of Architecture, a book she co-edited with Andrzej Piotrowski that was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2001.

In addition to her scholarly work, Robinson has displayed watercolors in several exhibits, most notably a solo exhibit “Near and Far” held at the Architecture Library in 2007.


Teaching Areas

  • Theory: Social and Cultural Factors in Environmental Design, Architecture 3711 (Fall, 2009)
  • Graduate Design: Architecture 8252: New Orleans Studio, First Semester First Year Program (Fall, 2008), Principles of Architectural Programming, Design Module, Spring 2009
  • Thesis Instructor: Architecture 8777
  • Seminar: Architecture 5750: Affordable Housing, Responding to Culture/ Architecture 5750: Housing and Urbanism in the Netherlands

Current Research

"What’s So Special about Dutch Housing and Urbanism?”, with Research Assistant Hans Christian Karlberg. Funded by the University of Minnesota Imagine Fund and the School of Architecture.


Recent Publications

"A Learning Paradox: Bad Attitudes, Good Results” Primary author with Brad Cohen, Joel Brygger and Allison Johnson. Conference     Proceedings  of the Society on Teaching and Learning, London. 2008.

"Domesticity to Oppression: Values & Appropriate Housing Design,” Housing Symposium IAPS Conference Proceedings, Alexandria Egypt “The Role of Changing Faculty Conceptions in Course Improvement", 2006. 

"Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Incorporating Faculty Conceptions”   in Course Improvement” First author with Valerie Ruhe & Marc Beitz, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annual Meeting, London, 2006.

"Designing Research: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Large Lecture  Courses” 2nd author with Valerie Ruhe and Sue Wick, ibid, London (2006)

Institution & Home: Architecture as a Cultural Medium Transformations Series, Delft, Netherlands: Techne Press, 2006.    

"Completing the Story: Architectural Inventory as a method complementary to space syntax," with T. Thompson in Proceedings. 5th International Space Syntax Symposium, Delft 2005

"Incorporating Cultural Issues in Sustainable Housing Design The Case of the Hmong.” 2nd author with Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, In Handbook of Sustainability Research. W Leal Filho (Ed.). Frankfurt, Germany: Peter Lang, 2005.

"Institutional Space, Domestic Space, and Power Relations: Revisiting territoriality with space syntax," in Proceedings. 3rd International Space Syntax Symposium, Atlanta, 2001.

The Discipline of Architecture, Andrzej Piotrowski and Julia Williams Robinson, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2001.

"Architecture and Behavior or People with Intellectual Disabilities: Observational Methods and Housing Policy," T. Thompson, M. Egli & J. Robinson. Chapter in Behavioral Observation: Technology & Applications in Developmental Disabilities. T. Thompson, D. Felce and F.J. Symons. Paul H. Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, MD, 2000, 101-114

"Architecture and Stigma," Julia W. Robinson & Travis Thompson. In Measuring Enabling Environments, E. Steinfeld and G. Danford (eds.), New York, Plenum, 1999.

Design Guidelines for DNR Area Offices: Based on Post Occupancy Evaluations of Two Area Offices. (Report for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) Julia W. Robinson, John Carmody, Steve Weeks, Virajita Singh and Herzog/Wheeler Assoc. Minneapolis MN: Center for Sustainable Building Research, University of Minnesota, 1998.


Other Information

Building Design Process & Evaluation

State Building Database: BriDGe Project


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

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Minneapolis Offices

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

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

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