School of Architecture College of Design

Duane "Dewey" Thorbeck, FAIA, FAAR, Emeritus Adjunct Professor, Director of Center for Rural Design

Duane (Dewey) Thorbeck, FAIA, FAAR

Emeritus Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Founder and Director of the Center for Rural Design, and Senior Research Fellow in the Minnesota Design Center

Email: and

Telephone: (651)-756-7073

Office: Off Campus



Dewey Thorbeck is an adjunct professor of architecture, founder and director for the Center of Rural Design at the University of Minnesota, and now a Senior Research Fellow in the Minnesota Design Center. A native of northern Minnesota, he received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Minnesota, Master of Architecture from Yale University, and won a Rome Prize Fellowship to the American Academy in Rome, Italy.

An award-winning architect in private practice he is involved in regional and national projects and his work has been published nationally and internationally. Notable Thorbeck design projects include the Minnesota Zoo, International Wolf Center, Bell Museum of Natural History, and Norway House Cultural and Event Center in Minnesota; Purina Farms in Missouri and Milton Hershey School Animal Center in Pennsylvania. Thorbeck is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

Recognizing that rural areas in America were undergoing profound demographic, economic, cultural, and environmental changes, and the fact that the design professions and design schools had fundamentally ignored rural regions, he founded the Center for Rural Design at the University of Minnesota in 1997 (a joint venture of the College of Design and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences) to bring the problem-solving process of design to rural issues.

His book Rural Design: A New Design Discipline was published worldwide by Routledge in 2012 and is now being translated and published in China in late 2016. It established the theoretical base for rural design and the importance of looking at connecting issues to create synergy and optimal solutions from a global, national, state, regional, and local perspective. Rural design brings design thinking and the problem-solving process of design to rural issues, while recognizing that human and natural systems are inextricably coupled and engaged in continuous cycles of mutual influence and response.

Because of his rural design expertise, Thorbeck was asked to serve as Deputy Director of the organizing committee for the creation of the first World Rural Development Committee (WRDC) that will be managed by the World Green Design Organization (WGDO) - an organization established in 2010 by China and the European Union. The WRDC is being organized to upgrade the academic standard and international cooperation of rural design worldwide to deal with world cultural diversity, preserve and promote human agricultural legacy. It will also be an advocate for rural design that is: people-centered, cultural-driven, green and resilient, urban-rural coordinated, with development that is sustainable.


University of Minnesota

B Arch

Yale University

M Arch

Rome Prize to the American Academy

Rome, Italy


  • Architectural and interdisciplinary design studios starting in 1965 until the founding of the Center for Rural Design in 1997

Research Expertise

  • Architectural design connecting function with place, culture, and climate 
  • Rural design
  • Architecture and agriculture
  • Sustainable rural systems
  • Rural community design
  • Linking human, animal, and natural systems
  • Cultural influences on rural architecture and landscapes
  • Identifying and preserving rural character and rural architectural history
  • Globally important agricultural heritage systems
  • Connections between urban, peri-urban, and rural issues


  • Book - Rural Design: A New Design Discipline (Routledge 2012)
  • Book - Architecture and Agriculture: A Rural Design Guide (Routledge 2017)
  • Chapter - Rural Design: connecting urban and rural futures through rural design, in Balanced Urban Development (New York: Springer 2015)
  • Articles and interviews in numerous national and international architectural magazines



  • Architect's Travel Sketches: Recording Natural and Human Landscapes, U of MN College of Design Library (2009) and AIA MN Gallery (2010)
  • Rural Design, U of MN Goldstein Gallery (2012)
  • Rural Design Traveling Exhibit, University of Minnesota, Crookston (2012), AIA MN Convention (2012), University of Minnesota, Morris (2013)

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow, American Institute of Architects
  • Fellow, American Academy in Rome
  • Numerous design awards for buildings
  • Buckman Fellowship in Philanthropy
  • Appointed Vice Director of the World Rural Development Committee of the World Green Design Organization


Professional and Community Service:

  • Co-founder and first president of Walker Art Center Design Council that later evolved into the AIA Minnesota Design Team
  • Co-founder of Architect's Forum, a group of leading Twin Cities architects
  • Past president and member, AIA Minnesota
  • Member, Governor's Task Force on State Buildings
  • Past president and member, Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce


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

Fax: 612-624-5743


Contact Information

Undergraduate Student Services
12 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
107 Rapson Hall, 89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
P: 612-624-1717 | E:

General Information
P: 612-626-9068 | E:

© 2019 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement