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Alexandra Staub Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Tenured
photo of Alexandra Straub
Department of Architecture
320 Stuckeman
814.865.4239

My research interest focuses on how our everyday life is reflected in our built environment and how our built environment shapes our understanding of culture. This interest leads me to examine not just what we build but also how we get there: design processes and their social implications, the economic, ecological and and social sustainability of architecture and urban systems, interpretations of private and public spaces, architectural ethics understood as questions of power and empowerment, and how social class or gender shapes our expectations for the use of space.

My recent book, Conflicted Identities: Housing and the Politics of Cultural Representation, is an examination of how political and cultural processes shape our built environment. In this work, I examine how nation states use officially sanctioned architecture to create a national identity that often diverges greatly from an identity represented by the vast realm of domestic space defined largely by those who occupy it. Using West Germany of the 1950s and 1960s as a case study, I examine how public architecture expressed an ubiquitous modernity and a rapid break from a tainted past, while domestic architecture expressed the Federal Republic’s often contentious path towards social renewal. In my examinations, I combine several methods of analysis, including interpretations of plans, photographs and films, analysis of historical texts and proceedings, and analysis based on class-based and feminist theory.

I am currently embarking on a project to explore definitions of “modernity” in various cultural contexts, how this concept is expressed spatially through architecture and urban form, and how this has affected women in their everyday lives. Modernity in architecture and urbanism has been seen as a cycle of “creative destruction” associated with an idealized masculinity; I am interested in using the lens of gender to explore how broader definitions of cultural modernity have intersected with this concept of physical and social renewal, and if such definitions can be considered socially sustainable.

As a member of the Department of Architecture’s Culture, Society and Space (CSS) Research Cluster, I have supervised research projects that have examined cultural aspects of housing and urban spaces in countries as diverse as the United States, Russia, Germany, China, India, Turkey, and Iran. With experience as a professional architect and as a researcher, I teach a third-year design studio course in the professional B.Arch program as well as a research methods course and a course in architectural ethics at the graduate level.

I enjoy the lively exchange of ideas that one finds at conferences and professional meetings, and have presented and published my work at such meetings internationally. I have received research and teaching grants including a Penn State President’s Fund for Undergraduate Research Grant in 2016, a College of Arts and Architecture Faculty Research Grant in 2015, and a Raymond A. Bowers Grant in 2013. I have received external grants for my work from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., the German Academic Exchange Service, and the German Research Foundation.

I received my Ph.D. at the Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) at Cottbus, Germany and my architecture degree at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany. Before that, I completed my undergraduate work in Psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York. I practiced architecture in Berlin and worked as a junior faculty member at the BTU Cottbus before joining Penn State in 2001.

Education

  • Ph.D. Brandenburg Technical University at Cottbus
  • Dipl.-Ing. Architecture, University of the Arts, Berlin
  • B. A. Columbia University

Courses Taught

  • ARCH 331/332: Architectural Design III/IV
  • ARCH 520: Methods of Inquiry in Architecture and Urban Design
  • ARCH 550: Ethics in Architecture

Research

Postwar housing and urban systems in their cultural contexts.

Exhibitions + Presentations

The following is a selected list of research presentations.

  • “Housing Transformations, Community Considerations” (with Mallika Bose and Lisa Iulo). Held at the Institute of Arts and Humanities, Penn State University, November 12, 2015.
  • “Housing in China: breaking the bounds of contemporary urban theory.” Held at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture International Conference, Seoul, Korea; June 21-23, 2014.
  • “Urban Morphologies of Alternative Spaces: A Case Study of Tehran” (with Babak Solemani). Held at the 21st International Seminar on Urban Form Conference, Porto, Portugal July 3-6, 2014.
  • “The ‘New’ Gated Housing Communities in China: Implications for Urban Identity” (with Qingyang Yu). Held at the Architectural Research Centers Consortium / European Association for Architectural Education 2014 Conference, University of Hawaii at Manoa, February 12-15 2014.
  • Germany’s New Postwar Urbanity: Housing projects and the redefinition of the working class.” Held at the 15th International Planning History Society Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 15-18 July 2012.
  • “User-Participation and the Design Charrette: A Systematic Approach to Furthering the Design Process” (with Lisa Iulo). Held at the Architectural Research Centers Consortium 2011 Conference in Detroit, April 20-24, 2011.
  • “Research with Design Insight.” Panel Presentation with Madis Pihlak, Sanda Lenzholzer, Ute Peorschke, and Jamie Cooper. Held at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the CELA (Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, Los Angeles, March 30-April 2, 2011.
  • “Experimental Building Programs in Germany 1990-2010: Focusing Culture through Policy.” Held at the Architectural Research Centers Consortium / European Association for Architectural Education 2010 Conference, Washington, D.C. June 2010.
  • “Reaching out and reining in: Four proposals for planning community.” Held at the Architectural Research Centers Consortium 2009 Conference, San Antonio, Texas, April 2009.
  • “Freedom and the Endless Townscape: Popular Culture as Reflected in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City and Mikhail Barshch and Mosei Ginzburg’s Zeleny Gorod.” Held at the Mid-Atlantic Popular American Culture Association Conference, Niagara Falls, Ontario, October 2008.
  • “Everyday Lives, Everyday Homes: A Case Study of Identity Preservation.” Held at the Society of Architectural Historians 61st Annual Meeting, Cincinnati, April 2008.
  • “Spatial Use in Soviet and Post-Soviet Urban Environments.” Held at the conference “Spacing the mind:  Cross currents in architecture and urbanism. First Cross-Disciplinary Penn State Conference,” organized by the Penn State Architectural Research Consortium, University Park, Pennsylvania, January 2007.
  • “Transparency in Postwar German Architecture: A Symbol of Democracy or of Continuing Class Tensions?” Held at the Architectural Research Centers Consortium/European Association for Architectural Education 2006 International Conference on Architectural Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 2006.

Publications

  • Staub, Alexandra. Conflicted Identities: Housing and the Politics of Cultural Representation. London: Routledge, 2015.
  • Staub, Alexandra. "The Road to Upward Mobility Urbanity and the Creation of a New Middle Class in Postwar West Germany." Journal of Urban History 40, no. 3 (2014): 563-584.
  • Staub, Alexandra and Qingyang Yu. “The ‘New’ Gated Housing Communities in China: Implications for Urban Identity.” In Proceedings of the 2014 ARCC/EAAE International Conference on Architectural Research: Beyond Architecture: New Intersections & Connections, edited by David Rockwood and Marja Sarvimäki, 545-553. Honolulu: University of Hawa’I at Manoa, 2014.
  • Staub, Alexandra. “Germany ­– Researching Sustainability.” In R&D Investment and Impact in the Built Environment, edited by Keith Hampson and Judy Kraatz, 135-156. London: Routledge, 2014.
  • Alexandra Staub. "Germany - Houses as Power Plants." In: Hampson, Keith D., Judy A. Kraatz, Adriana X. Sanchez, Naomi . Heron (eds.) Investing for Impact: Constructing a Better Built Environment. p. 16. Bentley, Australia: Sustainable Built Envoronment National Research Centre, 2013.
  • Staub, Alexandra. “Experimental Building Pro­grams in Germany:  Focus­ing Culture Through Policy.” In Klein, Rena M., Richard L. Hayes, and Virginia Ebbert, eds. Proceedings of the 2010 International Conference on Architectural Research: The Place of Research / The Research of Place, Washington, D.C.: Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC) 2012, 185-192.
  • Staub, Alexandra and Lisa Iulo. “User-Participation and the Design Charrette: A Systematic Approach to Furthering the Design Process.” In Plowright, Philip and Bryce Gamper, eds. Proceedings of the Architectural Research Centers Consortium / European Association for Architectural Education, Detroit, Michigan: Lawrence Technological University 2011, 305-314.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Einmal im Leben: Rooting the "Little Man" to Conservative Values in Postwar West Germany.” In After Fascism: Society, Political Culture, and Democratization in Europe since 1945, edited by Matthew Berg and Maria Mesner, 153-177. Münster / Berlin / Vienna / London / Zurich: LIT-Verlag, 2009.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Reaching out and reining in: Four proposals for planning community.” In Leadership in Architectural Research: Between Academia and the Profession, edited by Hazem Rashed-Ali and Shelley Roff, 417-424. Architectural Research Centers Consortium / European Association for Architectural Education, 2009. 
  • Alexandra Staub. “Transparency in Postwar West German Architecture: A Symbol of Democracy or of Continuing Class Tensions?” In Emerging Research and Design, edited by Kate Wingert-Playdon and Herman Neuckermans, 184-195. Architectural Research Centers Consortium, 2007.
  • Alexandra Staub. "St. Petersburg's Double Life: The Planners' versus the People's City." Journal of Urban History 31, no. 3 (March 2005): 334-354.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Public Face and Private Space: The West German Single Family House in the Twentieth Century.” Wolkenkuckucksheim/Cloud-Cukoo-Land/Vozdushnyi zamok’ 9, no. 1 (November 2004): without pagination (18 pages and 29 illustrations). http://www.cloud-cuckoo.net.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Magnitogorsk, Russia: Evolution of a Prototype Planned Soviet City After the Fall of Socialism.” In The Planned City, edited by Attilio Petruccioli, Michele Stella, Giuseppe Strappa, 348-52. Bari: Uniongrafica Corcelli Editrice, 2003.
  • Alexandra Staub. "From the Beaver to Roseanne: Lessons of TV Homes." Proceedings of the ACSA Annual Meeting, 13-18. Washington D.C.: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2000.
  • Alexandra Staub. "Exporting America: Housing in Post-World-War-II Germany." Proceedings of the ACSA Annual Meeting, 463-9. Washington D.C.: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2000.
  • Alexandra Staub. “The All-American Dream Moves to Germany: Housing after World War II.” In The American Impact on Western Europe: Americanization and Westernization in Transatlantic Perspective, edited by Raimund Lammersdorf, 1999, without pagination (27 pages and 10 illustrations) www.ghi-dc.org/conpotweb/westernpapers/staub.pdf. and www.ghi-dc.org/conpotweb/westernpapers/staubillus.pdf.
  • Alexandra Staub, ed. Werkstatt Wohnen 5: Zu Hause in St. Petersburg [Housing Workshop 5: At Home in St. Petersburg]. In-house publication, BTU Cottbus, 1999.
  • Alexandra Staub, ed. Werkstatt Wohnen 4: Total Mobil [Housing Workshop 4: Housing the Handicapped]. In-house publication, BTU Cottbus, 1998.
  • Alexandra Staub, ed. Werkstatt Wohnen 3: Der Nutzer Spricht [Housing Workshop 3: User Participation]. In-house publication, BTU Cottbus, 1998.
  • Alexandra Staub, ed., Werkstatt Wohnen 2: Das Niedrigenergiehaus [Housing Workshop 2: The Passive Energy House]. In-house publication, BTU Cottbus, 1997.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Neue Einfamilienhäuser in den USA: Die neusten Entwicklungen im Einfamilienhausbau dargestellt an 30 Beispielen, herausgegeben von Oscar Riera Ojeda” [The New American House: Newest Developments in Single Family Housing as Shown in 30 Examples, edited by Oscr Riera Ojeda]. Kursiv: Literaturblatt der Bauwelt 87, no. 27 (1996): 17 (book review).
  • Alexandra Staub. “Contemporary California Architects by Philip Jodidio.” Kursiv: Literaturblatt der Bauwelt 87, no. 27 (1996): 18 (book review).
  • Edda Kurz, Alexandra Staub, and Fritz Talle, eds. Werkstatt Wohnen 1: Mobiles, Flexibles und Variables Wohnen [Housing Workshop 1: Mobile, Flexible and Variable Housing]. In-house publication, BTU Cottbus, 1995.
  • Alexandra Staub. "Ein Ort mit vielen Handlungsräumen–Delano-Hotel, Miami Beach" [A Space in Many Acts – Delano Hotel, Miami Beach]. Bauwelt 86, no. 44 (1995): 2532-7.
  • Alexandra Staub. "Mobile, Flexible, Variable: Housing Concepts Rediscovered." In The Appropriateness of Means, 56-69. Graz: Haus der Architektur, 1995.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Drinnen-draussen: unterwegs” [Inside-Outside: On the Way]. Bauwelt 85, no. 19 (1994): 1024 (symposium review).
  • Alexandra Staub. “Neue Unis im Osten” [New Universities in the East]. Baumeister 91, no. 1 (Jan. 1994): 47-9.
  • Mary Pepchinsky and Alexandra Staub. "Berlin After the Wall." Metropolis, no. 1-2 (Jan-Feb. 1993), 58-65.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Genua: ‘Colombo 92’: die Entdeckung des Meeres” [“Colombo 92”: Discovering the Sea]. Baumeister 89, no. 8 (Aug 1992): 40-48.
  • Wallis Miller, Mary Pepchinsky, and Alexandra Staub. “How to become an architect: Architektenausbildung in New York” [How to Become an Architect: Architectural Education in New York]. Bauwelt 83, no. 6-7 (1992): 325-7.
  • Alexandra Staub. "Projects Post-Wall Berlin." Progressive Architecture 72, no. 12 (Dec. 1991): 93-5.
  • Alexandra Staub. "'Brand Neu,' Brandenburg blüht auf" [Brand New: Brandenburg’s Awakening]. Bauwelt 82, no. 25 (1991): 1328.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Gedenkstätte Fossoli” [The Fossoli Memorial]. Bauwelt 82, no. 31 (1991): 1588-9.
  • Alexandra Staub. “Die Renaissance der Iron-buildings” [The Renaissance of the Iron Buildings]. Bauwelt 82, no. 13 (1991): 654-5.
  • Alexandra Staub. "Großräschen: Ein Dorf stirbt für den Tagebau" [Grossrächen: The Strip-Mine Death of a Small Town]. Bauwelt 81, no. 27 (1990): 1396-7.
Conflicted Identities: Housing and the Politics of Cultural Representation
R&D Investment and Impact in the Global Construction Industry
After Fascism: European Case Studies in Politics, Society, and Identity since 1945