Mark Robbins, dean of the School of Architecture at Syracuse University, is leaving the school for New York's International Center of Photography, where he will serve as its executive director.
In December, writer Adam Mazmanian profiled Robbins and his accomplishments at Syracuse for ARCHITECT. At the school, Robbins worked with Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor to extend the purview of the university's educational mission to include development projects within the city itself—a direction that has earned its share of criticism.
Risk has in part defined Robbins’s tenure at Syracuse. “The school was a place of experimentation across the board, from our intellectual work, our discipline, our engagement beyond the boundaries of the school into the city and region,” he says. He oversaw such efforts as the purchase and renovation of the Warehouse, the school’s downtown outpost, as well the design competition that brought the R-House to the Near Westside.
“If we’ve been successful, the school will have the confidence to take on another project, and a leader who has a project,” Robbins says.
Robbins’s departure for the world of the image shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise, he says. Before he joined Syracuse in 2004, he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, an organization devoted to studies in the arts and humanities. He has held positions at the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the Columbus, Ohio’s Wexner Center. Even as he’s going back to his cultural work with photography, Robbins intends to keep up his “hybrid existence,” he says: He will continue to serve on the boards of the Van Alen Institute, Architectural League, and other organizations.
In a release, Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor expressed her support for the outgoing dean. “Mark Robbins has made a tremendous impact not only on the SU School of Architecture, but on SU as a whole and, indeed, on the city of Syracuse,” she says.
Robbins himself says that his legacy is in the school’s graduates—but there are other markers. “We’ve left certain built models,” he says. “The proof is in the selection of buildings on campus but also the buildings we’ve been able to put up downtown. If what we’d ended up doing is what the market would have produced otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing our job as the academy.”