Thomas Fowler IV – Multi-Disciplinary Collaborator  

There are many people involved in the design and construction process of buildings, and each one has an important role to play. The builder, engineers, contractors, and construction workers, to name a few, are crucial members of the construction team. Thomas Fowler has devoted his teaching and professional practice career to developing innovative classroom strategies for simulating advanced disciplinary collaborations along with the application of the strategies to a range of successful community design-build projects.

Architects serve an important role in the construction industry in providing the leadership role with an elliptical ability to bring all of the disparate components of the design process with the range of consultants so all are in sync with assisting with synthesizing the building’s aspirational story (the attention to details, the craft of construction and overall compositional components of the project), and balanced with the practical (life-safety, efficiency of program and biophilic responses to climate). Achieving this vision does require attention to detail and an ability to synthesize the needs of the client, balanced with the skill sets of expertise of consultants assembled. Establishing a level of trust in the design process along with the range of people involved in the project are all important components to establish as part of the workflow strategies of the project. The most successful building design projects should always start, with the architect and the range of disciplines that will be involved with the project, all sitting at the collective design table to identify the challenges ahead of the team.

Innovative/creative/academic & practiced based Fowler has earned a reputation as a distinguished teacher/practitioner, because of the range of national, regional, and local recognitions he has received for his work and the work of his students over the years. Fowler received his master’s degree in architecture from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology/Old Westbury (NYIT) Campus. Fowler started working for his cousin, architect/educator, Garrison McNeil (Legendre, Johnson, McNeil, Architects, and Planners) right out of high school in 1978, summers and part-time during the school year while at NYIT. Fowler met Jeh V. Johnson, who was one of the co-founders of the New York Coalition of Black Architects (NYCOBA) which the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) grew out of, and Jeh worked for AIA Gold Medalist Paul R. Williams for a number of years in Los Angeles.

In his last year at NYIT, he was elected President of the American Institute of Architecture Students Inc. (AIAS), in Washington, DC, and for the year-long position. In this role, he served on two national boards: the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB). He attended graduate school at Cornell University and was alsothe Director of Minority Educational Affairs in the College of Architecture. He taught during the summers in Cornell’s High School Introduction to Architecture Program. After completing his time at Cornell, Fowler went to work for Hartman-Cox Architects, Washington, DC as a member of a design development team for a range of projects. He went on the teach part-time in the Architecture Department at the University of California at Berkeley and also worked as a project architect for the University in Planning, Design, and Construction, during the second-largest building boom in the history of the campus. From there, he went to work for J. Max Bond Jr. @ Davis Brody and Bond, in SoHo, New York.

Currently, Fowler is both a professor and Director of the Graduate Architecture Program at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). He co-teaches with his structural engineering colleague, in an interdisciplinary advanced building design studio with both architecture and structural engineering students. All of these building design projects are accomplished in balanced architecture with engineering students’ teams. And these projects range from client community design projects for Ocean Biology Center, and Educational Center in Africa and in collaboration with an internationally recognized skyscraper architecture and engineering company, a skyscraper. Fowler also teaches a comprehensive building design/building studio at the third-year level of the BARCH Project. The focus of the studio has always been on combing the aspirational with the practical in a range of building-type projects, pushing students to project their individual voices into their work at the same time as being accountable for climate-responsive architecture and addressing the range of life safety issues that the project requires.

Fowler has been elevated to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which is granted to members (only 3% achieve this recognition) are recognized with the AIA’s highest honor for their exceptional work and contributions to architecture and society. In addition, Fowler is also a co-founder of the Design Collaboratory, where he, together with his structural engineering partner, designs a variety of client community-based projects with a multidisciplinary team of students, and industry partners. 

Fowler has partnered with internationally recognized industry partners, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill in working with them to infuse an adapted practice workflow model in the academic design studio for the design and comprehensive development of tall buildings.  There have been numerous national design awards that students have received from both the undergraduate and graduate design studios in recognition of the projects with their advanced design and well-integrated building systems. 

Fowler, in 2019, received the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award for the California State University System (CSU – 23 campuses) issued by The Wang Family Excellence Award, 2018 Cal Poly Distinguished Teaching Award, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Prize for Design Collaboratory in 2010 in collaboration with 3 colleagues, 2010 Cal Poly State University President’s Service-Learning Faculty Award, 2009 ACSA Creative Achievement Award, 2008/07 AIA Education Honor Awards for the Integrated Project Studio (IPG) and the Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio (CIDS), 2007 Wesley Ward Teaching Award issued by College of Architecture and Environmental Design Foundation, Cal Poly, 2005 Faculty Teaching Award issued by the Department of Architecture, Cal Poly, 2003 Cass Gilbert Visiting Professor, Architecture Department University of Minnesota issued by Architecture Department University of Minnesota, 1997 Young Faculty Teaching Award issued by ACSA and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) and has been named one of the nation’s most admired educators by Design Intelligence in 2016 & 2012, and honored as a Distinguished Professor of the ACSA by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) in 2010 and he received Progressive Architecture Magazines (PA) Young Architect’s Award, July 1993 in

the Activism category for his interpretive work of a Black farming community in Horry County

South Carolina.

Architecture and the process of designing and constructing buildings is a team sport, unlike the misguided information that the single creative person does all of this work by themselves in making these significant works for the environment. Thomas Fowler’s work as an academic and as a practitioner has been successful in mentoring several generations of future professionals that have been inspired to approach design in an inclusive manner in which all are involved in the collective development of architecture.

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