Campus & Community

Former NYC Chief Urban Designer Alexandros Washburn Joins Stevens Institute of Technology Faculty

Hoboken, N.J. – Stevens Institute of Technology welcomes Alexandros Washburn as industry professor and founding director of the Center for Coastal Resilience and Urban Xcellence  (CRUX).  Formerly the chief urban designer of New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and author of The Nature of Urban Design: a New York perspective on Resilience (Island Press, 2013)  - Professor Washburn’s appointment is a joint venture between the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering & Science and the School of Systems & Enterprises.

While rising sea levels and storm intensity threaten the well-being of coastal cities globally, CRUX is dedicated to the proposition that cities can increase their resilience to extreme events while simultaneously improving their quality of life. For Washburn, the challenge of coastal resilience and urban excellence has been personal as well as professional; his own house in New York was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, as was Stevens’ hometown of Hoboken, N.J. Washburn and his colleagues and students at Stevens are dedicated to using all the resources of a first class research university to find and apply real world, real time solutions to flooding of urban areas.  Immediate projects around New York Harbor include building scale, neighborhood scale and regional scale projects, all of which will lead to a safer and more rewarding life in cities.

“Stevens is a unique platform to accomplish real world goals with tools I could only dream of when I worked at the Department of City Planning,” said Washburn. “At Stevens, we have the best data on the problem — the Davidson Lab has an unparalleled network of sensors and research vessels in New York Harbor monitoring the water.  And we have the best tools to analyze that data — Stevens’ supercomputers and faculty are world leaders in computational modeling and complex systems analysis.  It’s my job to put these two unique resources together using the discipline of urban design in order to bring about change.”

Improvements in decision making, governance and complex system analysis are just a few of the issues Washburn’s team will tackle. Under his direction, Stevens students will learn how to juggle technical matters like zoning, building codes, national flood insurance underwriting criteria and constructability issues, while simultaneously preserving and enhancing the quality of civic life through best practice techniques of urban design.  Washburn’s experience as a director at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Department of City Planning has helped lay the foundation for his future work on coastal urban resilience at Stevens.

“Alex brings to Stevens a unique perspective on urban design and planning, gained through years of experience and accomplishments in New York City and around the world,” said Michael Bruno, Feiler Chair Professor and Dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science. “In particular, he brings expertise and a passion for designing for resiliency, an area in which Stevens faculty from across schools and departments have strong interest, as evidenced by our continuing work to support post-Sandy remediation and mitigation efforts. Alex will provide leadership in a new initiative aimed at expanding our efforts to develop and implement new tools and new approaches to urban coastal resiliency, both here in the New York metropolitan region and internationally.”

“Alex's background is a truly unique blend of design and architecture on the one hand, and policy and governance on another,” said Dinesh Verma, dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises. “This combined with his experience as the Chief Urban Designer for New York City provides him with a perspective that will be ideal as he helps us craft a meaningful strategy to have an impact on the resilience of coastal urban ecosystems.”

Washburn joined the Bloomberg administration in January 2007 to revive the Urban Design Division at the Department of City Planning under chair Amanda Burden.  He established a design studio within government for projects ranging in scale from skyscrapers to micro-unit apartments, acting as the design eyes for the city in zoning, policy and project review.   His team led numerous resilience initiatives, from waterfront design guidelines to building resilience manuals to post disaster housing and recovery playbooks.  He is the winner of the prestigious Public Architect Award from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and received his Master of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Prior to working in the Bloomberg administration he was a partner at W Architecture and Landscape Architecture LLC, designer of the Harlem Piers Waterfront in Manhattan and winner of national design awards in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design.

Washburn’s urban mentor was the late United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, for whom he worked as Environment and Public Works Advisor in the early 1990’s, after which he founded the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corporation, becoming its first President in 1996.  Moynihan taught him that nothing gets done in cities without an alignment of politics, finance and design, a lesson Washburn has applied throughout a career in all aspects of city building.  As an author, in addition to his current work, “The Nature of Urban Design,” he is the editor of “The Casebook in Real Estate Finance and Development,” and has been a visiting professor at New York University Abu Dhabi and the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Washburn lives with his family in Red Hook, Brooklyn where he is involved in community efforts to make his coastal neighborhood resilient.  When he is not commuting to Stevens with his foldable bicycle, he looks forward to plying the waters of the harbor between Brooklyn and Hoboken on a fast research boat.

“Supercomputers and speedboats, a brilliant faculty, and a research lab in a former castle on the Hudson! It really is something of a dream to be at Stevens.  Now the job is to make the resilience dream a reality,” said Washburn.

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense and STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.