Richard Sommer will complete his term as our school’s dean on June 30, 2020. He will remain at Daniels as a professor, taking on the directorship of the school’s Global Cities Institute, and continue to play an important part in educating the next generation of architects and urbanists.
Sommer arrived at the Daniels Faculty in 2009 from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where he taught for more than a decade and was director of the school’s urban design program. Under Sommer’s leadership, the Daniels Faculty has been profoundly transformed; he has been the driving force behind unparalleled advances in the quality of the Faculty’s academic programs, research, and societal impact.
Mobilizing talented colleagues, he quadruped the size of the school, built an inventive undergraduate foundation in architectural studies, renewed the school’s three graduate professional programs, created a unique PhD in architecture, landscape, and design, and attracted diverse and gifted new faculty and staff to help catalyze all these initiatives. He furthered the Faculty’s disciplinary reach by incorporating programs in art, curatorial studies, and forestry, and he helped found various research initiatives, including the Global Cities Institute.
Sommer’s most visible achievement as the school’s leader is the creation of the Faculty’s new permanent home: the Daniels Building at One Spadina Crescent. The Daniels Building opened in 2017, reinvigorating a major civic landmark, creating unmatched educational facilities, and elevating the Daniels Faculty's status, both locally and internationally. The One Spadina project has received 26 design and planning awards to date.
In 2019, Sommer presided over the opening of the Daniels Building's first major expansion: the 7,500-square-foot Architecture and Design Gallery, located on the building's lower level. In addition to leading the creation of the gallery, Sommer co-curated and designed its inaugural exhibition, New Circadia (adventures in mental spelunking) — an immersive, cavelike installation that quickly garnered widespread attention and became a favourite destination for students and members of the public.
The search for a permanent successor to Dean Sommer has been temporarily halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, Robert Wright, associate professor in landscape architecture and former dean of the Faculty of Forestry, has been appointed interim dean. His one-year term will commence on July 1, 2020.