Richard Sommer is an architect and urbanist with over twenty years of experience as a practitioner, educator, and theorist. His design practice, research, and writing take the complex physical geography, culture, technology, politics, and historiography of the contemporary city as a starting point for creating a synthetic, cosmopolitan architecture. In addition to his focus on design in the context of broad trends in urbanization, Sommer has been engaged in a long-term, multi-faceted research project examining the transformation of monument making in societies aspiring towards democracy, with a particular focus on “America”. His professional and academic activity in urban design is diverse and includes serving from 2005 to 2010, as the O’Hare Chair of Design and Development and as a Visiting American Scholar at the University of Ulster, Belfast. In this capacity, he worked with government agencies, academics, and other groups to develop proposals for the design of Northern Ireland’s cities and towns as they emerge from “The Troubles.”
Sommer was the Director of Urban Design Programs and a member of the design faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for a decade, and he was dean of the Daniels Faculty from 2009 to 2020. He has also held many other distinguished appointments, including serving as Scholar-in-Residence at the California College of the Arts from 1995-98 and as a Visiting Professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 1993-95. He completed his undergraduate degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design, and completed his graduate studies in Architecture at Harvard University. His writings and projects have been published in Perspecta, ANY Magazine, Metropolis, JAE, Arcade, Critical/Productive, The Harvard Design Magazine, and the books Shaping the City: Studies in History, Theory and Urban Design, Supernatural Urbanism, Urban Design, Fast-Forward Urbanism and The Democratic Monument in America: A Twentieth Century Topography, among others. Support for Sommer’s research has included awards and grants from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts, The Tozzier Fund, The Wheelwright Fellowship, The LEF Foundation, and The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.