Alumni Profile: George Dodds '80
Teacher, scholar, architect
The phrase "Renaissance Man" might be a cliché in 2007, but it's hard to describe George Dodds '80, any other way. The founding editor of the University of Detroit Mercy's student-run, student-funded critical architecture journal Dichotomy is now associate professor of Architecture, interim director of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program at the University of Tennessee and executive editor of the Journal of Architectural Education. In addition, he has been named the University of Tennessee's James R. Cox Professor, which honors the work of faculty in the performance arts and the environmental studies. Last month, he was named an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture's Distinguished Professor at their annual conference in Philadelphia.
In addition to architectural design and drawing, Dodds teaches seminars and lecture courses in various aspects of architectural history and theory. He has authored numerous books and journal articles, and his exhaustive CV includes two international symposia and a fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks—Harvard University's Research Library in Washington, D.C. Of his research, Dodds says that he hopes to "build bridges among the discrete disciplinary boundaries of design, history, theory, and criticism—in particular landscape and architectural production."
After completing his Bachelor's of Architecture at University of Detroit, Dodds apprenticed for three years in Detroit and Washington, D.C. Subsequently, he earned a Master's of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania before completing studies in Venice. Following his Italian foray, Dodds taught at Penn State, where he began a research program. His interest in Carlo Scarpa, one of Italy's most important post-war designers, has formed the basis of much of his studies, including his doctoral dissertation. In 2000, after receiving his Ph.D. from Penn, Dodds joined the faculty of University of Tennessee.
Numerous UDM faculty profoundly influenced Dodds. In particular, he recalls Tony Martinico as a teacher, "who taught me that what others considered to be incidental nuance was the true substance of architectural production," and Dan Hoffman, who helped Dodds find the roots of architecture in contemplating unlikely sources. Dodds recalls with a laugh, "He was the first faculty advisor of Dichotomy. His only comment about it was that he only read the sports page. We had no sports page." Conversely, the "god-like" Bruno Leon gauged design success, according to Dodds, by the number of cigar butts stomped on the floor surrounding a student's drawing table.
Dodds' time in Detroit was relatively brief, yet memorable. "The basis of much of my professional and academic work has its roots in the five years I spent at UDM," Dodds says. "Those rare occasions when I was able to study with Jesuits, particularly in philosophy, were highlights that helped hone the notions stirred by my architecture faculty."