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Max Underwood

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President's Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 1605
President's Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 1605
President's Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 1605
Biography

Max Underwood is an Architect and President’s Professor at Arizona State University. His scholarship and creative activities interweave the art of teaching with the realities of exemplary design and architectural practice. Building on his experience working with the visionary designers Charles and Ray Eames, subsequent graduate work at Princeton University, and continuing research, Max places his students in many of the leading design, film, business, and architectural practices throughout the world.

With the success of many of his students, Max’s influence as a teacher has also been recognized by his academic and professional peers. Nationally and internationally, he is held in the highest esteem as a lecturer, writer, Smithsonian study tour leader, and award winning Teacher’s Teacher. His numerous awards include the prestigious ACSA National Distinguished Professor Award, the Arizona AIA Educator Award, and three National AIA Awards for his teaching innovations.

Research Interests

Exemplary professional practice grows out of individuals who are present and engaged fully in life.  Through research and observation, one comes to really understand the passion at the core of their being for what they do and how they do it.  Their work is an act of turning their insides out, of giving their essence voice.  There are four interdependent aspects to my professional life as teacher, researcher and practitioner that give voice to my essence.  They are as follows:

 

Collaborative visioning of future community commissions

I believe that taking an active and contributing role in ones community, assisting in the creation and maintenance of an environment that sustains and supports well being, is the responsibility of all professionals.  For my 31 years as a teaching architect at ASU, my studios have under taken over 40 collaborative visioning projects in the local community that subsequently evolved into commissions for local professionals.  Each applied research and design project has enabled the students to educate the client, helping them to understand the rich potential of their project, while involving future "architects" in the real issues of contemporary practice within the local community.  Highlights of our collaborative design work includes the Grand Canyon Heritage Education Campus, Phoenix Public Library, Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Kartchner Caverns State Park, Tucson City Hall, International Surfing Museum, and Desert Botanical Garden.  In addition, my design-build studios have obtained funding to construct the digital orientation display in the lobby of Antoine Predock’s ASU Art Museum and interactive toys for the ASU Child Development Lab.

 

Evolution of contemporary materials and tectonics  

Growing up building things in our family’s garage “workshop,” and honing my skills in the Office of Charles and Ray Eames exploring new materials for furniture applications, it is no surprise that the second aspect of my teaching focuses on the investigation of new materials and tectonics. In recent years, one of the most  influential and vital forces within architectural practice has been the global revolution of new materials, methods of fabrication, and innovative construction delivery systems.  Highlights of my funded research include workshops, lectures, and publications such as "Innovation: Lessons from Japan and the United States on Challenging New Technologies" (with Dana Buntrock) and the collaborative design of the Logos textile collection (with DesignTex).  In addition, students in my construction seminar have become directly involved with many of today’s great building practices (Ando, Gehry, Herzog & De Meuron, Zumthor, Holl, Joy, Meier, Morphosis, Piano, etc.) through a field detailing exercise which places them on the construction sites of these architects, negotiating similar problems that they struggle with daily and overcome with grace.

 

Great  practice

The third aspect involves the investigation of exemplary professional practice.  Any profession is marked by rare individuals whose prophetic vision, revolutionary ideas, and masterworks that have enriched our world.  Each of these conscious practitioners were and are focused, resilient, and skilled at honoring their talent and intuition.  Careful and in depth study of their practice methodology has allowed them to become more fully alive for me, in turn enabling me to give them life and meaning to others.  In particular, it is my hope that the presentation of these great practices in both academic and professional settings will constitute a model for achieving a personal and professional life that holds lasting meaning and value.  Highlights of my funded research include seminars, lectures, symposiums, exhibitions, films and publications on the great practices of Tadao Ando, Luis Barragan, Al Beadle, Louis Kahn, Peter Zumthor, and the Office of Charles and Ray Eames. 

 

Professional research practice

Work in any recognized professional practice that integrates young student collaborators is intense and pricelessly rewarding.   The projects undertaken are mentally and physically absorbing, challenging and demanding for everyone involved.  Once under way, the level of excitement and motivation to explore the potential connections can be contagious and fuel the overall level of inquiry and production.  Such is the case with Underwood Crisp (1995-2006 Max Underwood and Barbara Crisp).  The focus of our transdisciplinary work in architecture, design and urban planning addressed a diversity of cultural voices, environments, and design which supports and sustains both individual and collective well-being within our contemporary world.  Highlights of our collaborative design work includes, transforming healthcare environments (University of Arizona Program in Integrated Medicine, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center Healing Garden), transforming communities (ASU West Campus plan, Village of Rosa Vista), and providing spaces of introspection (John Cage Trust, Lewis Painting studio, Aravaipa Canyon bed breakfast).  The overall quality of our practice is exemplified by our NeoCon Gold Medal for Innovation (Logos textile collection), the National Center for Health Design Award (Good Samaritan Healing Garden), Orchid Award and two Valley Forward Awards for Environmental Excellence (Healing Garden and Sensory Garden).

 

"It doesn't matter what path we take, we have to remain curious and fearless.  We have to look at the world and question what we see.  We have to be unafraid to say no and change what is unacceptable.  Each of us has the responsibility to do it."

            Stephen Spielberg, Commencement address, University of Southern California (1994).

 

Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
APH 494Special Topics
ADE 511Core Architectural Studio I
APH 598Special Topics
Spring 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
ADE 422Architectural Studio IV
APH 494Special Topics
ADE 499Individualized Instruction
MUD 593Applied Project
APH 598Special Topics
Fall 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
APH 414History of the City
ADE 511Core Architectural Studio I
MUD 592Research
MUD 598Special Topics
Summer 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
Spring 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
ADE 322Architectural Studio II
APH 414History of the City
APH 494Special Topics
MUD 598Special Topics
APH 598Special Topics
Fall 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
ADE 511Core Architectural Studio I
APH 590Reading and Conference
Summer 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
Spring 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
ADE 322Architectural Studio II
APH 414History of the City
MUD 598Special Topics
ADE 622Adv Architectural Studio IV
Fall 2013
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
ADE 621Adv Architectural Studio III
MUD 690Reading and Conference
LDE 690Reading and Conference
Summer 2013
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
Spring 2013
Course NumberCourse Title
ALA 100Intro to Environmental Design
ADE 512Core Architectural Studio II
APH 598Special Topics
Expertise Areas