Texas Tech University

Maria R. Perbellini

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs
College of Architecture

perbellini portrait in design room

What are your research objectives and interests?

My work promotes design that engages with technology and emergent computational strategies. The definition and control of parametric relationships and values lead towards novel and advanced geometric configurations composed of material and aesthetic "performativity." The parameters' continuous evolution and differentiation activate a "digital-craft" based professional practice and develop applied research approaches to innovative material systems. I am interested in the implementation of software technology in an experimental design process to study unconventional applications on building constructs. My expertise is on Surface Design, an accumulation of techniques to foster the translation of affect and the digital inscription of rhythmic and harmonic patterns in architectural design, which propagate a sensorial experience.

Studies of material systems are integrated to CAM (computer-aided manufacturing), CNC (computationally numerically controlled)-milling, robotics and 3-D printing explorations. My projects not only examine the spatial distribution and functional characteristic of components but also inquire into the effective structural performance of gradual differentiated geometries in assemblies within the larger building envelope. The current research on construction processes and assemblies is investigating constraint based parametric associative design methodologies to prototype modularity and serial differentiation. The fabrication and assembly of structural load bearing envelopes (and in particular screens) is conditioned by the surface geometry of standard and non-standard components.

How do you feel your research impacts the globe?

I am dedicated to the development of transformative academic and professional paths, embracing technology, and experimental research processes that inform new knowledge, unconventional results, and sustainable design solutions. Through specialized areas impacting significant issues related to the natural and built environment, my research creatively contributes to design practices operating in the world based on interdisciplinary studies and cross-pollinating experiences. Global issues related to technological advancements, economic, social, and cultural forces; and environmental sensitivities are the agents that invite us to critically rethink the future of architecture in response to the rapid changes that our discipline is facing. Crucial to my teaching and research is the practice of architecture. I am a licensed architect in Europe with a multicultural background and a principal in Pongratz Perbellini, an internationally recognized multidisciplinary Atelier operating between built and award winning projects, competitions, and design research studies. As an administrator, educator and practitioner, I am always in search of new territories where experiences can overlap and create a broader range of learning opportunities for our students. Important to me is the promotion of entrepreneurial research approaches involving interdisciplinary collaborations and international partnerships within the profession and the industry through innovative and globally engaged initiatives. Our college has faculty from 12 different countries with enormous potentials for partnerships and collaborations oversea.

I believe that my experiences in academic and professional positions at many levels, in many different contexts, and within a broad range of accomplishments have prepared me well for complex administrative roles.

perbellini speaking with students

What types of service projects have you been involved with?

I am interested in creative teaching methodologies and novel studio structures that examine and integrate significant issues for the future of our discipline and prepare students for contemporary professional practices. I encourage the expansion of the focus of research towards an interdisciplinary model of education. Revisiting the expertise of other areas and integrating them into studio pedagogy, opposing silos and self-referential classes facilitates the integration of other units on campus and blur discipline boundaries.

I also implemented at the undergraduate level a new sequence of digital media courses impacting the college curriculum by providing a significant set of digital skills supporting design studios. They are designed to work as the supporting courses integrated with undergraduate design studios and the technology sequence. The teaching materials became a textbook, "Digital Media for Design," co-authored with Prof. Christian Pongratz.

In the past six years, I directed the summer study abroad program in Italy, an intense six-week cultural immersion where undergraduate students in their fourth year and last studio are engaged with the redefinition of an urban open space operating as a form of design-based critical inquiry within a historical context. 

In my previous role as the chair of instruction, I had the great satisfaction of being responsible for the culture of the college promoting lecture series, symposia, events, final and reviews, initiating graduate programs publications, supporting students initiatives such as the Dean's Cup, College of Architecture Dialogues, advocating diversity, and student female recognition with the Fe.Arch event and the Best Female Student Award. As associate dean and chair of the administrative council responsible for the coordination of college events, I continue with enthusiasm this privileged role, which gives me the chance to work on the school's presence and be a visible voice of our vital community. Numerous guests are visiting the college with a diversified list of events on a weekly basis requiring a great amount of coordination and organization among administration, faculty, staff and, in many cases, involving student groups and organizations. All this cannot be successfully done without a great sense of collaboration and openness to others. I feel fortunate to have the chance to work with a team of dedicated, excellent contributors to our community.

I enjoy working on outreach and community-engaged projects and activities. "Art+Architecture" is an interdisciplinary event in collaboration with the College of Visual & Performing Arts, which includes student work exhibition and recruitment service at the Lubbock Civic Center each spring. My graduate studios were part of the project "Avenue J- CITY GREEN SCAPE", featured at the First Friday Art Festival and at the Lubbock Arts Festival, again in collaboration with the College of Visual & Performing Arts. The recent "Urban Stage" project, a proposal for the revitalization of downtown Lubbock involved College of Architecture faculty, students, university, city and community participation and set the conditions for the college's visibility opportunities through awards, conferences, publications and exhibitions. I was also instrumental in our very recent Digital Accreditation process. Our college was the first on campus and one among few in the nation presenting a completely digital format and organization of evidence.

perbellini with students

What are you currently working on?

I am a co-founder of the Digital Design and Fabrication (DDF) Program, a continuously evolving design-related think tank that engages in strategic interdisciplinary research and collaborations within Texas Tech, national and international institutions, and the industry. The new and expanding digital fabrication facilities at the College of Architecture are used on an increasing scale by faculty and students across campus and include emerging technology such as a 3-axis CNC router, a 6-axis Robot and 3-D printers. The DDF Program activates grant proposals, parametric workshops and collaborations with the Departments of Industrial Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the School of Art, the Architecture Department at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany; and the Facolta' di Architettura at the Universita' di Ferrara, Italy. Students learn highly-specialized digital skills that prepare them for leading roles in our profession, and they all receive a job offer before graduation.

Another project underway is the exciting new M.S. specialization in Design and Health in coordination with College of Architecture faculty and a health and wellness design expert. We are currently defining an interdisciplinary study plan and two tracks of interest impacting the College of Architecture, the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and the Department of Public Health.

In collaboration with Prof. Christian Pongratz, I am working on my fifth book based on our research on computational design and advanced fabrication technologies.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am curious about all forms of design, and I look into other disciplines with a voracious interest and open mind. I am fascinated by the undergoing research on smart and advanced materials, by a sense of anticipation of future discoveries, by something that is not yet here. I want to be part of the future. I always try to stay active with my professional work as one way to strengthen and update my perspective on innovative pedagogic methods nurturing a professional program. I am currently supporting the expansion of robotic technology.

What advice do you have for new faculty members about
balancing the components of Integrated Scholarship—
teaching, research, and service—in their careers?

Find your passion, develop your interest and be serious about what you do. The integration of multiple experiences and components should be the natural path for a successful academic and professional career. I encourage our new faculty to be proactive and courageous. Bring your research in your classroom; contaminate your pedagogy with creative ideas that can foster scholar opportunities. When you serve the college and the university, your preparedness combined with flexibility can make a huge difference.

More about Maria Perbellini

Maria R. Perbellini is associate dean for Graduate Programs and professor at the College of Architecture, Texas Tech University and a licensed architect. She co-founded the firm Pongratz Perbellini, an internationally recognized, widely published multidisciplinary atelier specialized in computational design, emergent material based processes and fabrication technologies.

Before establishing her own practice, Perbellini worked in New York for Peter Eisenman and John Reimnitz, involved with the design of prestigious commissioned buildings and with international, invited design competitions.

She taught at the School of Architecture, University of Texas (UT) at Austin, she has been a visiting professor at Yeungjin Jr. College, Taegu, Korea, and an assistant instructor at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), Italy.

Perbellini is the co-author of a Monograph on Peter Eisenman for Korean Architects magazine; the book "Natural born CaaDesigners" on young American architects involved with a digital practice; the book "Cyberstone" giving an overview on stone design, engineering and manufacturing processes; and the textbook "Digital Media for Design" on creative strategies using a range of media supporting each stage of the design process.

Selected by Texas Tech President Nellis and Provost Schovanec, she was admitted at the Harvard Management Development Program 2015 on Higher Education Leadership. At Texas Tech, she received the 2015-2016 Integrated Scholar Award, the 2016 and 2012 Outstanding Researcher Award, the 2012 Alumni Association New Faculty Award, and the 2012 and 2011 Global Vision Award as Outstanding Study Abroad Faculty-Led Leader.