BiographyAlexandra Staub is a professor of architecture at Penn State University and an affiliate faculty of Penn State's Rock Ethics Institute. Her research focuses on how our built environment shapes, and is shaped by, our understanding of culture. This interest leads her to examine not just what we build, but also how we get there: design processes and their social implications, the economic, ecological, and social sustainability of architecture and urban systems, interpretations of private and public spaces, architectural ethics understood as questions of power and empowerment, and how social class or gender shapes our expectations for the use of space.
Staub's recent book, The Routledge Companion to Modernity, Space and Gender, was published in March 2018. It looks at modernity in various cultural contexts, how this concept is expressed spatially through architecture and urban form, and how this has affected women in their everyday lives. Modernity in architecture and urbanism has been seen as a cycle of “creative destruction” associated with an idealized masculinity. The book uses the lens of gender to explore how broader definitions of cultural modernity have intersected with this concept of physical and social renewal, and if such definitions can be considered socially sustainable.
Staub's 2015 book, Conflicted Identities: Housing and the Politics of Cultural Representation, is an examination of how political and cultural processes shape our built environment. In this work, she examines how nation states use officially sanctioned architecture to create a national identity that often diverges greatly from an identity represented by the vast realm of domestic space defined largely by those who occupy it. Using West Germany of the 1950s and 1960s as a case study, she examines how public architecture expressed an ubiquitous modernity and a rapid break from a tainted past, while domestic architecture expressed the Federal Republic’s often contentious path towards social renewal. In her examinations, she combines several methods of analysis, including interpretations of plans, photographs and films, analysis of historical texts and proceedings, and analysis based on class-based and feminist theory.
As an educator, Staub teaches both architectural design - how to design and build buildings - and theory. She has supervised research projects that have examined cultural aspects of the built environment in countries as diverse as the United States, Russia, Germany, China, India, Turkey, and Iran.
Staub has presented and published her work at international venues, including most recently the Architectural Research Centers Consortium, the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin, the Technical University Berlin, the University of Stuttgart, and the University of Bremen. She has received numerous research and teaching grants for her work.
Before joining Penn State in 2001, she practiced architecture in Berlin and worked as a faculty member at the Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) at Cottbus. She received her Ph.D. from the BTU at Cottbus (Germany) and her architecture degrees from the Berlin University of the Arts. She completed her undergraduate work in psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
Architecture, Urban Design and Planning