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Ann Pendleton-Jullian, RA

  • Professor, Architecture Section
299 Knowlton Hall

Professor Ann Pendleton-Jullian is an architect, writer, and educator whose work explores the interchange between culture, environment, and technology.

From a first short career in astrophysics, Professor Pendleton-Jullian has come to see the world through a lens of complexity framed by principles from ecology theory. This, in tandem with a belief that design has the power to take on the complex challenges associated with an emergent highly networked global culture has led her to work on architecture projects that range in scale and scope from things to systems of action - from a house for the astronomer Carl Sagan, to a seven village ecosystem for craft-based tourism in Guizhou province, China - and in domains outside of architecture including patient centered health, new innovation models for K-12 and higher ed, and human and economic development in marginalized populations.

Prior to the Knowlton School she was a tenured professor at MIT for fourteen years. She is also a core member of a cross-disciplinary network of global leaders established by the Secretary of Defense to examine questions of emerging interest.

As a writer, she has most recently finished a manuscript Design Unbound, with co-author John Seely Brown, that presents a new tool set for designing within complex systems and on complex problems endemic to the 21st century.

Recent Work

Design Unbound Statement

“Ann Pendleton-Jullian and John Seely Brown have written an important book. Design Unbound explores and illuminates the design process required by rapid change and the erosion of cultural boundaries. The final words before the epilogue are “defendable optimism” which is a core theme.

Design Unbound is a celebration of individual potential to make a difference, nothing is inevitable. It helps us understand the shift from the industrial age to the information age in which individual narratives and social networks establish the context for design. We learn of the importance of a continuous process of questioning, early experimentation, of failure and creative recovery. We come to appreciate puzzles, strategic ambiguity, structured indecisiveness on the way to a complex unity.

Design Unbound draws on a polymathic reservoir of science and philosophy seamlessly blended with real life examples of successful design, Design Unbound is a must-read for architecture and design school faculty. But more, it is a book that all of us who care about how design can advance our common humanity will benefit from.”

Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Former President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and of the New School.