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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Faculty & Staff

Architecture dean begins tenure

The Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture has named Patricia Belton Oliver the new dean of its academia. John Antel, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, announced that Oliver’s appointment would begin Jan. 20.

 “Each institution builds from its strengths,” Oliver said. “I hope to instill a school in which students may build a solid foundation to be well-equipped for any market place they wish. The key is to prepare UH students to be exceptional leaders, which I have seen (thus far).”

In 2007, Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education Magazine gave the UH College of Architecture the highest recognition among other architecture programs in the country for awarding degrees to Hispanic students.

In architecture, there are several different types of work. An architect can expect to be assigned to anything from basic commercial housing and strip mall projects to lavish and abstract avant-garde museums.             

“In the work force any type of problem (architectural project) can be anticipated. My goal is to prepare students for any type of problem big or small, because each problem in architecture is unique,” Oliver said. 

 “In order to move into a place where architecture is not so formulaic, I strive to prepare students to consider the various characteristics that exist within the range of different assignments in their studies and in the workforce.”

Antel selected Oliver as dean of Architecture in December.

“With her keen intellect and broad interests of architecture, design and literature, she is an amazing leader with viable skills needed to maintain and promote the tier-one status of our Architecture program,” Antel said. 

Antel said that Oliver coming from California, another diverse setting like Houston, makes her suitable for UH and this city.  

“I find inspiration for my work in all art forms music, visual arts, paintings … I love Houston’s museums, they are fantastic,” Oliver said.

Houston differs from sectioned California, where zones restrict such diversity in neighborhoods.

“I find the little architectural gems and pockets in Houston unique to the city. One could drive through the neighborhoods of Houston and amidst new housing and developments there exists monumental and culturally rich structures that still stand, displaying they’re legacy to the city.” 

Oliver succeeds Joe Mashburn, who retired after serving as the dean of Architecture for 12 years. One of Mashburn’s achievements was the creation of The Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center. 

Last year, students in the Graduate Design/Build Studio used the center to create an award-winning outdoor stage for an elementary school.

“I stepped down as dean to return to a life of designing and teaching,” Mashburn said. 

“I feel that much has been accomplished, that the college is in a good place.  I wanted to leave at the top of my game.  I am currently working on a small house to be built in New Harmony, Ind., pursuing design research and exploring opportunities for the future.”

Before arriving in Houston, Oliver served as acting dean of the California State Polytechnic University in 1988. 

Recently, Oliver chaired the American Institute of Architects Convention in San Francisco, while serving as a director on the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

 Oliver received her master’s of architecture degree in 1977 and was the recipient of the Dean’s Award for best thesis and for best overall student. She has worked alongside distinguished architects such as Frank Gehry, Hodgetts and Fung and Daly Genik.

“Among my favorite architects, Frank Gehry is at the top. I enjoyed working with him,” Oliver said.

As previous senior vice president of educational planning and architecture at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., Oliver will bring to the UH Architecture program more than 20 years of award-winning teaching experience and field practice. 

“The UH staff was terrific and welcomed me with open arms, aiding me in getting my feet wet on campus,” Oliver said. 

“I am thrilled to be here, and I am very excited to discover more about the college, its students and how we can work together in promoting the excellence of the university.”

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