Faculty Bio: Stefan Al
Common Courses TaughtURBP 726: Site Planning Workshop
EducationPhD in City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley
MArch in Architectural Design with Merit, University College London
MSc in Architectural Design with High Distinction, Delft University of Technology
Erasmus Program, ETSAB Barcelona School of Architecture
Stefan Al is an architect, urban designer, author of several books, and tenured professor at Virginia Tech. He has dedicated his career to designing and researching sustainable and resilient built environments that improve the quality of life for everyone. With twenty years of experience on high-profile projects, his diverse portfolio spans from architecture to urban design.
Early on in his career, Stefan worked as a designer at Information Based Architecture in Amsterdam, winning the competition and commission for the 2000-feet tall Canton Tower, which briefly held the title of the world’s tallest tower. The project, known for its elegant silhouette and technological excellence, is the most popular attraction in Guangzhou and widely appreciated as a landmark throughout China.
Following its construction, as a Senior Associate Principal at KPF, he contributed to the design of mixed-use master plans and high-rise towers across Asia and the US. He worked on a variety of tech campuses, office buildings, apartment buildings, hotels and resorts for global clients. He recently established his emerging design practice focused on integrating the domains of architecture, urban design, and sustainability. His work has been exhibited at the 2021 Venice Biennale.
In addition to his design work, Stefan has served in various capacities to major institutions, such as the World Heritage Center of UNESCO, working on the preservation of world heritage in Latin America, the Hong Kong government, consulting on the development of the city’s harbor and external lighting guidelines, the Chinese government, advising on new urban design guidelines, and to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, serving as an expert on compact city design, and the Urban Green Council.
In his design work, he is able to draw from his extensive research, including his eight books on urban design and urbanization, which have been widely reviewed and acclaimed. His book Supertall: How The World’s Tallest Buildings Are Reshaping our Cities and our Lives was named by The New York Times Book Review as “thoughtful inquiry into the new generations of skyscrapers.” His co-authored book, Beyond Mobility: Planning Cities for People and Places, won the 2019 National Urban Design award and the 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title. His latest research advocates for designing more resilient cities in the face of climate change, most notably in his new book Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise: Green and Gray Strategies, lauded by the Journal of Planning Education and Research for its “refreshingly grounded design approach.”
His book, The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream, was a Wall Street Journal “best book to read.” He is acclaimed for his work on Asian urbanism with four books published including, Villages in the City, which was selected by Architectural Record as “one of the best” books on informal urbanism. Besides his academic publications, his work has been featured in museum and biennale exhibits and media outlets including TED, NPR, Marketplace, Slate, The Atlantic and The Times. In addition, he has written for The Guardian, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, CityLab and Quartz.
Stefan is committed to teaching the next generation of architects and urban designers. Over the years, he has served on the faculty of Virginia Tech, Hunter College of the City of New York (CUNY), Columbia University, Pratt Institute, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he co-taught an online course, Designing Cities, with more than 70,000 students.
When time allows, Stefan enjoys sharing his design philosophy and expert insights about sustainable architecture and design. He has given keynote speeches and presentations to audiences including TED, the United Nations, the American Institute of Architects, and renowned schools such as the Wharton School of Business.