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Culture, Society, Space - Penn State Architecture

Technical line drawing of building, showing numerous internal architectural spaces.

Architecture Research Cluster

The Culture, Society, Space research cluster examines how built spaces – from the artifact to the urban – affect those who interact with them and, conversely, how cultural, societal and disciplinary values shape the spaces we create.

Projects can address individual buildings, public spaces, communities, or cities, as well as typological, institutional, and wider forms of inquiry. Research methods include formal, theoretical, historic/historiographical, sociological, and systemic analyses. Studies may focus on spaces and ideas as forms of cultural expression, the people who produce and use them, and/or the ideological forces in which they operate, including all aspects of their sustainability.


Explore the faculty and students in this research cluster.

Core Faculty

  • Peter Aeschbacher: community design centers, public space, design activism
  • Pep Avilés: history of modern architecture, materialism and ornamentation, migrations and the avant-gardes, postmodern theory
  • Cathy Braasch: architectural design/urban landscape, creative production related to temporary structures, adaptive reuse
  • James Cooper: Michelangelo, architectural drawing, and design analysis; Forum of Pompeii
  • Denise Costanzo (chair): postwar U.S. architects and Italy; architectural study travel; 20th century historiography
  • Christine Gorby: urban theory, gender and landscape, space and sustenance in cinema
  • Katsu Muramoto: 20th century Japanese architecture and issues of subjectivity and modernity; theories of new media and digital mediation
  • Alexandra Staub: postwar European housing and urbanism; spatial practices and cultural identity

Associated Faculty

  • Lisa Iulo: environmentally conscious design education, ecological design and planning, energy and resource efficient building and housing solutions, affordable housing, urban design, community-scale, renewable energy, integrative process and project delivery methods
  • Darla Lindberg: organizational systems, responsive social problem solving and public health
  • Rebecca Henn: cultural contingencies of design, social structures of sustaiabilities
  • Ute Poerschke: functionalist theory, relationship of design and technology, history and theory of sustainable design, architecture for a renewable energy era

Ph.D. Students

  • Meher Bhagia
  • Mahyar Hadighi
  • Michael Nowak
  • Irem Öz
  • Cihan Yusufoglu
  • Dario Vanegas Vargas

M.S. Students

  • Arunima Addy
  • Shreyonti Chakraborty
  • Shayama Khan
  • Aleah Davis
  • Grant Davis
  • Stella Murray
  • Enam Rabbi Adnan
  • Rohini Raghavan
  • Sohail Sadroleslami
  • Nathan Steinhauer
Visibility graph analysis of structure floorplan with a node analysis visualization of different space types.
Colored floorplan and images highlighting Islamic exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum; student thesis work.


CSS Dissertations and Theses

  • Unveiling the Wall: Physical Manifestations of Socio-Spatial Boundaries in the U.S.A., Sohrab Rahimi (Ph.D. 2019)
    Adviser: Mallika Bose
  • Central Park in Film: Architecture as the Structure of Desire, Sadra Tehrani (M.S. 2018)
    Co-Advisers: Mehrdad Hadighi, Donald Kunze | Committee: Pep Avilés, Kevin Hagopian
  • Seeing the Sidewalk: Giving New Terms to Everyday Urban Space, Cara Rangaswamy (M.S. 2018)
    Co-Advisers: Darla Lindberg, Peter Aeschbacher | Committee: Denise Costanzo
  • Every Case A Sheet of Music: A New Method of Visualizing Informal Activity Pockets Within the Spatial Order of Home, Anahita Shadkam (M.S. 2017)
    Adviser: Peter Aeschbacher |  Committee: Shadi Nazarian, José Duarte
  • Life, Death and Design: Revisiting Aldo Rossi’s Cemetery at San Cataldo Lindsay Connelly (M.S. 2017)
    Adviser: Denise Costanzo | Committee: Darla Lindberg, James Cooper, Craig Zabel
  • Places as Products: The Town Center as Retail Development, Emily Liuzza (M.S. 2017)
    Adviser: Denise Costanzo | Committee: Darla Lindberg, Johanna Slot
  • Nisei Architects: Challenges and Achievements, Katrin Freude (M.S. 2017)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub, Denise Costanzo | Committee: Katsu Muramoto, Craig Zabel
  • Montage and Architecture: A Method for Temporal Design, Niloufar Kioumarsi (M.S. 2016)
    Adviser: Felecia Davis | Committee: Alexandra Staub, Daniel Willis
  • The Porticus of Eumachia in the Forum of Pompeii, Valerio Dario (M.S. 2016)
    Adviser: James Cooper | Committee: Denise Costanzo, Alexandra Staub
  • Design Morphology in Public Housing the Intersection of Design and Policy, Kaitlin O’Brien (M.S. 2016)
    Adviser: Lisa Iulo | Committee: Darla Lindberg, Alexandra Staub
  • The Life and Death of an American Architype: The Shopping Mall and the Suburbs, Anthony D’Alessandro (M.S. 2015)
    Adviser: Darla Lindberg | Committee: James Wines, Rebecca Henn
  • An Analysis of a Middle Eastern Enclave: Little Egypt, Dina Mahmoud (M.S. 2015)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub | Committee: Nida Rehman, Ed Coulson
  • Complexity by Nature / Simplicity by Design, Dustin Julius (M.S. 2015)
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider, Darla Lindberg | Committee: Nida Rehman, Daniel Cardoso Llach
  • Social Interaction in Student Residence Halls Through an Architectural Lens, Sohrab Rahimi (M.S. 2015)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub | Committee: Peter Aeschbacher, Susan Friedman
  • Dynamics of multiple claims in civic spaces: Understanding Urban Spaces of Mumbai’s Railway Station Hubs, Amruta Sakalker (M.S. 2015)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub | Committee: Nida Rehman, Stephen Matthews
  • The Intricacy of Textiles. A Reappraisal of Textiles in Architectural Museum Settings, Farah Abdel Galil (M.S. 2015)
    Advisers: Christine Gorby, Ute Poerschke | Committee: Loukas Kalisperis
  • Urban Boundaries and Alternative Spaces: A Case Study of Tehran. Babak Soleimani (M.S. 2014)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub | Committee: Peter Aeschbacher, Alexander Klippel
  • Intergenerational Housing: A Vernacular Perspective. Daniel Miller (M.S. 2014)
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider | Committee: Darla Lindberg, Deryck Holdsworth
  • Reducing Car Use Through New Urban Design Schemes in Western Tehran. Hasti Khodabakhsh (M.S. 2014).
    Adviser: Mehrdad Hadighi | Committee: Jawaid Haider, Madis Pihlak
  • Spatial Configuration and the Sense of Belonging in Two Communities in Shenyang, China. Qingyang Yu (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub | Committee: Katsu Muramoto, Eliza Pennypacker
  • Teaching the practice: Comparing the traditional, modified, and additional course approaches for teaching professional practice in undergraduate schools of architecture. Ross Weinreb (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Scott Wing | Committee: Bob Holland, Jodi LaCoe, Alexandra Staub, Talat Azhar
  • The Relationship Between Neighborhood Social Capital and Built Form Explored Through the Chawls of Mumbai. Neha Parkar (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Rebecca Henn | Committee: Alexandra Staub, Madhuri Desai
  • Exploring Mumbai. A Feminist Perspective on Neoliberal City Space. Aparna Parikh (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Alexandra Staub | Committee: Denise Costanzo, Daniel Purdy
  • Negotiating contested zones: a post-tourist vision of Famagusta. Savia Palate (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider | Committee: Darla Lindberg, Daniel Cardoso Llach
  • Gentrification & Urban Morphogenesis of San Francisco’s Mission District: Synthesis of the Hispanic Barrio and the Hipster Subculture. Brittany Wong (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Darla Lindberg
  • Expanding Biophilic City Design Theory: A Study Of Incorporating Nature Into The Urban Design Elements Of Kathmandu. Moti Gurung (2013)
    Adviser: Peter Aeschbacher | Committee: Madis Pihlak, Pasang Yangjee Sherpa
  • An Approach to Sustainable Regionalism. Moondeep Pradhananga (M.S. 2013)
    Adviser: Rebecca Henn | Committee: Ute Poerschke, Mallika Bose
  • Spatial Perception and Imagination Through Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia. Maria Jimena Guzman (M.S. 2013).
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider
  • Re-Mapping Territories of Architectural Practice: Cedric Price and the Procedures of Social Action. Aleksandar Vujkov (M.S. 2012)
    Adviser: Peter Aeschbacher | Committee: Denise Costanzo, Graeme Sullivan
  • Vulgar + Prejudice: Johann Heinrich Lambert’s Reverse Methods of Perspective. Berrin Terim (M.S. 2012)
    Adviser: Jodi LaCoe | Committee: Donald Kunze, Katsuhiko Muramoto
  • Resourceful Perspectives: Valuing Industrial Heritage in Small Towns. Craig Bastin (M.S. 2012)
    Adviser: Lisa Iulo | Committee: Jawaid Haider, Steven Walton
  • Sustainable or Not? A Case Study Challenging Traditional Architectural Design Education Through Humanitarian Design. David Mosemann (M.S. 2011)
    Adviser: Darla Lindberg | Committee: Jawaid Haider, Ute Poerschke
  • Enhancing the Environment of a Spiritual Setting in Varanasi, India. Nanditha Veeraraghavelu (M.S. 2011)
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider | Committee: Madhuri Desai, Ute Poerschke
  • Double-Shift Schools: Architectural Strategies to Counter Alienation. Gauri Kelkar (M.S. 2010)
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider | Committee: Darla Lindberg, Ute Poerschke
  • Heterotopia & Time: a search for a new connection through the Apni Mandis of Chandigarh. Susmita Rishi (M.S. 2008)
    Adviser: Peter Aeschbacher | Committee: Jawaid Haider, Alexandra Staub
  • Understanding Emergence of Systems in a City Using Complexity Theory: Analyzing the Informal Railway Markets of Mumbai. Arpita Dwijendra Mitra (M.S. 2008)
    Adviser: Peter Aeschbacher | Committee: Alexandra Staub, Jawaid Haider, Deryck Holdsworth
  • Hurricane Katrina Aftermath and Post Disaster Construction: Towards a Self-Generative Society, Gina DeLeon (M.S. 2008)
    Adviser: Darla Lindberg | Committee: Lisa Iulo, Ute Poerschke
  • Urban Co-Evolution: The Architectural Linkages Between People and Ecology, Emily Denhoed (M.S. 2008)
    Adviser: Lisa Iulo | Committee:, Ute Poerschke, James Wines, Loukas Kalisperis ,B. Ikubolajeh Logan
  • Development Without Displacement: The Making of Community Identity, Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia. Arundhati Sett (M.S. 2006)
    Adviser: Jawaid Haider, Peter Aeschbacher | Committee: Alexandra Staub, Michael Rios