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College of Design

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Thomas Fisher is a Professor in the School of Architecture and Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. A graduate of Cornell University in architecture and Case Western Reserve University in intellectual history, he was recognized in 2005 as the fifth most published writer about architecture in the United States. He has written 9 books, over 50 book chapters or introductions, and over 400 articles in professional journals and major publications. Named a top-25 design educator four times by Design Intelligence, he has lectured at 36 universities and over 150 professional and public meetings in the U.S.


He has written extensively about architectural design, practice, and ethics. His books include In the Scheme of Things, Alternative Thinking on the Practice of Architecture (Minnesota), Architectural Design and Ethics, Tools for Survival (The Architectural Press), Ethics for Architects, 50 Dilemmas of Professional Practice (Princeton Architectural Press), two monographs on the work of architect David Salmela (Minnesota), a book on the work of Lake Flato (Rockport), and a book on system design entitled Designing to Avoid Disaster, The Nature of Fracture-Critical Design (Routledge). His newest book, Some Possible Futures, Design Thinking our Way to a More Resilient World (Minnesota) will come out in Spring 2016.


His current research involves looking at the implications of the “Third Industrial Revolution” on architecture and cities in the 21st century. He is principle investigator on several related grants in the Metropolitan Design Center at the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.



Current articles, publications, presentations and interviews

  • The most recent communications from and about Dean Fisher are available on the
    D@MN Design at MN News Web site.

Published books

Publications archive

  • “Labor and Talent in Architecture” The Architect as Worker, Routledge, 2015
  • “Whose Right? What’s Wrong” Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook: SEED Methodology, Case Studies, and Critical Issues, Taylor & Francis, Routledge, 2015
  • "Cities and Survival," Now Urbanism, Routledge, 2014
  • Seeing the World WholeLocal Architecture: Place, Craft, and Community, Princeton Architectural Press, 2014
  • “The Performance of Buildings, Architects, and Critics” Architecture Beyond Criticism Expert Judgment and Performance Evaluation, Routledge, 2014
  • Variability in Fracture-Critical SystemsVariability in Human Performance, Taylor & Francis, 2014
  • “Analogies,” FX Fowle: Reveal, Filter, Evolve, Effect, ORO Editions, 2014    
  • “The Architecture of Innovation,” Architecture in an Age of Uncertainty, Ashgate Press, 2014
  • “Ethics and Architectural Practice” The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, Wiley, 2013
  • "The Future of America's Transportation Infrastructure," Scholars Strategy Network: Basic Facts, March 2012
  • "Making a Place's Invisible Elements Visible: The Architecture of David Salmela," U of MN Press Blog, 2011
  • "Practice with a Larger Purpose," Architecture MN, Jan./Feb. 2007
  • "Signs and Symbols: St. Croix Lutheran High School Chapel" and "True North: University of Alaska Museum of the North," Architecture MN, March/April 2007.
  • "Design in your future," M Magazine, Winter 2007
  • "Innovation in Higher Education," Design Intelligence, Dec. 13, 2006
  • "Dean Fisher on Emergence," Emerging, Fall 2006
  • "Divine Plan Book," Faith and Form, Vol. 39, No. 4
  • "Design Futures," Design Intelligence, November 2006 (also wrote the catalog introduction)
  • "Reconciling Art and Design," for the Praxis/Practice faculty/student exhibition, Nash Gallery

Presentations archive

  • Citizen's League, "Can Design Change the World?" public discussion, Saint Paul, MN, Nov. 14, 2011
  • Yale and Auburn Universities, "Creating Resilient Communities," Oct. 1, 2011
  • Go2030 Speaker Series, "The Role of Design in Creating Resilient Communities," Fargo, ND, Julyy 22, 2011
  • University of Minnesota Alumni Association, January 2007
  • Chronicle of Higher Education, "The Sustainable University," panel discussion, Boston, MA, 2006
  • Chronicle of Higher Education, "Technology and Higher Education Facilities" symposium, Las Vegas, NV, 2006
  • Build Boston, "BSA Research Awards, Iconic Buildings in Boston," panel discussions, Boston, MA, 2006
  • AIA California Desert Practice Conference, "Architectural Practice and the Paradigm Shift," keynote address, Palm Springs, CA, 2006
  • American Society of Landscape Architects Convention, "F. L. Olmsted and Public Health" lecture, Minneapolis, MN, 2006

Interviews archive

  • The College of Design and Dean Fisher factor heavily in Minnesota Public Radio's feature package, "Life by design," February 2, 2007
Dean Tom Fisher

Contact Information

College of Design

Saint Paul Offices

32 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN 55108

P: 612-626-9068 | F: 612-625-1922

[directions and maps]

Minneapolis Offices

101 Rapson Hall, 89 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

P: 612-626-9068 | F: 612-625-7525

[directions and maps]

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