Monica Ponce de Leon hired as architecture dean at Princeton

Monica Ponce de Leon to replace Alejandro Zaera-Polo as architecture dean at Princeton

Monica Ponce de Leon has been named the new dean of the Princeton School of Architecture, following the sudden departure of Alejandro Zaera-Polo in October 2014.

Ponce de Leon will become head of the Ivy League university's architecture school on 1 January 2016.

A pioneer of digital design and the use of robotics in fabrication, Ponce de Leon is the principal of MPdL Studio with offices in Boston, New York and Michigan, and was previously the co-principal of Office dA.

She is currently the dean of the Taubman School of Architecture at the University of Michigan and was formerly a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

"I am deeply honoured by the trust that Princeton is placing upon me and I look forward to working with students and faculty in writing the next chapter in the history of the school," said Ponce de Leon in a statement.

"Given that architecture plays a unique role in the construction of culture, at the intersection of the humanities, the sciences and the arts, the opportunities are enormous. I am excited to work with the School of Architecture and the leadership at Princeton to expand and deepen architecture's role in understanding and speculating on the challenges of our time."

Princeton is one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the US, despite being much smaller than most of its peers.

Its former architecture dean, Spanish architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo, had a rocky tenure at the university. He stepped down as deanship just two years after taking up the post, amid conflicting charges and counter charges of plagiarism – and failure to follow academic standards for his and the school's contributions to Rem Koolhaas's Elements of Architecture exhibition and book at the 2014 Venice Biennale.

Koolhaas defended Zaera-Polo in a letter to the university, writing: "Princeton's expectations for Alejandro's text — which was conceived, with us, as a polemical tale of full of speculation – seems a category error." Zaera-Polo also published his own defence, but Princeton said his statement was "inaccurate and incomplete".

Ponce de Leon is one of a growing number of women deans at America's top architecture schools, including Amale Andraos at Columbia, Marilyn Jordan Taylor at the University of Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Meyer at the University of Virginia.