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Portrait of Harriet Hariss

Harriet Harriss to leave role as dean of Pratt Institute School of Architecture

The Pratt Institute School of Architecture in New York has announced that British architect and academic Harriet Harriss will not be continuing as dean after three years in the post.

Harriss' departure was revealed by the Pratt Institute's provost Donna Heiland in an email sent to the institute's community. No reason was given for the decision, which comes three years after Harriss took up the position.

She will be replaced by the school's assistant dean Quilian Riano "prior to the fall semester" on a temporary basis before a permanent replacement is found.

Harriss to pursue independent research

Heiland explained that Harriss would "transition into a leave to pursue research" before rejoining the faculty.

"This transition will allow her to focus on advancing her expertise in the intersection of climate justice pedagogy, practice and policy, in service to the school's strategic agenda and strength in this area," said Heiland.

"We will conduct a search for dean Harriss' successor this coming academic year, and I will soon begin work on identifying a search firm to help us in this effort."

Pratt Institute's School of Architecture is one of six schools at the university. It is commonly ranked among the top architecture schools in the US.

Harriss was named the second female dean of the institute in 2019, succeeding Thomas Hanrahan who held the post for 22 years. The first female dean was the American architect Frances Halsband.

DEI council launched under Harriss' leadership

Under Harriss' leadership, the Pratt Institute School of Architecture became the only American school of architecture to hold both national and international accreditations.

It also launched a master's degree in landscape architecture and established its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council.

According to provost Heiland, Harriss significantly increased the number of student prizes too, while starting a graduate incubator, creating the role of student advisor to the dean, hosting international conferences and establishing partnerships with various organisations.

"Harriss has worked to support and empower the school's students, faculty and staff, her accomplishments shaped by her deep commitment to educational equity and quality," added Heiland.

"At this juncture, following dean Harriss' service, the School of Architecture is positioned for continued success."

Prior to her taking up the role of dean, Harriss was the leader of the post-graduate research programme in architecture and interior design at the Royal College of Art in London.

Harriss is the latest woman to depart as head of one of the world's leading architecture institutions after a short period.

In 2020, Scottish-Ghanaian architect Lesley Lokko resigned as dean of the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College in New York citing a "lack of meaningful support". Also in 2020 architect Eva Franch i Gilabert was fired from her position as director of the Architectural Association after leading the school for two years.