“In every context, he has represented the School and the institution in ways that make us all proud to be part of such a vibrant place,” wrote Columbia President, Lee Bollinger, “And to all of it he has brought his unique humor and made us laugh.”
Under Wigley’s direction, Columbia’s GSAPP has embraced architecture’s uncertainties. In a 2009 interview with ArchDaily, he says, “You need architecture schools that attack the idea of the architect, attack our conventional understanding and make, not a new kind of building, but a new kind of architect.” He understands architecture to be a set of endless personal and societal questions. Thus, by coming to Columbia, “you attend a school in which the teachers don’t have the answers,” but facilitate experiments with each student in order for them to find their own.
Since taking office, Wigley has propelled students and faculty to extend their education abroad, launching eleven international studios in five continents, an initiative dubbed as “Studio-X Global.” Furthermore, he has sponsored the creation of more than a dozen unique research labs focusing on a range of subjects from the “future of cities” to cultural and technological advancement.
“The aim of the architect should be to create hesitation in everyday life. They make us see the world differently, even if for a moment. And if we see the world differently, maybe we’ll think differently, and if we think differently maybe we’ll dream differently and if we dream differently well, then, maybe we can live in a different society.”
Wigley’s open-source, open-door policy is reflective of his teaching and leadership style, always attentive to the individual whilst nurturing a collaborative think-tank. His casual charisma and sharp wit has lead students and colleagues to affectionately refer to him as “Wiggles.”
“…Sublime city. Great university. Amazing colleagues. Wonderful students. Real energy and intelligence. A delight,” he wrote in an email to the GSAPP student-body, “…thanks.”
In the months ahead, the school will begin searching for its next dean. “For the present,” Bollinger says, “join me in congratulating and thanking Mark for his service to Columbia, architecture, our city, and our world.”
Read Mark Wigley’s Dean Statement, “Education is all about trust.“