José Ibarra joined CU Denver as assistant professor of architecture in fall 2022. The award-winning designer and researcher, whose interdisciplinary work focuses on architecture and environmental uncertainty, is interested in redefining architecture’s roles and scope while considering climate justice and social relations. Originally from Venezuela, Ibarra’s commitments to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are palpable in all his teaching and research responsibilities.
Ibarra’s work deals with architectural processes, time, and geoempathy—a new term he has developed to describe a design of process, which yields new biological, geological, and ecologically responsive objects that respond to and interact with other things in the world. Some of his recent projects and writing investigate cross-species collaborations across different temporal scales, ultimately proposing design tactics for environmental remediation and justice.
At the College of Architecture and Planning, he chairs the lecture series committee, where he has welcomed architects, artists, curators, designers, geographers, historians, landscape architects, urban designers, and urban planners who provide a cross-section of creative expression in the built environment, resisting the normative limits of the fields that they represent by working with alternative publics, ecologies, and visual means.
In the architecture program at CU Denver, Ibarra teaches undergraduate and graduate courses that enrich the curriculum by highlighting diverse voices and inclusive attitudes. In fall 2022, his architecture studio, “Trans-scalar Architectures for Earth: Rain Check,” resulted in the design and construction of a prototypical pavilion made to treat water, host a number of plant ecosystems, and engage human publics by educating them about water and interspecies collaborations. Through a combination of surrealist methodologies, environmental simulations, and material assessments, the class responded to pre-existing site and climatic conditions while reimagining forms of authorship for architecture in the Anthropocene. This semester, his architecture class, “Andean Ecologies, Cosmologies, and Fictions,” looks at ancient and contemporary sites and practices in the South American Andes, proposing speculative structures in Colorado that work toward ecological remediation.
Ibarra is also in charge of a required graduate course titled, “Outside In: Social Context of Design,” which examines the social, cultural, political, technical, and theoretical contexts of design through a deep commitment to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. By engaging with narrow and pointed case studies, the course conducts a broad survey of topics such as biopolitics and embodied subjectivity, disability and access, gender and sexuality, race and racism, homelessness, climate crisis, governmentality, and more. These investigations offer students a chance for critical reflection, dialogue, and action as individuals and as a community.
The College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver is committed to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and supports faculty research and creative work that seeks to increase representation in design disciplines, including Ibarra’s work exploring social relations and Latinx identity.
Amongst Ibarra’s most recent creative projects is his Table Manners series, which he describes as “a collection of playful projects that iterate on modes of social interaction and relations, reflecting on the climate crisis and architecture’s agency to shape culture and society.” Last spring, he hosted architect Rania Ghosn in a session titled, “Housing Geostories,” which created an immersive vision of the future by asking participants to imagine human and non-human entanglements. Throughout the course of an afternoon conversation with Ibarra and Ghosn, guests discussed the intersection of architecture, ecology, and social responsibility by engaging with housing speculations and fictional narratives inspired by Ghosn’s architectural work.
This fall, Ibarra hosted designer and researcher Leen Katrib in a session titled, “Town and Gown, A Pop Up Archive.” Participants gathered in a pop-up archive designed by Ibarra, where they were invited to rummage through a collection of found, scanned, and produced historical materials on the development of the Auraria Campus, brought by Katrib. The session invited participants to a moment of critical self-reflection, asking them to confront the history of expansion of higher education institutions at the expense of displaced vulnerable communities.
Latinx Coalition Chats
An upcoming project of Ibarra’s explores Latinx identity amongst students, scholars, and professionals in architecture in the United States. Together with architect Liz Gálvez, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley, he received a 2023 Graham Foundation grant to convene Latinx designers and scholars at the Architectural League of New York during fall 2024. This symposium will include a series of conversations that interrogate what Latinx identity means to architecture, creating a platform that foments exchanges across multiple communities and providing a space for reflection, interaction, and solidarity-building amongst Latinx and other minority design communities. Aside from the generous funding of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, this work was also awarded an Evolve Seed Grant from the College of Architecture and Planning at CU Denver, and a DEI grant from CU Denver’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.