Zachary Colbert, AIA is a practicing architect, educator and Practitioner in Residence at the Carleton University Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism. He has previously taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and the Parsons New School for Design School of Constructed Environments.
In 2009, he co-founded PRE-office, a think tank examining the effects of the 2008 financial crisis on architectural practice through a series of interviews and design competitions. The work was documented through participatory events hosted at Studio-X NYC and in an Architect Magazine cover feature. In 2014, he co-founded Inter-Projects, an architectural practice dedicated to the intersection of building and experimental research. A full-service architectural firm based in New York City and Oklahoma City, Inter-Projects has developed a multi-million dollar portfolio of projects for institutional and private clients throughout the United States.
His work has been featured in Art Forum, Architect, Architectural Record, GOOD and URBAN magazines and showcased in galleries and museums in New York City, Los Angeles, Dubai, Santiago de Chile, Rotterdam, Ottawa and Beijing.
He holds a Master of Architecture from the Columbia University GSAPP, where he received an Honor Award for Design Excellence, the Lucille Lowenfish Memorial Prize and a William Kinne Fellowship. He earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design cum laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was a member of the Undergraduate Academy. Prior to practicing independently, he worked with Leslie Gill Architect, SHoP Architects, Bernard Tschumi Architects, SAS/Solomonoff Architecture Studio and ROY Co. Design on projects in the United States, Brazil, Chile and South Africa.
It is a challenging and exciting time to be a practicing architect. Practicing architecture today requires a nimble, humble and creative approach to address technological shifts that have increased the geographical range of architectural practice and economic forces that are altering architecture’s authority in defining the built environment. Architecture, in its most practical application, is a service profession, but architectural practice also possesses the capacity to envision new societal futures, new ways of living and new applications of emerging technologies.
In my work, I endeavor to make no distinction between my roles in practice and in academia – every project is an opportunity to ask a question and in each project, there is knowledge gained and knowledge contributed through processes of making and self-reflection.
I approach my work systemically through the lenses of applied technology and material processes. I strive to bring this thinking to my teaching as well: both in literal and engineering-driven terms as well as in more abstract design-process terms. Buildings are made of systems, components, assemblies and millions of material units. These complex part-to-whole relationships form the foundation of architectural thinking and I find it essential to approach teaching architecture with this in mind.
Teaching is always a collaborative endeavor: curriculum is not ‘given’ – it must be evolving: cultural paradigms and social values change, technology for making and representation changes, and so as I have been teaching over the last ten years, I've had many chances to speculate about things that tend to remains constant. The constants I have found are the optimism that architecture can improve lives; that the power of architectural thinking has applications well beyond the traditionally understood boundaries of the profession; that teaching is a shared journey with many navigators; and that the terms teacher and student are inverted many times along the way.