Monica Ponce de Leon is a pioneering educator and award-winning architect. She is the dean of Princeton University’s School of Architecture since January 2016. Ponce de Leon has served as dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor since 2008, where she is also the Eliel Saarinen Collegiate Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning. Before her appointment at the University of Michigan, Ponce de Leon was a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she served on the faculty for 12 years.
A recipient of the prestigious National Design Award in Architecture from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum, Ponce de Leon co-founded Office dA, in 1991, and in 2011 started her own design practice, MPdL Studio, with offices in New York, Boston and Ann Arbor.
Monica Ponce de Leon has received the Academic Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the USA Target Fellow in Architecture and Design from United States Artists; and the Young Architects and Emerging Voices awards from the Architectural League of New York. Her work has received a dozen Progressive Architecture Awards, several awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and numerous citations.
She is widely recognized as a leader in the application of robotic technology to building fabrication. Building upon her work as director of the Digital Lab at Harvard, at the University of Michigan she developed a state of the art student-run digital fabrication lab, integrating digital fabrication into the curriculum of the school. In large part because of her pioneering work, the use of digital tools is now commonplace in architecture schools across the country.
As a practicing architect who is deeply committed to architectural education, Ponce de Leon builds bridges between academia and practice, underscoring the interdisciplinary nature of architecture by encouraging experimentation and critical thinking in the curriculum. As a dean and an educator, Ponce de Leon has emphasized the connections between scholarship, research and creative practice. Under her leadership, the college’s Liberty Annex has served as a think tank for faculty and student collaboration fueled by innovative seed funding.
Ponce de Leon also has held teaching appointments at Northeastern University, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design and Georgia Institute of Technology.
Ponce de Leon earned a master’s degree in architecture and urban design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Miami.
(Profile image credits: Adam Smith)