University of Oregon

Historic Preservation Program

Howard Davis

Howard DavisProfessor of Architecture

phone: 541-346-3665
office: 321 Lawrence Hall

B.S. in Physics, Cooper Union; M.S. in Physics, Northwestern; M.Arch; University of California, Berkeley. Professor Howard Davis researches the social frameworks within which buildings are built as a path to the improvement of the built world as a whole. Through design studios, lecture courses, and seminars that examine architectural contexts of culture and place, with a focus on the social and cultural sustainability of cities and urban districts, his students view architecture as strongly anchored in the world of people and society.

Howard Davis’s current work on sustainable cities deals with the relationships between urban morphology, building typology and the emergence of new, post-industrial forms of the urban economy. The first stage of this research is being published in the book “Living Over the Store,” a cross-cultural, historical and contemporary account of buildings that combine commercial and residential uses. With new work in Portland and Guangzhou, China, Davis is examining the idea of resilient urban morphologies, asking the question “How can the physical form of cities accommodate the needs of migrant and low-income groups, and of people engaged in contemporary, regenerative businesses, in ways that are sustainable?” This work, which will expand to London, Tokyo and other cities in the next two years, is giving students the opportunity to engage critical topics in contemporary urbanism in international as well as North American contexts.

Professor Davis is the author of The Culture of Building (Oxford University Press, 1999, 2006), which is based on the idea that buildings and cities are produced not only by architects, but by a coordinated system that also includes builders, clients, materials suppliers, bankers, developers and many others. By extension, the improvement of the built world depends on positive changes to this production system. The book’s topics range from vernacular architecture around the world to building history in London and New York to contemporary initiatives in design and building.

Before coming to the University of Oregon, Davis worked with Christopher Alexander in Berkeley, California, and is a co-author of The Production of Houses. He has worked on settlement planning and housing in Mexico and India, with an emphasis on participatory design and construction techniques. Davis is a frequent consultant with Rowell Brokaw Architects in Eugene, and has established, with faculty colleague John Rowell, a research practicum program through which graduate students can be involved with research that is of direct interest to architecture firms.

Davis has taught at the University of California, Edinburgh University, the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California and the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi. He has spoken at numerous conferences and universities around the world, and serves on the editorial boards of Buildings & Landscapes (of which he is founding co-editor), Urban Morphology and the Journal of Architectural Education.

The Culture of Building was named “Best Work in Architecture and Urban Studies” by the Association of American Publishers in 2000 and Howard Davis was named Distinguished Professor of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture in 2009.

Previous theses and terminal projects Professor Davis has chaired:

  • Christopher Bell, Study of furo in the Hood River Valley, Oregon.  
  • Rebecca Nielsen, A cultural resource survey of Finnish immigrant architecture in the Lower Columbia region.
  • Jill A. Chappel, Homestead ranches of the Fort Rock Valley: vernacular building in the Oregon high desert.
  • Jennifer Barnes, German Hill: Design guidelines for the enhancement of plantation houses on Kauai.