Dr. Ulrike Altenmüller-Lewis has been part of the full-time faculty of Drexel University’s Architecture Program since 2008. She is a registered architect educated at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany, and the Esquela Superior de Arquitectura (ETSAM) in Madrid, Spain, who has practiced in Europe and the U.S. Her passion for design excellence forms the basis of her success as an educator, academic administrator and design professional. Ulrike’s global experiences sharpened her awareness of cultural differences and led to value different perspectives highly. The intellectual and educational backgrounds she pursues are anchored in the philosophies of a humanistic education. As a tenured faculty member and Architecture Program Director at Drexel University, Ulrike brings the benefits of 18 years of educational and administrative experience in academia as well as a global perspective.
Prior to her position at Drexel University, Ulrike has taught at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany and at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center of Virginia Tech. She is a member of the American Institute of Architects AIA; a registered architect with the Architektenkammer Baden-Württemberg, Germany; and holds an architectural license with New York State. Ulrike Altenmüller-Lewis has practiced in Germany as well as in the USA, where she worked with RTKL Associates in Washington DC and Alfredo De Vido in New York City.
Administration and Leadership
Ulrike has had roles of increasing responsibility within academia, including Associate Program Director (2008–2011), Program Director (2011–2013 and since 2008); Co-Director of Drexel’s Smart Initiative Program (2015–2017); and Provost Fellow (2016–2017). She possesses strong communication and organizational skills as well as excellent abilities in analytic thinking, strategic planning and team building. This has allowed her to build a track record as an innovative and inclusive leader. Since her arrival, Ulrike has led profound changes to the curriculum and energetically reformed the Drexel Architecture Program, where students complete all or a large portion of their studies in an evening format while maintaining professional positions in practice. For many of our students, earning a professional degree in architecture would not be possible in a conventional program. This has sharpened Ulrike’s awareness for the need for educational alternatives.
From January 2016 to July 2017, Ulrike Altenmüller-Lewis served as Provost Fellow and began working with the Office of Faculty Affairs. She embarked on designing mentoring and mid-career development strategies for Drexel University faculty. From 2015 to 2017 Ulrike was also Co-Director of Drexel’s Smart Initiatives Program (DSIP), which allowed her to extend the focus of her research and service interests in a broad and interdisciplinary way within the University and the community. This role gave her the opportunity to combine her focus on experiential learning, fostering undergraduate research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and design thinking with community participation/engagement. Ulrike is very interested in Drexel’s strategic initiatives--particularly those related to the creation of One University.
Ulrike Altenmüller-Lewis’ primary research interest concerns the impact of the built environment on human wellbeing and performance, specifically on learning environments, how they can support pedagogical concepts and improve learning outcomes. She has published widely on this topic and has presented her research findings in numerous national and international conferences. Ulrike’s investigations of Finnish contemporary school architecture introduced an international audience to original and highly successful approaches to school design. Detailed case studies of exemplary educational buildings capture and objectify spatial experiences grounded in evidenced-based design principles.
An expert in educational building design, Ulrike is part of the Consortium on Design & Education Outcomes (CDEO), a research consortium formed between the architectural firm Perkins Eastman and Drexel University’s Schools of Education and Public Health. In 2019, CDEO won the prestigious Latrobe Prize, bi-annually awarded by the AIA College of Fellows, that will help fund research to address how high-quality buildings can positively impact education outcomes. The $100,000 award will enable the team to work with two large school districts, Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. The work will assess indoor environmental quality, educational adequacy and community impact in modernized and non-modernized schools to draw direct connections between the built environment, student and staff satisfaction, and education outcomes. This will inform a set of tools and design guidelines that will provide architects and school districts with means to assess their own facilities and access actionable interventions to have a demonstrably positive impact on education outcomes.
A secondary research interest centers on translations of important historic texts from German into English, which is based on the awareness of the impact access to original sources can have on research and scholarship. The challenge often is, to find appropriate terminologies that adequately maintain the content and culture of the texts when translated into the English language. In collaboration with Matthew Mindrup of the University of Sydney, Ulrike prepared an annotated English translation of Taut’s anthology Die Stadtkrone (The City Crown), first published in 1917. This significant anthology was first available to an English-speaking audience as a result of this publication with Ashgate in 2015.
Ulrike Altenmüller-Lewis’ career as an educator began in 2002 as lecturer and researcher at her alma mater, the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany. In 2005, she was visiting professor at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center of Virginia Tech, where she later worked as adjunct faculty while practicing in Washington, D.C. Since joining Drexel University in 2008, Ulrike has been teaching in design studios at all levels. She currently focuses on core courses in beginning design (Years 1 through 3), where important foundations are laid that influence architects throughout their career. She encourages students to closely observe and analytically evaluate their perceptions and understanding of the built environment as experienced. She encourages students to learn by doing and introduces them to the culture of making. Critical analysis, design thinking, craftsmanship and the openness for life-long learning form the basis for her students to develop the ability to make conscientious decisions, insightful connections, and informed propositions.
As an educator, Ulrike believes that experiential learning has the strongest impact on the students’ ability to grasp concepts and develop their ability to synthesize. In her design studios and environmental behavior/design theory, classes as well as when developing or assessing curriculum, she brings her combined experiences as designer and educator into teaching. Fostering critical and synthetic thinking that empower students to master different and diverse design parameters to create a meaningful and responsible design, today and throughout their career, is the most significant aspect of architectural education. In 2011 Ulrike was recognized by winning the Allen Rothwarf Award for Teaching Excellence, the highest award a young faculty could win on Drexel’s campus. In 2015 her colleagues nominated Ulrike for the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Dr.-Ing. (Doktor-Ingenieur), Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany
Dipl.-Ing. (Diplom-Ingenieur), Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany