John C. Maxwell vaguely describes a leader as someone “who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” Even if this sounds too plain, it roughly gives an idea of the leader who is a combination of many things like John. To constraint all the great leaders – found in the pages of world history is no easy task – inside a quote like this wouldn’t be smart. So, the question arises, what are the qualities that bring out the best in a leader. One might say a leader is someone who develops well-rounded leadership qualities that empower his team; confidence; openness, emotional agility and resourcefulness; focus; honesty and integrity; positive stance; improvisation when needed; decisiveness; creativity; ability to inspire and ability to bring the best out of people; effective communication; accountability; empathy is essential for strong leadership; humility is one of the most important leadership traits; vision; courage; strategic seeing and strong cooperation. WHAT? You might ask. But what if it is true about someone who is described just like above by his peers? Dr. Tigran Haas is a living example of someone who believes in doing right things at a right time. This is his story!
Creating own path and being the best in it!
Growing up, Tigran wanted to become a world class architect and later on a world class urbanist. None of the above really materialized as it happens to only a very few in the world. He says he got drawn into academia by pure chance or maybe by some strange set of circumstances. Tigran’s father was a university professor theoretical physics and philosophy of science and used to spend time in US at places like Boston University, Harvard, McGill and UPenn while, his mother was a laboratory researcher, a chemist and biotechnology person that worked at MIT and FDA among other places. Tigran believes it might have played a role but it was his own path in some ways and the lure of academia, especially the work with students. He says, “those that cannot make it in the real world, they end up teaching.”
When asked about greatest achievements of his career, he answers, “It must the PhD – doctorate and of course doing post-doctoral fellowships and Berkeley, MIT and University of Michigan. Aside from that the 2 out of 3 books Urbanism Trilogy for Rizzoli Publishers in New York, The Directors position of leading such a prestige international research Centre on public spaces and last but not least the tenure track position at KTH where I am currently an Associate Professor in urban planning and urban design. Great thing was of also the New Urbanism Conference at KTH in 2004 that assembled the leading urban minds of that time and also the fact that the four honorary doctors at KTH, Richard Florida, Saskia Sassen, Edward Glaeser and Manuel Castells are also on the strategic board of our Centre.”
To give an idea of his long academic journey, one should highlight that Tigran Haas, BArch/MArch, MSc., Ph.D. (SAR/MSA, UHA/DAZ, APA, CNU, ULI) is the Associate Professor, Reader – Tenured (Docent, Lektor) of Urban Planning + Urban Design, Former Director of Civitas Athenaeum Laboratory (CAL), Current Director of the Centre for the Future of Places (CFP) and the Director of the Graduate Program in Urbanism at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment at KTH. He has studied in the USA, Former Yugoslavia (BiH and Croatia) and Sweden and also done Pot-Doc Fellowships at MIT, Boston, UC Berkeley and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Tigran Haas holds advanced degrees in Architecture, Urban Planning and Design, Environmental Science and Regional Planning. He has written over 60 scholarly articles, 45 Conference Papers, 8 books, 4 Research Anthologies, and has been involved in teaching in International educational programs. Tigran has supervised 15 PhD students (currently supervises five PhD Students) as well as five Masters of Science Students (has supervised 125 masters students).
Almost two century old university working on sustainable solutions
Since its inception in 1827, KTH has developed into one of Europe’s leading technical universities and an important arena for knowledge development. As Sweden’s largest university for technical research and education, KTH brings together students, researchers and faculty from all over the world. Together with business and society, KTH is working on sustainable solutions to some of humanity’s greatest challenges: climate change, the energy supply of the future, urbanization and quality of life for a rapidly growing, aging population. KTH’s research and education covers both science and all branches of technology as well as architecture, industrial economics, social planning, history and philosophy. The innovative climate promotes versatile solutions and our education creates a new generation of engineers, architects and teachers.
Tigran asserts that KTH/ABE Centre for the Future of Places (CFP) is now engaging a (biennial) two-year research theme on the twin subjects of “Urban Disclosures and Cities for All”. “We see these two key subjects, implicitly gaining prominence in the coming years. We base this on the United Nations’ Habitat III conference, held in Quito, Ecuador, during October 2016, where akin issues should be developed further through implementation of the conference outcome document, the “New Urban Agenda”, which is strategically aligned with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 on ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’.” The CFP aims to make a substantial academic and practical contribution to this discourse looking at these two key subjects as one integral research theme. The Centre has 20 active research projects from micro-meso to macro scale.
Finding solutions to the city’s key urban development challenges
Positioned at the intersection of architecture, urban planning, urban design and urban studies, KTH’s new Centre for the Future of Places is an agora, a meeting place for leading thinkers, practitioners and researchers in urbanism who are pursuing solutions to the city’s key urban development challenges, with a particular focus on public space systems. Faced with new social, economic, political, cultural and environmental challenges, the question of the value of public space in planning and maintaining cities is critical to the future of urbanism. “As a permanent mission, the CFP places a spotlight on public space and the public realm, and more specifically, the shifting of attention from object to places, as an essential aspect of urbanism and urbanization. Within that mission we will explore the interrelationships between urban form, human behavior, urban society, and social life, sustainable urbanism and housing in the wake of emergent global transformations looked upon through the cross-cutting lens of public space,” he explains further.
As part of that goal, and specifically for the biennial theme during 2017-2019, the Centre for the Future of Places will examine these two emerging and converging subjects as one united theme: Urban Disclosures and Cities for All! These two-in-one united themes offer now a useful “lens” through which the researchers in the Centre may investigate the role of public space systems and the citizens within them, making a practical and useful contribution to the evolving science of cities in a rapidly urbanizing world, one that that claims to value equity and inclusivity, but at the same time brings economic, spatial and social polarization. “Cities are critical to challenging global inequality and promoting inclusive growth. For example, there is a tendency to believe that the idea of Cities for All would potentially limit the economic competitiveness of cities. However, recent research into the economic value of diversity within a networked city may offer powerful counter-arguments, and a more convincing and motivating path to implementation. The theme for 2019-2021 will be Humanizing the Smart City and Distribution of Big Data for All.”
Thinking beyond conventional boundaries
KTH’s vision is as President Sigbritt Karlsson outlines Diversity-Equality, Internationalization and Sustainability. Drawing from these lines, Tigran says “First, it must show a commitment to breadth and excellence in all fields of human inquiry, not simply in a particular niche; Second, world class universities engage in cutting-edge research whilst at the same time teaching the next generation, their students. Third, great universities must allow their researchers the freedom to experiment, succeed, and sometimes fail. Finally, world class universities have permeable boundaries. This means encouraging interdisciplinary research and teaching; it means working with the private sector, for example, fostering and encouraging partnerships with industry; and it means encouraging international collaboration. World class universities look outward, and think beyond conventional boundaries today, we educate students more and more of whom will go on to live and work in a range of cultures.”
The School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE) provides a collaborative environment for faculty, practitioners, private sector partners, and public policy experts to work together to seek answers and make discoveries that will advance management practice of the built environment and improve our cities. It does this through its centers, platforms, research groups and initiatives, of which the newly established Centre for the Future of Places (CFP) is one. Through directly addressing and influencing the dynamic forces and processes that shape and give life to our cities, networks, and landscapes, the aim is to substantially improve the lives of human beings through positive changes in the built environment of cities.
Promoting sustainable urban development
According to Tigran, the Centre for the Future of Places has been established to promote sustainable urban development by shifting the urban discourse from objects to places in order to promote healthy and livable cities, within the disciplines of Urban Planning and Urban Design. It envisions a networked community of leaders actively working across sectors, frontiers, and disciplines to build a more just, sustainable, and prosperous world. The task of the Centre is to take a holistic approach in defining, classifying and establishing the public space as an independent academic research field. This means that the center will systematically link together knowledge from all disciplines related to the field of public space, such as urban planning, urban design, environmental psychology, urban sociology, architecture, urban economics, human geography and others. The focus on public space will serve as a cross-disciplinary framework to merge the knowledge from the different disciplinary silos; thus creating links between the experts within them, to create a holistic understanding of the city that serves as the basis for practical and effective action, which will require extensive international cooperation.
Tigran says that CFP investigates the challenges that the regions, metropolitan cities, towns and neighborhoods face in the achievement of a more sustainable, resilient, livable, just and inclusive urbanism. His research focuses upon the urgent topic of public space, its role as an essential urban framework, its degradation under current global urbanization processes and the reforms that will be needed to achieve the public space goals of a “New Urban Agenda” as defined in 2016 by United Nations member states. More broadly, the Centre investigate topics relating to the contemporary and future urban condition, development, planning, design and the urban form and placemaking processes of the city. “We take as our principal professional concern the evolving role of urban planning and design within broader interdisciplinary fields, and their impacts upon human environments and social life,” he affirms,
The best job in the world!
Tigran’s motto in life is 5Ps: Passion, Perseverance, Professionalism, Persuasion and Playfulness. He likes to take on the challenges every now and then; likewise he is currently handling four jobs at once. He is directing a Centre, directing a master’s program, working as a researcher and teacher and mentor and all the rest that goes into the tenure track. However, it’s also true that he likes and thrives in multitasking and he also brings elements of improvisation, fast decisions and innovation into it. He says the fact that he was teaching 8 years project and strategic management and leadership has helped him quite a lot. But for him, to have a few stellar mentors throughout the academic career is also imperative to be a better leader. He likes constant challenges, ideas coming through, inspiring colleagues and curious students, transforming cities and people as well as urban places and public realms with all their complexity. “Cities are an amazing place with limitless opportunities, problems, challenges and source of ideas. Also, as my friend George Clooney would say: What else? What else indeed: this is the best job in the world, working as a professor at KTH”
Growing need for new thinking when it comes to teaching
While explaining the role of a leader in student’s life, Tigran says that it is a combination of a teaching and learning paradigm, high quality mentorships and instructions as well as producing learning environments of peer to peer learning and teaching which will be of mutual benefit to all. “Improving teacher quality is at the heart of our efforts to achieve excellence in the academic classroom. This comes at a time when the very structure of education is going through a profound change and more is yet to come. With knowledge all around us, available anytime and anywhere, the role of the teacher is going to be fundamentally transformed in the 21st century & beyond. In the future, our academic and research environments will be more fluid and complex and diverse, teachers more adaptable and flexible, and students will be more accountable as the task of learning becomes theirs. The challenge of the modern classroom is its increasing diversity, equality, equity and the skills that this diversity requires of teachers. This is why we need to do some new thinking when it comes to the teaching profession.”
“A truly transformed education profession requires us to think boldly and beyond the standard ideas and clichés (and sometimes go where no one has gone before) in order to redesign our educational systems to attract, prepare, support, retain, and reward excellent teachers and students. In this new vision, academic classroom learning would be guided by rigorous academic standards and high expectations, while being supported by latest data and technology and online learning and teaching (especially now in times of such pandemics as Corona Virus). Technology would also play a strong role in personalizing learning and supplementing classroom instruction so that students can learn at their own pace,” concludes Tigran on a future outlook of education.