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Q&A with Dennis "Denny" Dine

What drew you to WashU?
I was drawn to Washington University by the Sam Fox School’s commitment to social justice, its strength in urban design, and the unparalleled degree of freedom afforded by its Master of Architecture curriculum. Further, I knew the diverse faculty and their equally diverse research foci would afford me tremendous opportunities to broaden my architectural horizon. Lastly, my time with the current students during Open House weekend and the incredible facilities sealed the deal—it was clear to me that the Sam Fox was so much more than a School.

What interests you most about your studies in architecture?
As architects, we need to respond to the considerable share our buildings hold in greenhouse gas emissions, as the effects of global climate change continue to worsen. Additionally, the events of the past year have highlighted the degree by which architectural and urban design have produced vulnerabilities for our most susceptible populations. But through these challenges emerge tremendous opportunities for our generation of forward-thinking architects and designers. Therefore, the courses at Sam Fox I found most interesting were those that explored this increasingly interconnected relationship between the built, social, and ecological environments.

What’s been the most memorable studio or project you’ve completed in the Sam Fox School?
During my entry semester in fall 2019, I was enrolled in Valerie Greer & Philip Holden’s Extreme Environments: Radical Architecture studio. In this studio, we took an unconventional approach in starting our projects four times—focusing each start on the distinct attributes of site, light, thermodynamics, and gravity. I found this approach to be incredibly effective given the delicacy of our sites—all U.S. National Parks. Acknowledging humans as the most invasive of all species within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, my final iteration, “Trot Carefully,” revisited the vernacular “dog trot” house to create an environmentally, socially, and historically thoughtful proposal. And, through the rigorous hours inherent in the studio’s 4x start structure, I was able to bond with my new classmates, whom I am now honored to call some of my closest friends.

What have you learned as an architecture student that you’d be most lost without?
As an architecture student, I have learned the value of an iterative design process. Recognizing each draft, revision, presentation as a testing of a hypothesis has freed me from the expectation of “perfection” at each step. This recognition has allowed my design work in grad school to be more inventive and exploratory. Today, the designs that I am most proud of are those that emerged by accident, as I know it was only through my willingness to fail that such accidents were possible.

Talk about your experiences on GAC—why did you first get involved, and what have you valued most about your involvement?
During the 2019 Open House weekend, I realized how integral the GAC is to the mission and culture of the Sam Fox School. Upon my entry at WashU, I wanted to get involved and joined the GAC as VP of Professional Development. Following a year of successful professional development networking events and fairs, I was nominated and elected President for the 2020-2021 academic year—one shaped by the challenges brought on by unprecedented crises. I have valued the trust placed upon me by my classmates to represent their interests and the Sam Fox School administration’s spirit of collaboration and understanding as we worked together to address the challenges of the year. Through this experience, I have learned how to be a better listener and effective negotiator, and have become more confident in my leadership abilities—skills that will undoubtedly prove invaluable as I begin my career.

Talk about the research work you’ve completed with professor Hongxi Yin.
Alongside collaborators at the Washington University School of Medicine and Purdue University, Dr. Yin and I have been exploring the evidence-based connections between the built environment, emerging technologies, and post-stroke rehabilitation outcomes. This research has allowed me to connect my own interests in architectural design, health care, and social justice, as stroke incidence and mortality disproportionately affects socioeconomically challenged communities of color. Our most recent paper was selected for publication in the proceedings of the 2021 ACSA Conference, and I had the opportunity to present our findings and serve as a panelist during the conference.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
As much of my time in St. Louis coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been extremely grateful for the gem that is Forest Park. Its miles of trails, picturesque vistas, and countless amenities have offered my classmates and me a much-needed retreat from the stresses of course work and global events. And after nearly two years, I still find myself discovering new routes and special architectural moments! Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed spending time exploring the impressive collections (and architecture) of the Saint Louis Art Museum, which is spectacularly located atop a hill at the park’s center.

Think back to your first year at WashU. What would your 2019 self be most excited to learn about their future?
A crystal ball in 2019 would have certainly been helpful, right? All kidding aside, I would be excited to learn of the immense professional, leadership, and academic opportunities the Sam Fox School would afford me. Moreover, I would be excited to learn of the lifelong friendships I would soon develop with the strangers that surrounded me in Steinberg Auditorium on Day 1 of orientation.

Tell us something we should know about you that we forgot to ask!
One additional note I would like to add is one of gratitude for the efforts and dedication of Director Woofter, the chairs, and the entire faculty and staff of the Sam Fox School. Their tireless work throughout these unprecedented years has afforded my classmates and I unprecedented growth.