Jeffrey Raven ’84 arrived at Trinity College after having lived in Beirut, Iran, and Paris. Because he was a diplomat brat, he was exposed to countries all over the world. His experience in great cities perhaps set the stage for a career in architecture—to compare world cities based on their morphology and form. Today, he is a professor, scholar, and architect.
Raven, an architect at heart fell in love with Trinity’s buildings and structures immediately. His favorite activities were Ultimate Disc, the radio station WRTC 89.3, and the Model United Nations. He majored in history, and took full advantage of the low student/teacher ratio. Raven focused on literature and history, and eagerly jumped at the opportunity of a one-on-one class with Prof. Philip Bankwitz entirely in French. Raven says, “I was always interested in architecture because it’s a flexible vessel in which I can pour my interests.” Raven appreciates several disciplines and saw the way he could combine them in the field of architecture.
After Trinity, Raven pursued and completed his architecture degree at the Rhode Island School of Design. He then later went on to get his masters from Cambridge University. Raven has done a masterful job combining teaching with his own projects. He explains architectural concepts to me with ease and I begin to understand his passion for his work. Raven is based in New York in part because he was teaching at Columbia and loves big, world cities. He references a fondness for layers of culture, smells, and tastes within different urban environments but especially New York. Now, he is director for the Master’s in Architecture and Urban design at New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
When it comes to his own design projects (within the U.S. and internationally) he follows a triple bottom line; environment, economics, and equity. He also has a real interest in resilient cities within the context of sustainability. Raven says, “Half the battle of architecture is designing eloquently in harmony within the context.” He views each project as their own entity based on natural resources, population, and citizen’s interest.
I took the risk of asking Raven if he has had a favorite project. He smiles and tells me about a community based planning project in the South Bronx. He says, “This project was influential for me. I learned urban design and planning can be a Trojan horse for democracy building and civil society.” Raven views architecture organically, he sees that spaces provide comfort, safety, and creative environments for the people within them. He has been able to explore his own talents, share them, and push the field of architecture to grow.