The Virginia Tech Honors College welcomes its newest professor of practice, architect Enric Ruiz-Geli. Ruiz-Geli will join the Honors College in August with the aim of furthering the college’s development of transdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities for its students, expanding on his current contributions as affiliate professor in the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program.

As founder and principal architect of the Cloud 9 studio in Barcelona, Ruiz-Geli is familiar with the benefits and challenges of projects that transcend disciplinary boundaries. His transdisciplinary approach to architecture has resulted in collaborations across the spectrum, including such famous names as theorist and philosopher Paul Virilio, ceramist Toni Cumella, El Bulli chef Ferran Adrià, theater director Bob Wilson, as well as countless others. Ruiz-Geli’s work at Cloud 9 has made him uniquely equipped to contribute to the task of educating the Honors College student population, which is made up of a diverse array of backgrounds and disciplines.

The intentional deconstruction of disciplinary boundaries to nurture diversity of thought is what Ruiz-Geli believes is the key to the professional and personal success of Honors College students. He said the Honors College has an exceptional ability to facilitate this kind of transdisciplinary collaboration.

“The way the Honors College operates right now with environments like SuperStudio, where our Virginia Tech students can learn and experience that their mindset must be able to collaborate, engineer, design, think, and build with other disciplines, not only their own discipline. I feel that this makes our students very aligned to complex scenarios and perfect team work, which will make them unstoppable in the professional world,” he said.  

Ruiz-Geli aims to help shape a class of Honors College students that are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of what transdisciplinary collaboration looks like in practice. By encouraging his students to showcase the disciplinary skills they already possess within their transdisciplinary project groups, he cultivates teams that have full awareness of their strengths and can work together to compensate for one another’s weaknesses. This allows students to apply their full skill set to their projects and enables genuine innovation. In a world that already possesses such well-developed disciplinary knowledge, it is through transdisciplinary collaboration and bold transgression of boundaries that teams can achieve revolutionary ideas – a fact of which Ruiz-Geli is a vocal proponent.

“Joining the Honors College, I feel I have – we all have – the responsibility to serve the very best Virginia Tech students, and the very best of our Beyond Boundaries plan, because it is the role of the Honors College to test, to innovate, to showcase experiential learning on campus, and therefore we must attract the very best partners in the world to our mission,” Ruiz-Geli said.

Ruiz-Geli’s professional experiences reflect the energy of creativity, activism, and radical innovation that he will bring to the Honors College. His architectural works have garnered widespread praise from critics. The New York Times calls the work of Cloud 9 a “seismic mental shift.” The Wall Street Journal selected Cloud 9 as one of four firms leading sustainable architecture in Europe, “making waves, shaping new landmarks.”

The Honors College’s project-based to approach to education will utilize Ruiz-Geli’s experience in coordinating successful projects, as well as in enabling these projects to be appropriately recognized. Many of Ruiz-Geli’s projects belong to prestigious collections, including the Museum of Modern Arn in New York, Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Frac Centre-Val de Loire in Orleans, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Empordà Museum in Figueres, and Design Hub in Barcelona.

Ruiz-Geli will eventually be part of a team teaching a new section of the Honors SuperStudio, a course led by Honors College faculty in which four interrelated topics are taught simultaneously and collaboratively in an innovative transdisciplinary experience. SuperStudio was one of the draws of the Honors College for Ruiz-Geli.

“SuperStudio is a great format for our students to learn in a transdisciplinary environment," he said. "I feel very aligned with and will learn a lot from the faculty who created this format. I have seen SuperStudio projects presented, and they are at the front edge of higher education today in the United States.”

In addition to his experience as associated faculty within the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program, where he became familiar with the theory and practices of the Honors College, Ruiz-Geli’s teaching experience comprises the roles of director of the Self-Sufficient Buildings Studio at Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, master tutor of Diploma Unit 18 at the Architectural Association in London, and most recently professor of practice at Virginia Tech.

“The Honors College is a unique environment of collaboration with access to a global network, industry, agencies, scenarios, and activism. I feel it is very important in my career right now, and I feel honored that I can participate and expand what the Honors College is already doing at this moment,” said Ruiz-Geli, explaining what it means to him to become a full-time member of the Honors College faculty. “I am very interested in learning under the leadership of Dean Paul Knox, who is a global thinker, about the leading interdisciplinary ethos, project-based learning, and experiential learning of the Honors College.”

Enric Ruiz-Geli was born in Figueres and studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture. Currently he is developing his Ph.D. dissertation, “It’s All About Particles,” with RMIT University. Learn more about Enric Ruiz-Geli and his work on his website.

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