Robert Arens

 Photo of Robert Arens


Professor Emeritus

Phone 805.756.2366
Office 34-220H
office hours F23 Tuesday & Thursday: 10:00- 11:00 am or by appointment
Web Page

Areas of Expertise

Architectural design
Materials and construction systems
Landscape and ecology in architecture
Urban Policy in Legacy Cities


Robert Arens has a diverse background that blends architecture with landscape architecture, technology with design, and professional activity with teaching. This mix has resulted in a holistic and collaborative approach to design that balances both theoretical and practical considerations. 

Robert’s professional work has focused on civic and cultural projects. Robert has worked with Studio Daniel Libeskind on the World Trade Center Redevelopment, the Fiero Milano Redevelopment project, and the Denver Art Museum Expansion and Museum Residences. Earlier in his career, he worked with William Kessler and Associates on the US Air Force Museum Expansion, the State of Michigan Library and Historical Center, and the Orchestra Hall Expansion.

Prior to joining Cal Poly in 2005, Robert held full-time or visiting professorships at the University of Detroit, the University of Colorado and Kansas State University. At Cal Poly his teaching activity is currently focused on second and third-year studio and lecture courses that integrate design, building technology and digital tools.

Robert’s publications include works on architecture, urban design, technology and teaching; these may be found in numerous US and international publications, among them Shrinking Cities: Volume 1 and Stalking Detroit. He has given invited lectures at numerous universities, symposia and conferences and participated in exhibitions in New York, Detroit, and Ann Arbor. Among his grants and awards are the Booth Traveling Fellowship from the University of Michigan and an Honor Award from the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

An integral component to Robert’s teaching and practice activities is applied research. His current research focuses on rapidly-deployed emergency shelters and low-impact building systems.


Educational Credentials:

  • M Arch, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • BS Arch, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 

Teaching Experience:

  • Professor, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
  • Associate Professor, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
  • Associate Professor, Kansas State University
  • Assistant Professor, Kansas State University
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Colorado-Denver
  • Assistant Professor, The University of Detroit-Mercy

Professional Experience:

  • Robert Arens Architecture, San Luis Obispo
  • Project Architect, Studio Daniel Libeskind
  • Design Coordinator and Project Designer, Studio Daniel Libeskind with The Davis Partnership
  • Project Designer, The Davis Partnership
  • Project Designer, William Kessler and Associates


  • Licensed architect Michigan

Professional Memberships:

  • American Institute of Architects
  • Building Technology Educators Society


Selected Publications:

  • "Making Site Matter: Expanding the Field of Architectural Technology". Presented at the Reynolds Symposium: Education by Design. Portland, Oregon. October 2019. Co-authored with Brian Osborn and Carmen Trudell.
  • "Testing is Teaching Too: Transitioning a Large Lecture Courts from Summative to Formative Exams". Presented at the 2019 Building Technology Educator's Society Annual Conference. Amherst, MA. June 2019. Co-authored with Brian Osborn and Carmen Trudell.
  • The Kind of Problem Technology Is: A Case for Integrated Models of Architectural Technologies Education". Presented at the BTES Special Focus Session of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Denver, CO. March 2018. Co-authored with Brian Osborn and Carmen Trudell.
  • “Stirring the Pot; Theory and Beginning Design”. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA 104). Seattle, WA. 2016
  • “Design Intelligence in a Box”. Proceedings of National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS 32). San Luis, CA. 2016
  • “WatersEdge: Framework Meets Earthwork,” Proceedings of the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS 31). Houston, TX. 2015
  • “FlatPack: Optimizing an Emergency Relief Shelter,” Proceedings of the 2012 IASS-APCS Symposium: From Spatial Structures to Space Structures. Seoul, South Korea. Co-authored with Edmond Saliklis.
  • "Laid Bare: Debating an Expanded Role for Infrastructure at the World Trade Center,” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA 100). 2012
  • "Versioning: Design and Fabrication of a Flat Pack Emergency Shelter," Proceedings of the 2011 Conference of the Building Technology Educators Society, Toronto, Canada. Co-authored with Ed Saliklis.

Selected Grants/Research:

  • "Lighting Education: Deep Learning from Fundamentals to Integration". Jeffrey A. Milham Catalyst Grant, 2020. Co-PI with Sandy Stannard (PI) and Carmen Trudell
  • “Housing the World’s Most Vulnerable: Examples and Best Practices,” CAED Teacher/Student Scholars Program, 2015
  • “Earthworks: Advancing Rammed Earth Technology,” Cal Poly Planning, Design and Construction Institute Grant, 2013
  • “Rapidly Assembled Emergency Shelters, Phase 2,” Co-Principal investigator with Edmond Saliklis, PhD, PE. California Central Coast Research Partnership Grant, 2010

Selected Activities:

  • “New Detroit/Old Detroit: Emerging Urbanisms in a Post-Bankruptcy City”. Invited presentation at The Better World By Design Conference. Providence, RI. 2016
  • “The Long View on Temporary Shelters for Disaster Relief,” invited presentation at the opening symposium for Groundswell: Guerilla Architecture in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, held at the MAK Center fro Art and Architecture, 2014
  • “Pleats: Taking the Long View on Temporary Shelters for Disaster Relief”, Invited presentation at the Engineers Without Borders West Regional Meeting, 2012
  • “Ground Zero Sum Game: The WTC Redevelopment Ten Years Later”, Invited presentation to the AIA New Mexico State Conference, 2011
  • “Skin Deep: Detroit’s Tradition of Reinvigorating Its Urban Surfaces”. Invited exhibit in RE-Cycle: Strategies for Architecture, City and Planet at MAXXI (Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo), 2011. Collaboration with artist Sergio DeGiusti.

Selected Awards:

  • Cal Poly Learn By Doing Scholar Career Award for "Teaching Architectural Technology: A Scholarly Approach", 2020
  • Architecture Department Faculty Merit Award, 2014-15
  • Finalist, Cal Poly Distinguished Teaching Award, 2013


Updated 01.09.24

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