Kent Macdonald

Photo of Kent Macdonald

Position Professor Emeritus

Areas of Expertise

Multi-family housing, urban design, and professional practice.


Kent Macdonald has taught in every area and in every year of Cal Poly's architecture program. His primary responsibilities recently have been in second-year and fifth-year studios, lower-division practice activities, and the professional-practice course.

He has an extensive background in the profession, having worked on his own and with firms in San Francisco, New York, and Washington DC for some 20 years. The bulk of this work has been in multi-family housing, including affordable and special-needs housing, and large-scale community revitalization projects, in both the US and China.  

Teaching Philosophy

Kent Macdonald studied architecture at the University of California at Berkeley. His teachers there were practitioners who believed strongly in the power of architecture to shape the environment for the common good. Influenced by them and by one particularly progressive parent, he regards Berkeley’s “communitarian” outlook as the basis of his philosophical stance to architecture – and to life.

That said, he believes the world of architecture today is wide; there is no dominant ideology or clear-cut consensus either about architecture’s purpose or what constitutes a "good" building or style. So he considers the essence of his work as a teacher to be one of helping students to find their own voices as designers – or more broadly, their voices as people – while simultaneously improving their skill sets and awareness of the world of architecture.


Educational Credentials:

M. Arch, UC Berkeley, CA  1983
B. Arts, UC Berkeley, CA  1975

Teaching Experience:

Lecturer, Architecture Department, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA  2002 – present
Lecturer, Architecture Department, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA  1994 – 1997
Lecturer, Architecture Department, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA  1991
Lecturer, Architecture Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA  1980

Professional Experience:

Senior Project Architect and Planner, Sorg and Associates, Architects, Washington DC  1997–2001
Consulting Design Architect, Herman Stoller Coliver Architects, San Francisco, CA  1994–1997
Principal, Private Practice in San Francisco and New York  1986–1994
Project Designer, Kupiec-Koutsomitis Architects, New York, NY  1985–1986
Project Designer, Daniel Solomon and Associates, FAIA, San Francisco, CA  1983–1985
Project Designer, Kaplan/McLaughlin/Diaz Architects, San Francisco, CA  1980–1983


Registered Architect, State of California, No. 22776


Selected Publications and Recent Research:

  • Macdonald, Kent, and Olsen, Clare. 2016. “Active Learning for a Large Architecture Technology Course.” Paper presented at National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA. February 25-27.
  • Workshop Presentation
  • Macdonald, Kent. 2012. “Transforming the Traditional Lecture: Active Learning, Knowledge Surveys, and More.” Center for Teaching and Learning, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA.

Selected Grants:

  • San Francisco Housing Competition, San Francisco, CA, 2005.
  • Ontario Education Village Design Competition (with Fougeron Architecture), 2001.
  • East of the River Revitalization Initiative (with Sorg and Associates), 2001.
  • US - China Housing Demonstration Project (with Sorg and Associates), 2001.
  • Howard University – LeDroit Park Revitalization Initiative (with Sorg and Associates), 2000.

Selected Activities: 

  • Faculty Advisor, Alpha Rho Chi  2013-Present.
  • Faculty Advisor, College Based Fee Committee  2012-14.
  • Faculty Coordinator, NCARB Intern Development Program  2010-2013.

Selected Awards:

  • Leading Edge Competition, Faculty Advisor, 2012; Second Place and Merit Award-winning teams from Cal Poly
  • Distinguished Lecturer Award, California Faculty Association (CFA), 2012
  • Merrill Gaines Faculty Award, Cal Poly  2008
  • George Hasslein Endowed Chair Award, Cal Poly  2004
  • National AIA Honor Award for Urban Design, LeDroit Park Revitalization Initiative (with Sorg and Associates)  2003 
  • National AIA Award, LeDroit Park Housing Initiative (with Sorg and Associates)  2002
  • Congress for New Urbanism Citation for Design Excellence, LeDroit Park Housing Initiative (with Sorg and Associates)  2002    
  • Third Place and Honorable Mention Awards, Seattle Housing Competition, "The Art of Downtown Housing” (with William Palmore)  1988


Updated 09.02.2020

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