U.Va. Architecture Professor Maurice Cox Named Director of Design at NEA

October 09, 2007
Oct. 9, 2007 -- Maurice Cox, educator, urban designer and advocate for community involvement in design initiatives, has been appointed director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts.

During his two-year appointment, Cox will oversee the Mayors' Institute on City Design, Governors' Institute on Community Design and the Your Town programs to help smaller communities preserve their character in the face of economic or social change, while providing professional leadership to the field, and supervising the grant-making process in design and the Endowment’s panel selection of design professionals and academics who evaluate and recommend grant awards.

"I am thrilled to be part of helping the NEA achieve its goal of 'democratizing' design and continuing to expand its reach into every corner of America," said Cox. "By directly engaging the public in the discourse about design, by placing it within reach of ordinary citizens, I believe we can empower the public to better shape their world."

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Giola said: "His wide-ranging experience, from professional practice to academic instruction to civic leadership, fits well with NEA's mission of promoting broad public access to artistic excellence. We know he will provide invaluable guidance for our programs."

Cox has devoted his career to challenging contemporary urban design issues.

An associate professor in the School of Architecture, Cox joined the U.Va. faculty in 1993 and is a 2004-2005 recipient of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design's Loeb Fellowship.

As an educator he has used the local community as a laboratory for students to have hand-on experiences related to local non-profit involvement and transportation issues and to see how designers can take lead positions in civic life and successfully shape their neighborhoods and cities through design.

"This is a very important appointment for Cox whose well developed knowledge of civic governance coupled with his excellent design skills, will serve the NEA in their national mission," said Architecture School Dean Karen Van Lengen. "We are all very pleased to support Cox’s appointment, fully anticipating all that he will bring to the job and the nation."
Recently he served eight years on Charlottesville's City Council, the final two years as mayor. During those years of intense civic involvement and leadership, Cox actively promoted creative, sustainable transportation initiatives that included plans to improve public transportation in the city and surrounding area, culminating in the creation of a new transit center downtown. In another initiative, he led the city in the restructuring of zoning ordinances that promote higher-density, mixed-use development. Frommer's "Cities Ranked and Rated" selected Charlottesville as "Best Place to Live" out of 400 cities in the U.S. and Canada while Cox was mayor.

Born in New York City, Cox is a graduate of The Cooper Union School of Architecture. In 2004, he was awarded the school's highest alumni honor, the President's Citation for distinguished civic leadership to the architecture profession.

Cox began his teaching career as an assistant professor of architecture at Syracuse University's Italian Program in Florence, Italy. His teaching in Florence was accompanied by 10 years in partnership with Giovanna Galfione, focusing on issues of urban design.

In 1996, he co-founded RBGC Architecture, Research and Urbanism Charlottesville with UVa Associate Professor Craig Barton, Giovanna Galfione and Marthe Rowen in Charlottesville. The firm served clients in communities traditionally underserved by the design field. His reputation as a design leader and innovator led to his being featured in Fast Company magazine as one of America's "20 Masters of Design," as well as in the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes," the New York Times, the Washington Post and Architecture Magazine, all for his ground-breaking use of design as a catalyst for social change in the rural community of Bayview, Virginia.