Professor Jeff Hou has taught in the department since 2001. He is the Director of the Urban Commons Lab and previously served as Department Chair and Graduate Program Coordinator. Prof. Hou’s research, teaching, and practice focus on community design, design activism, public space and democracy, and social and environmental justice.
In a career that spans across the Pacific, Hou has worked with indigenous tribes, farmers, and fishers in Taiwan, neighborhood residents in Japan, villagers in China, and inner-city immigrant youths and elders in North American cities, in projects ranging from conservation of wildlife habitats to design of urban open space. He has written extensively on the agency of citizens and communities in shaping the built environments, with edited, co-authored, and co-edited books including Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities (2010), Transcultural Cities: Border-Crossing and Placemaking (2013), Greening Cities, Growing Communities: Learning from Urban Community Gardens in Seattle (2009), and Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia (2016).
Hou’s 2017 book, City Unsilenced: Urban Resistance and Public Space in the Age of Shrinking Democracy examines the role of public space in an era of growing political tensions in the neo-liberalizing society. Another recent book Design as Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity (2017) is a compendium of community engagement techniques that can be applied to democratize the design practice. His most recent co-edited book Emerging Civic Urbanisms in Asia: Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and Taipei Beyond Developmental Urbanization (2022) continues the focus on civic engagement in transforming urban environments.
Hou is a 2019-2020 LAF Senior Fellow for Innovation and Leadership and a recipient of the 2019 CELA Award for Excellence in Research and/or Creative Work. His publications have won the EDRA Great Places Book Award in 2010, 2012, and 2018. Hou’s community engagement work in Seattle’s Chinatown International District has also been recognized with a Community Builder Award, a Golden Circle Award, and a Community Stewardship Award from WASLA. Hou was appointed the City of Vienna Visiting Professor in 2013. He has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and governmental committees, and as a coordinator for the Pacific Rim Community Design Network, which he co-founded in 1998.
Hou has a multidisciplinary background in architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and public art. He received his Ph.D. in Environmental Planning and M Arch from the University of California, Berkeley, MLA from the University of Pennsylvania, and B Arch from the Cooper Union.