Designing beau­tiful build­ings is only a small part of what an archi­tect does, says Ivan Rupnik, who joined North­eastern as an assis­tant pro­fessor of archi­tec­ture in September.

Looking at the big pic­ture, and plan­ning “liv­able” com­mu­ni­ties that include build­ings with mul­tiple uses—for example, incor­po­rating a child­care center or a public park in a condo project—are among the ideas he brings to Northeastern.

There’s no reason we can’t have public access in pri­vate land or public pro­grams in pri­vate build­ings,” says Rupnik, whose schol­ar­ship focus is urban design with a global perspective.

Rupnik’s research and inter­na­tional archi­tec­ture expe­ri­ence focuses on Zagreb, Croatia, and other Euro­pean cities. With the goal of cre­ating inno­v­a­tive urban design models, he is encour­aging his stu­dents to do intern­ships in Europe, offering to help them struc­ture hybrid research pro­fes­sional projects.

His Zagreb project, the col­lab­o­ra­tive volume “Project Zagreb,” grew out of a 2004 graduate-​​level sem­inar at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity Grad­uate School of Design, where he is a PhD can­di­date. Pub­lished in 2008, the project inves­ti­gates the impact of pro­longed polit­ical, social, and eco­nomic insta­bility on archi­tec­ture and urbanism.

Among other find­ings, the research shows how the Uni­ver­sity of Zagreb’s Borongaj campus his­tor­i­cally played a major role in directing the devel­op­ment of the city of Zagreb, par­tic­u­larly in defending public space and directing the devel­op­ment of public trans­porta­tion infrastructure.

After fin­ishing the project, he was approached by the Uni­ver­sity of Zagreb to develop a new campus plan that will pro­vide public space and ensure the com­ple­tion of the city’s tram system and the begin­ning of a light rail net­work, he says.

The project required him to research the his­tory of campus plan­ning in North America and Europe. Rupnik ben­e­fited from his expe­ri­ence designing Sarah Lawrence College’s visual arts center, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Susan Rodriguez, of Pol­shek Part­ner­ship Archi­tects, New York.

The North Amer­ican col­lege campus plan “is some­thing Euro­peans are inter­ested in,” because they are trying to foster inter­dis­ci­pli­nary studies, says Rupnik. Unlike uni­ver­si­ties in the United States, Euro­pean uni­ver­si­ties are com­prised of sep­a­rate facil­i­ties that do not share resources, such as sci­ence labs, libraries, staff and faculty.

Archi­tects can help resolve these “non­spa­tial” prob­lems, says Rupnik, by asking ques­tions out­side the normal purview of archi­tec­ture, such as whether it’s better to change the ped­a­gogy than to change the loca­tion of a new building.

Archi­tec­ture school chair George Thrush sees the role of the archi­tect expanding into a number of dif­ferent fields—a view, Rupnik adds, that “lets you train a com­pe­tent archi­tect, but lets the archi­tect hear that he or she may not nec­es­sarily be designing build­ings, but may be used in other capacities.”