Danielle Willkens

Email: willkend@regents.ac.uk
Subject(s): Liberal Arts & Humanities

Professional Biography

Danielle Willkens, Associate AIA, FRSA, is a practising architectural designer, architectural historian and PhD candidate at University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture. She is no stranger to long hours in dusty archives or wandering corridors in historic structures with her sketchbook in hand but she also has practised at industrial sites, clad in steel-toed boots.

Her work straddles the connected, although many times disparate, disciplines of architectural history and architectural design. Enjoying the balance between writing and making, her diverse yet interconnected professional experiences include serving as the design/build Project Manager for a floating classroom, a digital visualisation researcher at a UNESCO World Heritage site, an archival explorer of writings and drawings in four countries, a researcher for an urban sanitation initiative, and an instructor for a series of original design courses for gifted teenagers. Through individual and collaborative endeavours, her work aspires to blur the traditionally perceived boundaries between the roles of the researcher and practitioner.

Danielle’s work has been featured in the Journal of Architectural Education, CRIT, The Washington Post and has been presented at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Sir John Soane's Museum and the Society of Architectural Historians’ Annual Conference.


  • Expected 2014 University College London, Bartlett School of Architecture
    • PhD in Architectural History and Theory
  • 2011 Savannah College of Art & Design
    • Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation
  • 2008 University of Virginia
    • M. Arch
  • 2006 University of Cambridge, St. John’s College
    • M. Phil; History of Art and Architecture with a concentration in Italian Renaissance Architecture & Theory
  • 2004 University of Virginia (Hons)
    • BS Architectural Design and Architectural History

Relevant Past Employment

  • 2013 - present Regent's University London (formerly American Intercontinental University London)
    • Instructor
  • 2012 - 2013 Queen Mary, University of London
    • Postgraduate Teaching Assistant
  • 2010 University of Virginia School of Architecture
    • Adjunct Faculty
  • 2010  Matherne Marine Design, Inc., Portsmouth, Virginia
    • CNC Plasma + Fabrication Consultant
  • 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence 1 Grant
    • Designer-in-Residence for the nonprofit The Elizabeth River Project
  • 2008 - present Duke University, Talent Identification Program
    • 2011 - present: Independent Learning Curriculum Developer
    • 2012, 2008: Architecture Instructor, Summer Studies Program at the Texas A&M + Davidson College, NC sites
    • 2011, 2010: Summer Studies Program, Academic Coordinator at the Trinity University, TX site
  • 2007-2010 The Learning Barge,
    • Project Manager for this collaborative design/build endeavour that launched a floating classroom and sustainable field station on the Elizabeth River in Virginia

Professional Affiliation(s)/Accreditation

  • RIBA affiliate member
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA), Associate member
  • Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB) –Education and Communications Committee member)
  • Society of Architectural Historians (SAH)
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA)
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)
  • National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), visiting team member and past Board of Directors member

Teaching & Course Development

With strong interests the concept of ‘early intervention’ design education, Danielle developed an original 10-lesson online course module, entitled ‘Architecture’, for students aged 10-13. Created as a highly interactive and multi-modal course, students will learn about architectural history, fundamental design concepts, and will complete a variety of exercises in drawing and modelling in both two and three-dimensions. The course, developed for Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), will be launched in the summer of 2014 and much of the content has been field tested at Duke TIP’s Summer Studies Program.

Research Interests

At the present moment, Danielle’s scholarly endeavours are driven by the scope of her PhD at the Bartlett School of Architecture within University College London: a dissertation entitled ‘The Transatlantic Design Network, 1768-1826.’ Although there has been much research on connections between America, England, and the European continent, these studies largely focus on politics, literature, and commerce. Danielle’s dissertation underscores the fact that very little research has been conducted on the cross-cultural exchange of design philosophies in the nascent years of the United States of America. This research identifies a wholly differentiated American architectural identity that was not simply reactionary or derivative to European design but rather collaborative in nature and adapted to the North American environment, cultivated tastes, and national ambitions. Her dissertation research blossomed from the investigation of two selected architects who were highly influential in their own time and have become neoclassical icons for their respective nations: Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and Sir John Soane (1753-1837). Both figures designed complex house museums that blurred the distinctions between public and private space; they also assigned value to architecture beyond pure aesthetic considerations. They argued that the architect was a national leader, one that designed not for empires but “natural aristocracies” built on talent, investment of time, and a broadened sense of epistemology. Through their architecture, Jefferson and Soane addressed questions of national sustainability: buildings as models and conduits for future change. They were multi-faceted architects that expanded the role of the designer beyond built fabric through education and activism. Expanding her research from these seminal architects, Danielle has uncovered an exciting circle of globally interconnected figures that will help designers and historians better understand how information was exchanged prior to the conveniences of the digital age. Through the study of the transatlantic design network, my dissertation also sheds light on the earliest international design commissions made by the United States of America and offers a new reading of Jefferson’s Monticello in conversation with Sir John Soane’s Museum. 


  • 2011. Educational Interface: the digital spectacle in museum interpretation. CRIT, 71: Emergence, Spring Issue.
  • 2011. Light and the Enlightenment: 20th Birthday Gala. New York: Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.
  • 2010. A Case for Ruins and a Cause for Concern. in 2010. Lunch 5. Richmond: Carter Printing. pp. 134-141.
  • 2010. Art Aboard: the first season of the Elizabeth River Project Learning Barge. A National Endowment for the Arts sponsored publication. Portsmouth, VA: Ecoprint.
  • 2010. Barge Cards. A National Endowment for the Arts sponsored publication. Portsmouth, VA: Ecoprint.

Other Outputs

  • 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Photography Competition, Honorable Mention, Laryngeal Light
  • 2013 Pecha Kucha Night Buffalo vol. 13: Society of Architectural Historians (April 13)
    • Touching the Texture: hyperrealism in architectural photography
  • 2012 Morpholio EyeTime Emerging Talent Honor Award, In Progress digital photography series
  • 2012 [Exhibition]One Day in the City, UCL Festival of London and Literature, Part 1(June 15-August 22) & Part II (September 24-December 14)
    • Collaborative ink drawing (8ft x 2ft) with Amy Thomas, There's No Time like the Present
  • 2011 AIA National Photography Competition, First Prize, Lady of St. Pancras
  • 2007 [Exhibitions]The Learning Barge
    • Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 Competition and Expo, Washington D.C. National Mall (April 23-25)
    • Structures for Inclusion 7 (April 14)
    • Critical MASS, University of North Carolina Charlotte (April 12-14)
    • Charlottesville Community Design Center, Charlottesville, VA (February 2-24)

Conference Papers Given

  • 2013 Spaces/Times/Peoples: Domesticity, Dwelling and Architectural History hosted by the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey (December 12)
    • Crafting a Cabinet: the evolution of the working spaces at Jefferson’s Monticello and Soane’s Museum
  • 2013 UCL Institute of the Americas, Transatlantic Identities’ (November 26)
    • Unflattering Prospects to Public Service: the Transatlantic Design Network and America’s first international architectural commission
  • 2013 Between Art and Information: Collecting Photographs, Annual Conference of the Museums and Galleries History Group in partnership with the Photographic History Research Centre of Demontfort University (March 2)
    • No Flash Allowed
  • 2011 Sir John Soane’s Museum Study Talk, London (May 5)
    • A Case for Ruins and a Cause for Concern: the Digital Mulberry Row Project at Jefferson’s Monticello

Grants Awarded

  • 2014 ($5,000) International Center for Jefferson Studies Short-term Fellowship
    • The impact of the female lens on Jefferson’s design sensibilities and 3D scanning at Monticello
  • 2013 (£370) Architecture Research Fund, Minor Award from The Bartlett School of Architecture
    • 3D Scanning at Sir John Soane’s Museum
  • 2012 (£200) Maggie Scruton Memorial Travel Award from The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL
    • The Miraculous Image: experimentations in hyper-realistic photography at three sites by Le Corbusier
  • 2011 (£370) Architecture Research Fund, Minor Award from The Bartlett School of Architecture
    • Maria Cosway: artist, educator, and consociate
  • 2009 ($1,000) International Center for Jefferson Studies Interpretive Fellowship
    • Digital Mulberry Row Project: A Reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson’s Enslaved Alley
  • 2008 ($5,000) William R. Kenan, Jr. Endowment Fund for the Academical Village
    • Constructions of Ideology: Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia
  • 2007 ($20,000) UVa School of Architecture Kenan Fellowship for Graduate Teaching and Research
  • 2007 ($5,000) American Architectural Foundation + Sir John Soane Museum Foundation Traveling Fellowship
    • Designing a Dwelling: Jefferson and Soane as Architects of Their Own Homes
  • Grants listed below were for the Learning Barge project; I served as the lead student researcher, grant writer and Project Manager
    • ($125,000) Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation
    • ($75,000) Environmental Protection Agency P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) Award
    • ($7,500) NCARB Prize
    • ($1,000)P3 Youth Council for Sustainable Science and Technology from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers