Meet Our Faculty: Grace Ong Yan, Assistant Professor, Interior Design, Jefferson College of Architecture and the Built Environment

Book launch of Building Brands: Corporations and Modern Architecture by Grace Ong Yan, published by Lund Humphries. Grace is an architectural historian whose scholarship explores alternate theories of modernism, intersections of media and the built environment, and interdisciplinary collaborations.

What does Professor Ong Yan do at Jefferson?
In my position, I bring my expertise in architectural and design history as well as the practice of interior design to teaching students, and through my scholarship to the field. I teach the following courses to undergraduate and graduate students: interior design history, interior design studio, and research and programming for the master’s project. This spring I will be teaching a special topics seminar entitled Inhabiting Media, in which I will explore topics of my research with students.

I also provide academic advising to interior design juniors and a portion of the senior class.

I have been a proud member of the CABE Curriculum Committee for two years now. This year, I became Chair of the CABE Lecture Series committee. In this role, I feel it is important to champion Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the role models we bring to speak to the college and the university. As a minority myself, it is a cause near and dear to me, and I want to help usher in change for a more equitable world. Together with the committee, we brought some dynamic and important people of color from the design world to the series this semester, which we will continue to do in future semesters.

How long has Professor Ong Yan been at Jefferson?
I’ve taught at Jefferson for about six years total. While this is my third year as tenure-track faculty, I taught architectural history to construction management students and a topic seminar on architectural branding as an adjunct instructor a number of years ago. When a tenure-track search came up, I jumped at the chance to become more invested at Jefferson.

What is the best part of Professor Ong Yan's job?
The best part of my job is having the opportunity to do what I love: think about critical ideas, histories, theories, and designs to better the built environment and inspire the next generation of designers to think critically in designing interior projects, and in understanding history. The second part is getting to do this with amazing colleagues.

What’s one piece of advice she gives her students?
Look back to history in order to move forward. This applies to the study of history as well as design. We gain invaluable insight from a design that has come before us and will build upon it in order to innovate with new designs.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about her?
While my primary research agenda now is as a writer of architectural and design history, I was a practicing interior designer and architect for a number of years in New York and in Paris. In fact, my research is informed by my practice in design. This is evidenced in my new book, Building Brands: Corporations and Modern Architecture. While the book is the result of insights based on copious archival research of historical case studies, my interest in the topic was instigated and bolstered by designing branded environments for corporate clients at Gensler’s Studio 585 in New York.