Álvaro Malo

Professor Emeritus of Architecture


  • Architecture

Areas of Expertise

  • Desert land ethic (aesthetic research)
  • Emerging materials technology
  • Modeling (heuristics, instrumentality, rheology)
  • Tectonics (ideas/materials)


Education and Academic Life

Álvaro Malo joined the University of Arizona as Director and Professor of the School of Architecture (1998-2006) and was Founder/Director of the Emerging Material Technologies Graduate Program (2005-2011). Previous appointments include: Director of the Miami Architecture Research Center at the University of Florida (1993-98), Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania (1990-93) and Columbia University (1986-90), Assistant professor at SUNY/Buffalo (1979-86) and the University of Colorado at Denver (1976-79) — where he was Architectural Director of the Community Design Center. A native of Cuenca, Ecuador, he received his Architect's Diploma from the Universidad de Cuenca, did postgraduate studies at the Bouwcentrum, Rotterdam — sponsored by a Dutch Government Fellowship. Later, as a Fulbright Scholar, he attended Louis I. Kahn’s Studio and received his Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 — he worked as a designer in Kahn's office.

University of Arizona, Humanities Seminar Program: Specifically for adult lifelong-learning, the UA Humanities Seminars Program offers the highest-quality education in letters, arts, and sciences. The faculty are present and former tenured professors selected for their scholarly accomplishments as well as superior teaching ability. Emeritus Professor Malo offered a seminar in the Spring of 2017, titled  Architecture: the Idea of Materials, the Material of Ideas.

Keynote speaker at the III Ibero-American Biennial Conference of Academic Architecture. Keynote lecture,  Ecologías Entrelazadas: Energía y Materiales ~ Comunicación e Ideas   Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador, June 19-23, 2017

Writing and Creative Activities

Malo's intellectual and practical attention is focused in the experimental inflection between ‘idealized materials’ and ‘materialized ideas.’ Some aspects of this research are described in “Through the Looking Glass,” his work on the structural and optical properties of a possible architecture of glass, in ”Models: Instrumental and Iconic,” investigations of a possible aesthetic derived from the notion of force, and in “Matter and Memory,” dealing with the economy of continuous exchange between the ‘sensory-motor memory’ of the body and the ‘intuitive memory’ of the mind [Bergson]. His conceptual vector follows G. Bateson’s theory of twin ecologies: bioenergetics, the economy of energy and materials, and ecosophy, the economy of information, communication, ideas and lifestyle.

Malo's writings, in addition to those listed below, include: “Sensitive Apertures,” Eco-Architecture III: Harmonisation Between Architecture and Nature (Southampton: WITPress, 2010); “Preface” Thinking the Present: Urban Design in Arid Regions Tucson: UArizona, 2007);  "Instinct and Intelligence," in Robert Marino: Contemporary World Architects (Rockport: Rockport Publishers, 2002); "La Tectónica de las Formas," in Louis I. Kahn (Barcelona: Serbal, 1994); "Louis I. Kahn," in The Legacy of the Masters (New York: AIA/NY, 1987); and numerous entries in the Columbia University journal ABSTRACT (New York, 1987-1991) and Architecture Review, the University of Pennsylvania journal (Philadelphia, 1991-1994).

His built work has been published in Arquitectura del Ecuador: Panorama Contemporáneo (Bogotá: Escala, 1994) and his design projects featured in Progressive Architecture (June 1979). He is a registered architect in Colorado and New York, an NCARB Certificate holder and a life member of the Colegio de Arquitectos del Ecuador. His architectural work, which includes the building of Escuela de Arquitectura de Cuenca, Ecuador, has been exhibited in New York City, Philadelphia, and South America.

Research and Teaching

Spanning over 30 years, Malo's academic and pedagogical experience has been infused with a sense of heuristic reliance on the empirical method as demonstrated by a number of practical seminars and laboratories conducted at U. Penn on such topics as "Scaffoldings" and “Matter and Memory.” This work found practical application in “Intermodalities of Miami: Public Transportation Projects,” a number of funded research contracts on urban design and public infrastructure carried out at the MARC/U. Florida and selected for presentation and exhibition in the technical seminar "Interactions Between Airport and Town" at the XIX Congress of the International Union of Architects in Barcelona, 1996, and later at the ACSA International Conference in Hong Kong, 2000.

Searching for a ‘residence on earth,’ Malo began his elliptical orbiting in the highlands of the South American Andes, decelerated looking for buoyancy by the coral reefs at the edge of the Everglades of Florida, and is now gliding in the Sonoran Desert's horizon of sandstone and shimmering air of the American Southwest — a flight path affected by gravity and levitation. In Arizona his conceptual and practical challenge was to develop an intertwined land ethic ~ aesthetic research binary. He presented this in a seminal essay “Una ética del desierto: investigación estética,” at the First International Symposium on Design in Arid Regions, Santiago, Chile, 2003. At the core of this pursuit is the notion that geography is not just a territory that awaits mapping and subdivision — a ‘resource’ to be developed — but it is also a field of forces whose vectors await experiencing — a ‘source’ of sensibility. The vector of inflection linking geography to geometry internalizes the surface of the land, or following Spinoza's concepts of latitude and longitude, extends the surface of our bodies onto the landscape, thus proposing a natural geometry that allows us to comprehend the unity of composition of all Nature and the modes of variation of that unity.

In his role as founding Director of the Emerging Material Technologies Graduate Program at Arizona, Malo was Co-PI of a proposal to the National Science Foundation program in Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (NSF/EFRI). The project, Autonomous Adaptive Performance in a Sensitive and Integrative System (AAPSIS) for a Telemedicine Unit, is focused on the design of a prototypical structure for delivery of health care services to the Tohono O’odham Nation Native American populations in Arizona. The core research group was composed of a multidisciplinary team of faculty from the fields of architecture, engineering (materials science, aerospace & mechanical engineering, systems & industrial engineering), psychology and cognitive sciences, and medicine (Telemedicine and Indian Health Services).

The work of his students has received national and international awards, most notably the Lyceum Fellowship 2005|Smart Materials, 1st Prize, https://lyceum-fellowship.org/uploads/2005-1st-place-Wayne-Jenski.pdf; Archiprix International, Shanghai 2007, https://www.archiprix.org/2021/projects/2279; Montevideo 2009, https://www.archiprix.org/2021/projects/2577; Cambridge 2011, https://www.archiprix.org/2021/projects/2846.

For his applied research and teaching in Emerging Material Technologies, he received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Creative Achievement Award at the ACSA 100th Anniversary Meeting in Boston, in 2012.

ÁLVARO MALO_portfolio.pdf


  1. The Hand: Organ of Knowledge.pdfOn Making, New York: Rizzoli / Pratt, 1992, p. 46-51.
  2. Models: Instrumental & Iconic.pdf, Proceedings International Research Symposium, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, February 1992.
  3. Through Looking Glass.pdf, Proceedings 83rd ACSA Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington, April 1995.
  4. Intermodalities of Miami: Water, Land, Air....pdf, Technical Seminar: Interactions Between Airport and Town, XIX Congress International Union of Architects, UIA 96 Barcelona, Spain, July 1996.
  5. Una ética del desierto: investigación estética.pdfARQ 57 - Zonas áridas / Arid zones, Santiago, Chile: Ediciones ARQ: Pontificia Universidad Católica, August 2004.
  6. A desert land ethic: aesthetic research.pdf, Proceedings International Design Symposium on “Urban Design in Arid Zones”, Pontificia Universidad Católica, Santiago, Chile, May 2003.
  7. Matter and Memory.pdf, Proceedings ACSA 2003 International Conference, Helsinki, Finland, July 2003.
  8. Casa Tucson, en Zaragoza, España.pdfARQUITECTURA COAM 340, Colegio de Arquitectos Madrid, Madrid: Ex-Profeso, 2005, p. 79-85.
  9. Architecture and Engineering: asymptotic paths.pdf, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 2008.
  10. A Desert Land Ethic: Aesthetic Research.pdfDivinity, Creativity, Complexity: Center 15, A Journal for Architecture in America book series, Austin: UT Austin, 2010, p. 94-101.
  11. Autonomous Adaptive Performance in a Sensitive and Integrative System (AAPSIS) for a Telemedicine Unit.pdf, National Science Foundation NSF/EFRI Proposal, 2010.
  12. Sensitive Apertures.pdf, Third International Conference on Harmonisation Between Architecture and Nature, La Coruña, Spain, April 2010.
  13. Emerging Materials.pdf, Declination 9º 42’ – Solar Fusion 2009, Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, August 2009.
  14. Adaptive Autonomous Performance in a Sensitive Integrative System.pdf, 7th International Conference on Technology, Knowledge and Society, Bilbao, Spain, March 25 – 27, 2011.
  15. ACSA Creative Achievement Award 2011-2012.pdf, presented at the 2012 ACSA 100th Anniversary Meeting, Boston, Massachusetts
  16. The Idea of Materials and the Material for Ideas.pdf , flagship essay introducing Volume thirty-six, 2016, of The New Bookbinder, Journal of Designers and Bookbinders, “Mind and Matter, Material in the Making”— Henry Ling Ltd., Dorchester, UK, 2016, p. 5-10.






  1. Bularca, B.

Smart Materials — Lyceum Fellowship.pdf



         2. Hall, B.

Heliomorphic Canopy.pdf



         3. Hall, E.G.

Polymer Trombe Wall.pdf



         4. Jenski, W.

Smart Materials — Lyceum Fellowship.pdf



         5. Jenski, W.

Porous Adaptive Membranes — Archiprix 2007.pdf



        6. Jenski, W.

Porous Adaptive Membranes — M.S. Thesis.pdf



        7. Laver, J., Winn, K.

EcoCeramic Research — Archiprix 2009.pdf



        8. Laver, J.

High Performance Building Envelopes — M.S. Thesis.pdf



        9. Mayer, M.

Smart Materials— Lyceum Fellowship.pdf



       10. McDonald, B.

Sensitive Apertures — M.S. Thesis.pdf



       11. Rees, M.

Eco-Clean Dwelling.pdf



       12. Toth, A.




       13. Vander Werf, B.

In Compression: Modeling with Glass.pdf



       14. Vander Werf, B.

Elastic Systems for Compliant Shading Enclosures M.S. Thesis.pdf



       15. Watson, T.

Self-Rigidizing Foam Shelter.pdf



   16.  Arellano, D.

Elementary School | Nature Preserve.pdf ARC452 2008