EDRAite of the Month - Henry Sanoff
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Henry Sanoff

January 2014

Henry Sanoff

In honor of his 80th Birthday this month, we are delighted to start our “EDRAite of the Month” series by featuring the Environmental Design Research Association’s Founder.

Henry Sanoff, Professor Emeritus of Architecture, North Carolina State University, has four decades of research and professional practice experience mainly concentrated in programming, planning and designing school facilities. He is widely published and known for his many books— including, Democratic Design, Participation in School Planning, School Building Assessment Methods, Programming and Participation in Architectural Design; Community Participation Methods in Design and Planning, Creating Environments for Young Children, School Design, Integrating Programming, Evaluation and Participation in Design, Visual Research Methods in Design, and Methods of Architectural Programming. He was the USA editor of the Journal of Design Studies, and recognized as the founder of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). Professor Sanoff has been a visiting lecturer at more than 85 institutions and a visiting scholar at The University of London, Oxford Polytechnic, Royal College of Art, Monterrey Technical Institute, Tokyo University, Western Australia Institute of Technology, University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, University of Wellington, Royal Danish Academy of Art, University of Thessaloniki, University of Hamburg, Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Misr University, Qatar University, and Warsaw and Lodz Universities. He received the NCSU, Holladay Medal of Excellence, Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Achievement Award, Sigma Iota Rho award for Distinguished International Service, ACSA Architecture Distinguished Professor, ACSA Community Design Award, Distinguished Fulbright Award, Fulbright Senior Specialists Award, and the EDRA Honor and Service Awards. Professor Sanoff received awards from Progressive Architecture Design Awards Program, a Design Award and a Post Occupancy Evaluation Award from the School Construction News/Design Share Awards program.


The distinction between thought processes has been referred to as glass box versus black box, where the decision process is either transparent and observable or hidden. Anecdotal evidence of dysfunctional buildings led me to focus on the self conscious awareness of process and lack of knowledge of human behavior as critical factors that needed to be imbedded into a new approach to designing. So, while being involved in the development of the design methods movement it became evident that while it was possible to develop a transparent process by integrating methods from systems and decision theory there was an apparent lack of knowledge to wrap around the newly developed methods. This was the impetus for forming a new alliance between designers and social scientists, particularly those individuals who shared this vision and consequently were at the periphery of their discipline. Therefore this new alliance subsequently dubbed EDRA was conceived of as an organization of individuals who believed in the need for the development of a body of knowledge that would inform design practitioners. It was not long before EDRAites became the primary resource for programming, building evaluation, and participation, and subsequently the development of programs in environment and behavior and the field of environmental psychology. Today, much of the research developed by EDRA members has become an integral part of daily professional practice, yet there is a lack of awareness of their historical roots. Consequently, the challenge for EDRA researchers is to build on the previous successes and seek out new avenues of research that furthers the significance of human behavior in shaping the physical environment.


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