Phil Gruen was appointed Director for the School of Design and Construction in June 2015, after serving the previous two years as Interim Director and Assistant Director, respectively. In this role he will continue working to advance the school’s strategic initiatives while managing day-to-day operations.
Gruen’s teaching emphasis revolves around history, theory, and historic preservation. He is involved in delivering the school’s study tours; serves regularly on graduate thesis committees; and has also garnered awards for teaching excellence.
Gruen’s principal research involves American architecture and urbanism. He is particularly interested in the tug-of-war between the marketing of the built environment and its experience in human action and memory—themes he also brings into the classroom. His book manuscript, Manifest Destinations: Tourist Encounters in the Late-Nineteenth Century Urban American West (2014), explores this issue with respect to boosters and visitors in San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Chicago. Gruen has published aspects of this manuscript in the Journal of the West (2002) and in Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism (Routledge: 2001).
Gruen’s work also has appeared in Montana: The Magazine of Western History (2011) as well as in textbooks, anthologies, and encyclopedias on subjects ranging from monumental urban architecture in the United States to the planning and design of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. He has delivered papers at twenty-five professional conferences, authored more than ten book reviews, and provided the introductory essay for Architectura: Elements of Architectural Style (Barron’s Educational Series, 2008). He chaired a session on architectural tourism for the Society of Architectural Historians’ conference in 2014.
Locally, Gruen volunteers for the City of Pullman Historic Preservation Committee, and served for five years on the Pullman Planning Commission. He also chairs the WSU Historic Preservation Commission and, as of 2013, serves as a member of the Honors Council for WSU’s Honors College.