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Faculty + Staff Profiles

Matthew Cohen

Matthew Cohen

Professor, Emeritus Architecture Carpenter Hall 114 PO Box 642220

Matthew A. Cohen is a licensed architect and Professor of Architecture, Emeritus at Washington State University. Professor Cohen received his Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and completed his Ph.D. in Architectural History at Leiden University in The Netherlands. Cohen’s research explores the subtle and complex proportional systems embedded in the 15th century buildings in Florence designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the originator of Renaissance architecture. His new, broadly applicable method of recording building measurements and physical characteristics is a significant contribution to the field, which architectural researcher and colleague David Wang has termed “acute observation.”

Cohen’s methodology and findings challenge longstanding preconceptions about Renaissance architecture and proportional systems. Although widely used throughout history, for example, Cohen contends that proportional systems have never actually fulfilled the purposes that either their designers or later historians have claimed they have, such as contributing structural stability and beauty to architecture. Their primary function, according to Cohen, has been to imbue architecture with meaning, one of the major qualities that distinguishes architecture from mere building. Cohen believes that this fundamental importance of meaning applies to architecture of all periods, and he uses it as a common thread to draw history into the design studio. There he helps students develop modern design work imbued with meaning appropriate to contemporary society.

Visit Matthew Cohen’s Academia website.


Doctor of Philosophy in Architectural History, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Master of Architecture, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

Master of Arts (Renaissance Art and Architecture), Syracuse University.

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies, University of Vermont.