John Elliott
John Elliott
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies in Design + Environmental Analysis
Human Centered Design

3425 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall


I have three areas of expertise in teaching, involving three types of design literacies. These are visual literacy in design (DEA 1101), material literacy in design (DEA 2422) and ecological literacy in design (DEA 4220).

My research interests are related to the idea of "Nature inside" both in a theoretical and a practical sense. In the theoretical domain, I am interested in the aspects of material culture of the built environment that express a society's set of values as they pertain to the natural world, especially regarding environmental ethics and aesthetics. I am currently working on a global history of environmental thought as expressed through design.

In the practical sense, I am interested in "pulling" technology through the physical project situated in a real world context. I use the prototype as a stimulant for design discourse, a conductor for technological developments, and an exemplar for commercial enterprise. These prototypes range in scale from the artifact to the edifice; from a pair of benches installed on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to a bamboo space-framed outdoor classroom in the Dominican Republic. I am also interested in material science research and have been investigating the effects of carbon sequestration on the structural strength of concrete. Finally, I have been creating a body of sculptural works in wood as a form of public outreach regarding various local environmental issues.

I am interested in the idea of "Nature inside" both in a theoretical sense and in a practical sense. In the theoretical domain, I am interested in those aspects of material culture of the built environment that express a society's set of values as they pertain to the natural world, especially regarding environmental ethics and aesthetics. I am currently working on a couple of book projects that explore these ideas: "Opus Natura: A global history of thought about nature and the built environment" and "The Art of Discovery: Contemporary Root Woodworking in China".

In the practical domain, I use the physical project to "pull" technology in a real world context to produce meaningful works. The project prototype is used as a stimulant for design discourse, a conductor for technological developments, and an exemplar for commercial enterprise. Specifically, I have been producing a body of studio furniture works designed to heighten awareness of various environmental issues. Much of this work is featured in public spaces such as the Naitonal Mall in Washington D.C. or in Cornell University buildings. However, most recently, I have turned to sculpture as a medium for expression of these ideas. My "Arbortecture" works are exploring the intimate relations between people, trees, and buildings. They have been exhibited at many galleries and museums throughout the Northeast, including the Johnson Museum at Cornell and the Sculpture Center in Cleveland. Additionally, a number of pieces have been commissioned for public art, including Cornell campus and the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia.

Concurrently, in more technical forms of research, I am working on two separate initiatives. The first is developing a new wood-based structural system called "Triakonta", designed for disassembly and carbon-sequestration. A quarter-scale version has been prototyped for furniture production, featured in an international exhibition on seating for the 21st century. A full scale, bamboo-based version was used to create an outdoor classroom in 2015 and is currently being field tested in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. A wood-based version of the Triakonta system was used to construct a community building in Maanegaun, a Nepali village that suffered widespread damage in the earthquake of 2015. Most recently, full-scale seismic testing of the Triakonta system is being arranged in cooperation with Tongji University in China.

The second technical initiative is material science research into the effects of carbon sequestration on the structural properties of portland cement-based concrete. We have been able to produce a carbon-neutral formulation while retaining enough compressive strength to be considered a controlled low-strength material for civic works or a K-type mortar for masonry. A paper has been published on the findings. A subsequent round of funding is now looking at the role of plasticizers to improve strength. This could have a major impact on global greenhouse gas emissions associated with the concrete industry.

Through my time at Cornell, I have found that the best way for students to learn is through active participation in the educational experience. This is as true for the classroom as it is for the studio. It is important that they invest in what and how they learn, whenever possible. I try to help them achieve their goals but to standards that I establish, including the social and environmental dimensions, along with the aesthetic and conceptual considerations.

Advisement is an important process in assiting the student to reach their individual academic goals. This requires a close listening to the student's ideas, as well as a broad awareness of the course offerings both inside and outside of the College. It requires knowledge of the various off-campus learning options and opportunities, for this often is the most memorable part of a student's experience at Cornell.

DEA 1101: Interior Design Studio I

DEA 2030 : Digital Communications

DEA 4010: Special Topics in Sustainable Design

DEA 4080: Interior Design Studio VIII

DEA 4402: Interior Design Studio VIII

DEA 4220: Ecological Literacy and Design

DEA 4221: Philosophies of Nature and Design in the European Context

DEA 4223: Field Studies in Eco-design

DEA 4225: Cuba Vista

DEA 6010: Directed Graduate Readings

DEA 6100: Introduction to Design Theory

VISST 1101: Design Studio I

ARCH 4610: Ecological Literacy and Design

DEA 2422: Making Green: An Introduction to (Sustainable) Product Design

Cheng, W., Elliott J., Hover, K., “High-Volume Carbon Sequestration for Controlled Low- Strength Materials”, Materials Journal of the American Concrete Institute. vol.116, no. 4, 18-343.

Elliott, J. 2016. “Triakonta25-WBC (Wingback Chair)”, On the Edge of Your Seat: Chairs for the 21st Century, Schiffer Publishing, Atglen PA, pp. 138-141.

Elliott, J. 2015. “Triakonta BB100: Dynamic Systemization Meets Big Bamboo”, Proceedings of the inaugural AIA/ACSA Intersections Symposium, Intersections Between the Academy and Practice: Applied Research in Architecture Education That Advances Practice. May 13, Atlanta, GA. 12% acceptance rate.

Elliott, J. 2014. "Victus Acernis by Jack Elliott". Published October 28, by Cornell Plantations, Ithaca, NY.

Elliott, J. 2013. "REDD+ Talks - Jack Elliott, Cornell University",, Published May 9, 2013 by Wildlife Works, Sausalito, CA.

Elliott, J. 2013. “Jack Elliott speaks about Samothracae”, Memorial Art Gallery Audio Files, iTunes podcast: University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

Elliott, J. 2010. "The Triakonta Structural System: From Toy to Tower", Proceedings from the 2010 SWST International Conference, Geneva, Switzerland.

Rider, T.R., Elliott, J. “Education, Environmental Attitudes and the Design Professions” in Selected Papers of the ARCC 2007 Research Conference, ARCC Journal, vol. 4, no.2, 2007.

Elliott, J., Brown, M. “Green vs. Grey: Energy Performances of Two Olympic Speed Skating Ovals”, Journal of Architecture and Planning Research, vol.24, no. 2, Summer 2007.

Kosheleva, E., Elliott, J. 2006. “Green Building in the Russian Context: An Investigation into the Establishment of a LEED®-based Green Building Rating”, Journal of Green Building, vol.1: no. 3, Summer 2006.

Elliott, J. 2004. “Considering the Natural: Reconciling Eco-ethics and Aesthetics in the Practice of Design”, Journal of Design Philosophy Papers, no. 2.

Elliott, J. 2003. “Eco-ethics, Aesthetics and the Paradox of Informed Negligence”, Proceedings from the 2003 ACSA International Conference, Helsinki, Finland.

Elliott, J; Yoon, H. 2002. "A Green Analysis of SMED, Inc. lifeSPACE Product", Ithaca, New York.

Elliott, J. 2001 "Ergo Versus Eco: A Tale of Two Centricities", Proceedings of 45th Human Factors and Ergonomic Society National Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Elliott, J. 2001 "Mumbling and Stumbling: Paradoxes of Green Design Practice", Proceedings from 89th Annual Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture National Conference, Baltimore, Maryland.

Elliott, J. 2001 "Adirondack Rustic Furniture Industry: Surveys and Prospects", Adirondack Journal Of Environmental Studies, Vol.6, No.1, Paul Smiths College, New York.

Elliott, J. 2000 "Out Through the In(Doors): New Approaches To Green Interior Design Education", In.Form: Journal of Interior Design, vol.1, no.1, University Of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Elliott, J. 2000 "Columena: A Prototype for Sustainable Product Design", Second Place, Idec National Conference, Juried Competition For Creative Works.

Elliott, J. 1999. "Reflecting Nature: Artificing as a Biophilic Response". Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference on Design, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Pope, S., Elliott, J., Turbini, L. 1998. "Designing for Technological Obsolescence and Discontinuous Change: An Evaluation of Three Secessional Electronic Products. Electronics and the Environment", Proceedings of the 1998 IEEE.

Elliott, J. 1997. "The Blur: A Catalyst for Conceptualization. Blurring Boundaries", Proceedings of the 1997 Design Education Conference.

Elliott, J. 1997. The Warm Springs Chair and Table: The Evolution of an Idea. The Humane Village, Proceedings of the 20th Congress of ICSID, 1997.

Member, U.S. Green Building Council, LEED accredited professional

Reviewer, Journal of Green Building, ISBN 1552-6100

Fellow, New York Foundation of ther Arts, sculpture

In 2016, I became involved with the Cornell-Nepal Study Program, administered through Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. In the fall semester, research was conducted for a new prototypical "women's community building" for the Phyukhri Ridge region of Nepal. Final designs were completed in 2017. The project started in January of 2018 with site acquisition and preparation, and material procurement. This stage engaged Cornell and Nepali university students, as well as some local villagers in the much of the labor intensive activittes such as logging, de-barking, and transportation of materials to the site. Later, in March, further work was done to fabricate the building struts and to potentially raise the structure. However, technical problems arose that prevented this from happening. The next opportunity arose during Spring Break of 2019, when the final stage of construction was completed with the help of local villagers. Later, the building was finished by the locals and blessed by Buddhist clergy from a nearby monastery. The building was originally intended to be a "patte" or guest house for pilgrims but it has become the local community building.

In 2017, I began a public engagement arrangement with Stone Quarry Art Park in Cazenovia, NY to create a large public sculpture on site to engage with the public about the work and its message regarding climate change. Most of the work was completed over the summer and fall of 2018, but it could not be installed until a base was constrtucted. This was finished in the summer of 2019 and the piece, "Procella"  was finally sited for a three-year installation period.

Finally, in the fall of 2019, I was contacted by Dianne Hinkley, Director of Research for he Cowichan Tribes of Vancouver Island about having myself and a group of studentts work on a proposal for a new cultural center for the band. We gathered some of the programming material for the project in the fall of 2019 and will set up a directed study/studio in the Spring of 2020 to work on this.


Director, Graduate Studies, Design + Environmental Analysis

Director, Arborworks research space and activities in the High Volt Lab, 909 Mitchell Street, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Member, College of Human Ecology's Committee on Academic Standing

Member, Cornell Campus Planning Committee

1993, M., Environmental Design (Architecture), University of Calgary

1991, M., Environmental Design (Industrial Design), University of Calgary

1979, Post-graduate studies, (Design) , University of Alberta

1978, B.Sc., (Physics, sculpture minor), University of Alberta

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