Faces of Research: Meet Julie Kim

Julie Kim, associate professor at the School of Architecture

The School of Architecture in the College of Design at Georgia Tech traces its roots to 1908 when the discipline was established as an area of study. Since then, the school has expanded to offer specializations in architecture, culture, and behavior, design technology, history, theory, and criticism, and urbanism.

This installment of the Faces of Research Series Q&A series is with Julie Kim, associate professor at the School of Architecture and director of the Flourishing Communities Collaborative, a research lab that serves to educate, advocate, and offer design solutions to neighborhoods that are traditionally under-resourced and underserved by the design disciplines.

What is your field of expertise and why did you choose it?

I came into architecture late — I was not one of those you hear about who knew they wanted to be an architect since elementary school or even earlier. As far as subjects went, I always enjoyed math, science, and art, but it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I cross-registered at MIT for my first architecture design studio. From that first experience, I felt absolutely at home. It was the perfect blend of quantitative and qualitative thinking. That is really what started setting me on that path in architecture.

What makes Georgia Tech research institutes unique?

I appreciate the depth of the incredible research — across scales — happening here at Tech. What ties all the work together is how, at the root, we are fundamentally invested in improving the human experience. People are at the center of our collective and individual research aims. In other words, our work seeks to change an existing condition — whatever that might be — to a better one. What makes us unique, though? There are so many things! It’s hard to pin it down to one thing.

Turning the conversation to my own research efforts, I am a fierce advocate for sharpening the lens on equity in practice, so I pioneer educational programming aimed at celebrating our diverse community and broadening exposure for all students. Working collaboratively, I explore, pursue, and implement initiatives centered on increasing access and promoting equity. The very backbone and foundation of my research and academic lab, Flourishing Communities Collaborative seeks to empower communities through acts of design which are acts of optimism.

What impact is your research having on the world?

The work of my research lab seeks to empower the community with tools aimed at investment of local expertise, amplifying impact for underserved community members, and offering a framework for smart, sustainable development. Our work sharpens the real-world application of public interest technology to center community voices in pursuit of solutions for pressing problems, particularly challenges experienced by marginalized communities least well served by existing systems and policies.

My work demonstrates the value of a computational, quantitative, and data-driven approach to solving social and cultural problems, expanding equity for those who lack access to resources. Ultimately, my own aim is to be part of a bigger conversation on issues that matter. I am interested in being in a position where I can be part of a conversation that leads to impactful, meaningful change, whatever that might be: equity, justice, climate change, density, etc.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not working on your research or teaching?

If it’s in the summer, I am always looking for a place to travel with family and friends. This is especially true now that we can go places again! When the weather gets cold, though, you can find me sitting by the fireplace with a good book or watching a binge-worthy show… which reminds me, when does Stranger Things season five start?

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