Edson G. Cabalfin, Ph.D., is an educator, architect, designer, curator, and historian. He is the inaugural Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the School of Architecture at Tulane University, where he is also concurrently serving as Director of the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program and Associate Professor (Tenured). He was the Curator of the Philippine Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018.
He received his Ph.D. in History of Architecture and Urban Development from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) in 2012. Under a Fulbright Fellowship, he obtained his Master of Science in Architecture degree from the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH) in 2003. Prior to coming to the U.S., he received his professional Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of the Philippines in 1996 and 2001, respectively. He has previously taught in various capacities at the University of Cincinnati, Cornell University, University of the Philippines, among others.
Edson’s research in the last two decades lies at the transdisciplinary intersections of architecture history and theory, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial theory, Southeast Asian studies, spatial justice, public interest design, and heritage conservation. His research broadly investigates how architecture and the built environment operates as a socio-cultural artifact and phenomenon. He is interested in uncovering the politics of architecture and design especially as it shapes national, regional, and local identities. He has written articles, book chapters, and conference papers on queer spaces and sex work in Quezon City, postcolonial identity politics and architectural representations, neoliberal urbanism in the Global South, informal settlements and the capital city, appropriating queering in Philippine spatial practices, gender and heritage, connections between architecture, colonialism and modernity, Philippine architectural historiography, among others.
He wrote the books “What Kids Should Know About Filipino Architecture” (published by Adarna House in 2015 and 2022) and edited “The City Who Had Two Navels: Catalogue of the Philippine Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2018” (published by the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts in 2018).
In the last seven years Edson has been involved in various social innovation and design thinking projects and initiatives. He led an international architecture design research studio in Ecuador at Tulane University focusing on sustainable design in the tropics. The design studio collaborated with the non-profit Fundacion para la Conservacion de los Andes Tropicales (FCAT) in Ecuador. At the University of Cincinnati, he organized a foreign-study program in Southeast Asia with a human-centered design studio focusing on typhoon Haiyan disaster recovery on Leyte Island in the Philippines. He was also faculty fellow and project leader at Live Well Collaborative, University of Cincinnati’s design thinking-based and multi-disciplinary innovation center where he led a team of students from various disciplines to collaborate on a project with the private and non-profit sectors focusing on the future of health and wellness through the experience of various consumers.
Edson also conducts consultancy on strategy and innovation outside the university. He served as consultant with the non-profit organization Village Life Outreach Project where he conducted participatory design thinking workshops with the villages of Burere, Nyambogo, and Roche in Tanzania as part of the effort to develop future programs in health, water, and education for these rural villages. He co-organized the event “Data X Community X Design” together with Nick Mattei and Aron Culotta of Tulane’s Department of Computer Science to bring together various stakeholders in the Greater New Orleans region who are working on the intersection of data, community engagement, and design. Together with Nazanin Khodadad, he also conducted several design thinking workshops with faculty and administrators of Sycamore High School and Winton Woods High School of the Cincinnati Public School system. He has conducted visioning workshops with Rice University - Center for Environmental Studies, University of Cincinnati - School of Architecture and Interior Design, and the University of Kentucky - School of Interiors.
A licensed and registered architect in the Philippines, Edson also runs his design consultancy Talyer Kayumanggi/Brown Workshop, based in New Orleans and Manila, with projects in architecture, interior design, set design, costume design, fashion design, exhibition design, graphic design, and design strategy in North America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East in the last 30 years.
Photo by Paolo Luca