Portrait of Steffen Lehmann

Steffen Lehmann




Dr. Steffen Lehmann, Assoc. AIA, RIBA, AA. Dipl. (born in Stuttgart, Germany) is an internationally recognized designer, educator, scholar, author, scientific researcher, and strategic leader. He is a senior tenured Professor of Architecture & Urbanism, and former Executive Director of three schools of architecture (in the US and Australia), including the UNLV School of Architecture in Las Vegas. He is also the Director of the interdisciplinary Urban Futures Lab, and former CEO of the Future Cities Leadership Lab Institute, translating a strategic outlook into programmatic initiatives and positive impact, and dealing with a rapidly changing profession and transforming society. Before joining UNLV, Steffen Lehmann was a chair professor in the UK and the chair-holder of the UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Urban Development for the Asia-Pacific Region.

  • Immediate Past Director of the UNLV School of Architecture.
  • Steffen is internationally known for the vital role he plays in advancing sustainable architecture and urbanism, higher education, research and innovation, student opportunities and success, and economic development and innovation impact. He has experience in every aspect of university administration including strategic planning, program accreditation, research strategy, international partnerships, curriculum reform, course development and research collaborations.
  • His academic career spans over three decades during which he has developed a wealth of strong transdisciplinary intellectual resources built on his research interests, which are at the intersection of sustainable architecture, urban design, social sciences, and the integration of low-carbon technologies.
  • Professor Lehmann is an esteemed author and pioneer of sustainable urbanism, with a long list of published books (23) including the bestseller, “The Principles of Green Urbanism”, which he published in 2010. 
  • He has held a range of senior leadership positions at four research-intensive universities in three countries.
  • Successful practice: Steffen has contributed to the creation of distinctive buildings in the ‘New Berlin’. He was one of the lead architects at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and at Hackescher Markt developments, responsible for the design and realization of several large office buildings. For over ten years (1991-2002), he worked on the Potsdamer Platz development, side by side with other prominent architects, on the recreation of this mixed-use inner-city neighbourhood (masterplan by Renzo Piano), and played a major role in its urban development and construction.

Steffen has taught, researched and practiced in the U.S., UK, Europe, Australia, Asia, South-East Asia, Middle-East and Latin America. He is an award-winning researcher and innovation consultant working with leading companies, cities, and various governments from around the world. Since 2002, he has been a tenured full professor in a range of leadership roles at four research-intensive universities, on three continents: in the U.S., the UK, and Australia.

He highlights how design thinking and the applied humanities have a vital role in tackling the enormous challenges cities and communities are now facing—from managing the impact of climate change, to supporting economic recovery and wellbeing.

Steffen’s Leadership

Steffen’s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment and architectural quality received wide recognition as evidenced by a series of international awards and important appointments.

He has held senior executive positions in universities across Europe, Asia, and North America; including as tenured full Professor of Research and Innovation at the University of Portsmouth (UK), and at the University of South Australia, where he led the university-wide research theme ‘Sustainable Cities’; and as Founding Director of the Cluster for Sustainable Cities (UK), a nationally and internationally awarded, multidisciplinary research center with a membership of over 50 researchers that focuses on urban sustainability and resilience questions relating to the built environment. Before this, for 14 years he was a full professor and Chair at leading universities in Australia, where he served in a range of senior leadership roles, including Director of Research and Head of School.

Administrative leadership: As Head of School in Perth, Australia, he was responsible for over 3,300 students and 150 academic, professional and casual staff, with offshore programs in Malaysia and Hong Kong, and an annual operating budget of $45m. He led significant teaching reforms and the interconnectedness of disciplines that improved student outcomes and increased research output by over +40% per year, quality and impact by building on existing areas of strength. Strategic leadership: Steffen has led schools of architecture and the re-accreditation of programs in the U.S. and Australia:

  • Executive Director of the School of Architecture, University of Nevada Las Vegas (USA)
  • Head of School of Design & the Built Environment, Perth (Australia)
  • Chair, Department of Architecture, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (Australia)

Steffen is an experienced leader and his focus as Director is on strategic growth, promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and partnerships with industry, reconnecting with alumni and donors, developing new graduate programs for lifelong learning, establishing the Global Studio study abroad programs, and enabling relevant innovation and impact. As Head of School, his main focus is on the health, performance and reputation of the school.

  • Advancing the college’s / school’s vision, priorities and strategic plan.
  • Mentoring talent: Collaborating with industry to co-sponsor research.
  • Fostering meaningful opportunities for community engagement and study abroad programs.


Steffen holds three graduate degrees: after completing the German Abitur in Stuttgart in 1983, and a Master’s degree in Mainz, Germany in 1988, Steffen graduated with the AA Diploma from the prestigious Architectural Association School in London (1991, enabled by a DAAD scholarship), and later completed a Ph.D. in Architecture and Urbanism at the Technical University in Berlin (Ph.D. conferred in 2003).

Steffen’s Teaching

Steffen takes his greatest professional pride in the students that he had the privilege to teach and work with. Since 1991, he has taught urban and architectural design studios and research methods in six countries.

He currently teaches the following pedagogically diverse studios, lecture courses, seminars, and initiatives at advanced graduate levels:

Thesis: Advising Ph.D. and Masters Students in the U.S., UK and Japan
Coordinator, International Lecture Series (since 2018-)
Coordinator, Global Studio Mexico City, and Barcelona - 6 Credits

Teaching in Fall: Studio and Seminar
AAE 480 Architectural Design Studio III - 6 credits (4th Year B.S. Arch.)
AAE 770 Research Methods in Environmental Design - 3 credits (M.Arch.)
AAE 789 Architecture Design Research Studio - 6 credits (6th Year M.Arch.)
AAE 793 Advanced Independent Study - 3 credits (M.Arch.)

Teaching in Spring: Studio and Seminar
AAE 482 Architectural Design Studio IV - 6 credits (4th Year B.S.Arch.)
AAE 460/660 - Issues in Contemporary Urbanism - 3 credits (B.S.Arch./M.Arch.)
AAE 790 Professional Project Design Research Studio - 6 credits (6th Year M.Arch.)

Principles of sustainability are central and embedded in all teaching, research and practice.

Steffen likes to create an engaged educational atmosphere in which students thrive and learn. He has held prestigious visiting positions in eight countries: He was invited as Visiting Professor at the University of California Berkeley, TU Munich (DAAD Professor), TU Berlin, NUS Singapore, Tongji University Shanghai; Tianjin University in China, and in 2018-20 he was is the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China; and a Visiting Professor at the University of Portsmouth (UK). He currently holds an appointment as invited Global Professor in the Graduate School at Keio University in Tokyo (2022-).

Recent awards: In 2010, he won the Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of Newcastle (NSW). In 2020, he was awarded the Global Top 100 Leader in Education Award for pedagogical innovation. In 2021, he received the Athena City Accolade Award from the Royal Institute of Technology KTH, Stockholm, for outstanding contributions in practice and theory to the field of sustainable cities, architecture and urban design. In 2023, he was awarded the Fielden Medal of Educational Excellence by UNLV’s School of Architecture for his contributions to architectural education and scholarship.

Over the last 30 years, he has continuously taught design studio at advanced level and was invited as Guest Critic to design studios at leading universities worldwide, at over 50 universities.

Steffen’s Practice

With his integrated design firm, he combines theory with practice. Before establishing his own award-winning practice Steffen Lehmann Architekten & Staedtebau GmbH in 1993 in Berlin, he worked with internationally recognized architects:

  • Steffen has over 30-year professional experience and a deep understanding of the architectural practice.
  • He has worked with Pritzker-Prize winning architects James Stirling in London, and Arata Isozaki in Tokyo. From 1997 to 2003, he had a project partnership with Christian de Portzamparc for the construction of the new French Embassy in Berlin.
  • In 2021, he co-founded si_architecture + urban design, a globally active integrated design studio based in Dubai

Steffen became a licensed architect in Berlin in January 1993, when he founded Steffen Lehmann Architekten & Staedtebau GmbH as a collective interdisciplinary practice engaged in research and design, with the aim to pursue practice that is more ethical and concerned with sustainability. Defying the conventional classification of design disciplines, Steffen led his studio to bring the practices of design, architecture, and urban planning together in a single workspace. Under his leadership, the firm has been able to build a construction budget of over $1.5b. Over ten years, he was actively involved in the urban creation of the 'New Berlin'. His work was the subject of numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout the world, including a solo exhibition at the Bauhaus in Dessau, at AEDES Gallery in Berlin, at Plan’99 in Cologne, and at QUT in Brisbane. His built work is widely regarded as examples of excellence in sustainable design, including:

  • French Embassy and Residence at Pariser Platz in Berlin, as Generalplaner in partnership with Christian de Portzamparc ($150m, 1997-2002)
  • Mixed-use complex with Bund Deutscher Banken headquarters at Hackescher Markt ($400m, 1994-2002)
  • Headquarters for Berliner Volksbank, now Pfizer Pharmaceutical at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin ($400m, 1993-2002)
  • Headquarters of German Workers Union at Quartier an der Museumsinsel ($150m, 1995-2003)
  • Extension Auswaertiges Amt (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) at Oberwasserstrasse, Berlin ($50m, 1997-2003)
  • Masterplan Albertplatz, Dresden ($100m, 1994-2000)

His prestigious public and private clients include notable institutions such as the Bundesverband Deutscher Banken, the Auswaertige Amt (German Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Deutsche Bahn AG, the Berliner Volksbank, Daimler Immobilien, and numerous others he has represented - with entities as diverse as the Senate of Berlin, the Republique de France, Manhattan Loft Corp, the City of Sydney, and the Bayerische Versorgungskammer.

As Founding Principal and thought leader of the practice, Steffen provides overall vision and project leadership to the firm. Most of his built work is the result of winning design competitions for historically significant places, including large mixed-use complexes at Potsdamer Platz, Pariser Platz, the Quarter at the Museumsinsel Berlin, and Albertplatz Dresden. His buildings and project designs have been published extensively, and the firm’s work has been the subject of two monographs (published by Junius Verlag and AEDES Gallery).

Professional memberships: In 2019, he became an invited member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the AIA Las Vegas Chapter. In 2016, he was appointed to the UK's Academy of Urbanism and became a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). In 2003, he joined the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA). In 1995, he was appointed Freier Architekt BDA in Berlin by the Bund Deutscher Architekten.

His advice on sustainable urban development has been sought by political leaders from Asia, Australia and Latin America, as well as from the U.S., Middle East, and Europe. Over the last 25 years, Steffen has advised over a dozen of cities on sustainable urban development, including Berlin, Stuttgart, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Abu Dhabi, Ho-Chi-Minh City, Oslo, Helsinki, Brighton, Southend-on-Sea, Reno, Miami, and Honolulu.

Steffen designed over 100 large-scale public and private projects and worked on prestigious sites internationally, in 16 countries.

Steffen’s Research

He has dedicated his long and distinguished career as an architect, urban designer and educator to the creation of new knowledge and social impact through the improvement of cities’ public spaces and resource-efficiency, most recently as the Founding Director of the interdisciplinary think-tank Urban Futures Lab at UNLV. He has generated significant external research income through his involvement in numerous research and consultancy projects, industry partnerships, and publications that are highly cited. Steffen has published 23 books with prestigious publishers, and numerous (500+) articles and papers on architecture and sustainable urban development. In the 1990s, he coined the concept of Green Urbanism. In 2010, he coined the term Zero Waste City, and since then, has developed large-scale urban design projects, exploring the concepts of Density without High-rise and The City of Short Distances.

His research is mainly in the field of urban resilience, sustainable architecture and urban design. Over the last 25 years, his pioneering work and influential scholarship are best known for its holistic view of urbanization and for actively promoting sustainability, devoted to understanding and unraveling the principles of the modern metropolis and its urban systems, exploring the themes:

  • Sustainable Architectural and Resource-efficient Urban Design,
  • Urban Development for Future Cities,
  • Climate Change, Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability,
  • High-performance Architecture, Entrepreneurship and Leadership.

In 2021-2023, he has published four new books and edited two academic journals:

  • ‘Urban Informality’ Di Raimo A., Lehmann S., Melis A. (eds) (Routledge, Jan. 2021)
  • ‘Trans-Atlantic Engagements’ Lehmann S. (authored book, ORO Editions, March. 2021)
  • ‘Resilient Communities’ Lehmann S. and Malis A. (eds) (D-Editore and Biennale of Architecture, Venice, May 2022)
  • Journal of Sustainability, Special Issue Editor (co-edited with Prof Mike Jenks, UK): ‘Pathways to Sustainable Urban Form: Compact Cities Re-Imagined’
  • ‘Reimaging the Library of the Future’ Lehmann, S. (authored book, ORO Editions, May 2022)
  • Journal of Buildings, Special Issue Editor (co-edited with Dr. Monika Szopinska-Mularz): 'Novel Trends in Urban Design for Building Resilience'

Steffen is a very productive researcher. His Google Scholar profile lists over 5,300 registered citations with an h-index of 34, and an i10-index of 61 (May 2024). Some of his publications have been translated into Chinese, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.

He has attracted large funding in grants and, as Founding Director of four flagship research centers, was managing research projects of the total value of over $18 mill in a wide range of grant categories and contract research. The impact of his work has influenced corporate behavior, municipal policies and legislation. He was founding director of two successful research centers at the University of South Australia, and Principal Investigator of several large multidisciplinary grants. He has been a lead or co-investigator on over 20 research projects, including:

  • Co-Investigator for ‘RECLAIM’ $2 mill (funded by the EPSRC and AHRC).
  • Lead-PI for ''CRUNCH - The Food-Water-Energy Nexus' $ 2 mill (funded by the Belmont Forum, ESRC, AHRC, NSF).
  • Co-PI for 'PlastiCity - Plastic recycling in Cities' $ 6.5 mill (funded by EU Interreg).
  • Lead-PI for 'Urban Microclimates: Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide' $ 1.5 mill (co-funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living and the participating cities).

Research centers and institutes established and managed by Steffen:

  • Founding Director, Centre for Sustainable Design & Behaviour, the University of South Australia (funded by the Government of South Australia)
  • Founding Director, China-Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development, Tianjin University and University of South Australia (funded by the Chinese and Australian Governments)
  • Founding Director, Research Cluster for Sustainable Cities, University of Portsmouth (UK)
  • Founding Director, Future Cities Leadership Institute
  • Founding Director, Urban Futures Lab, University of Nevada Las Vegas

He has led active interdisciplinary teams of scholars, Ph.D. researchers and postdocs as part of his centers, engaged in research focused on sustainable urbanism's societal impact, and energy-efficient architectural design. He has demonstrated significant international leadership in research and teaching as well as an outstanding record of accomplishment in advancing research excellence. His research over the last 25 years was continuously supported through competitively won research grants.

In recognition of the international significance of his work, he was appointed in 2008 as chair-holder of the inaugural UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Urban Development in the Asia- Pacific by the United Nations. He is currently a member of 6 editorial boards of academic journals, the editor of a Routledge book series, and a reviewer of grant applications for major funding bodies and frequently. He has been appointed to the board of various public organizations, including the UN’s reference group for the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (2013-15). He is a member of professional organizations, including:

  • Assoc. Member, American Institute of Architects USA (2018-)
  • Member, Resilience Network, American Institute of Architects (2018-)
  • Member, Research and Scholarship Committee, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, ACSA (2019-20)
  • Member, International Advisory Board for the Italian Pavilion, 17th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice, Italy (2019-22)
  • Board Member and Education Liaison, AIA Las Vegas Board of Directors, Nevada, USA (2019-20)
  • In 2016, he was appointed to the UK's Academy of Urbanism and became a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

Steffen is regularly invited as reviewer for major funding bodies and serves as a member of design competition juries. Over the last 20 years, he has been invited by leading funding agencies in 15 countries to be an external assessor, including the European Commission, UK Research Council, Dutch Research Council, Hong Kong Research Grants Council, Australian Research Council, and others. In 2021, the Dutch Research Council NWO appointed him as International Advisor. In 2022, the Hong Kong Research Grants Council appointed him to its Standing Review Board (2021-25).

Ph.D. Supervision and postgraduate mentorship: Since 2003, Steffen has been registered as Primary Ph.D. Supervisor and has successfully advised numerous Ph.D. students and postdoctoral Research Fellows as Primary Ph.D. Supervisor (12 Ph.D. students and 3 post-doctoral fellows), in the US, the UK, and Australia. He has been appointed as External Ph.D. Examiner by top universities, including the University of Sydney, Univ. of Western Australia, Bond University, Univ. of the Sunshine Coast, Univ. of Salford, KTH Stockholm, Hong Kong Poly University, University of Portsmouth, and the University of Greenwich. As Head of School in Australia, he oversaw a cohort of 85 Ph.D. students. He is mentoring early career researchers, providing them with opportunities within his research groups and ongoing projects. He examined 12 Ph.D. students, chaired 5 Ph.D. Viva Voce examinations across Architecture and Urbanism subjects, and was Ph.D. External Examiner at 10 universities.

Public speaking: He is an engaging speaker, and over the last 30+ years, Steffen has presented his research and design work publicly over 600 times at conferences, symposia, and important events, in 40 countries, including delivering over 100 invited keynote addresses at important events. He presented keynote addresses at MoMA New York, the Venice Architecture Biennale, TED Talk, American Institute of Architects, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, Urban Land Institute, Annual UNESCO Conference, Harvard University, Oxford University, UC Berkeley, TU-Delft, ISOCARP, and at numerous other prestigious events at prime venues.

Steffen's Interdisciplinarity and Diversity

Over the last decades, Steffen has championed many interdisciplinary initiatives, international engagement, and embraced diversity projects.

Collaboration with artists: Steffen has been collaborating with established artists for over 30+ years, and was the Creative Director and Curator of large international events where artists collaborated with architects in the creation of site-specific full-scale installations in urban spaces, including: “Rethinking: Space-Time-Architecture” in Berlin (2000; part of the UIA World Congress), “Absolutely Public” in Brisbane (2005, funded by Brisbane City Council and Southbank Corp), “Back to the City” in Newcastle (2008, funded by the Newcastle Alliance and ArtsNSW), and “Hidden Networks: Laneways/City Spaces” in Sydney (2009, funded by the City of Sydney); “Hub-to-Hub” in Singapore (2010; funded by URA Singapore); catalogs were published for each of these art events.

In 2003, he founded the “Global Studio” series, and since then coordinated Global Design Studios in six countries, at: TU-Berlin, TU-Munich, Tongji Shanghai, NUS Singapore, Iberoamericana Mexico City, ANU Ahmedabad India, and Papua New Guinea University of Technology.

For many years, Steffen has been a passionate advocate and champion for diversity, equal pay, and the advancement of female graduates and under-represented minorities. He believes that diversity and mentoring programs contribute to a rich and stimulating learning and research environment, one that best prepares the leaders-in-the-making for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow; and the importance to offer students richly varied perspectives, approaches and ways of knowing and learning.

The question of how the profession can become more, diverse and inclusive while tackling climate change impact and urbanization means to address the challenges of our time. While recruiting and building a diverse faculty varies by discipline, there are particular opportunities in the design disciplines and social sciences that gives these disciplines a leadership role in making diversity happen. Steffen’s influence extends well beyond the USA, and here are examples of the numerous activities where he has pro-actively supported the goal of diversity and inclusion:

  • Reconnects with alumni and introduced new student awards and scholarships for female students and first-generation students from underrepresented minorities.
  • Closely collaborates with the Disability Resource Center, that students with all kinds of learning disabilities receive particular accommodations.
  • Organized high-quality public symposia and annual lecture series featuring female and minority colleagues; e.g. initiated the SAY IT LOUD – NEVADA exhibition and symposium (2020), and initiated the Latin-American Architecture Symposium at UNLV (as part of AIA’19 National Conference).
  • In collaboration with the AIA and others, he has championed fund-raising activities to offer scholarships and awards to female and minority students.
  • Supporting students, which face growing pressures, related to high living costs, tuition fees, and available time for a demanding program of study; many students are concerned about the difficult transition into practice.

Philanthropic Activities

Steffen Lehmann is a dog lover and supporter of animal foster programs; his philanthropic efforts include tree planting initiatives and regular donations to local animal shelters.