Truly great leaders know that the strength of their leadership is built on their ability to adapt to suddenly changing circumstances and to know how and when to seize on opportunities amid a changing landscape. Dr. Tigran, Associate Professor, Director, Architect, Urban Designer, and Director of Centre for the Future of Places (CFP) at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, adds, “We need to be effective at networking, not just to advance our own careers, but for the benefit of our organization.”
Mastering and anticipating the problems as they arise, and solving them immediately, often doing it with out-of-the-box thinking, using intuition, fast decision making, improvisation, and decisive time measures, are some of the key elements of a good leader. He states, “I see success and the road to a top research environment through lenses of the project and strategic management with key elements of successful teamwork and exceptional leadership. Team building, promoting teamwork as well as fostering creativity and innovation are crucial for me.”
Exceptional leaders have the ability to look into their organization’s future and make clear, concrete goals that will benefit their work. One of the top elements in that is the triangle of managing complexity, acting strategically, and being an effective communicator.
Journey to success
While growing up, Dr. Tigran always wanted to become renowned in architecture and make a high impact in the domain. Both his parents had respectable jobs and had a strong academic background which, in some way, structured his way for the future.
Dr. Tigran studied Architecture from 1996-1987 as a Guest Student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The next year he completed his Graduate Diploma in International Space University from the same university.
Then he went on to complete his Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) in Architecture, Urban Planning and Design with summa cum laude from the University of Sarajevo, Former Yugoslavia, School of Architecture and Urbanism. After this, he grabbed his Master of Architecture in Architecture and Urbanism with magna cum laude from the University of Zagreb.
In 1997, he completed his Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Environmental Science with cum laude from the KTH-Royal Institute of Technology.
In 2004, he went on to complete his Ph.D. in City/Urban, Community, and Regional Planning from the same institute.
Then he completed his Post Doc Studies in Urban Design, Planning and IT and Urbanism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, and University of Michigan Ann Arbor.
In 1997, he joined KTH-Royal Institute of Technology when he completed his Master’s degree as Associate Professor and became Director, Architect, and Urban Designer.
From 2005 to 2007, he was a visiting professor at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management.
In 2016, he took the onus of the Director of the Centre for the Future of Places. He adds, “The Centre for The Future of Places (Centrum för framtida stadsrum) (CFP) aims to establish and promote sustainable urban development by shifting the urban discourse from the hardware of cities (buildings and infrastructure), to the software of the cities (culture and place), in order to promote healthy and livable cities. The goal is to establish an internationally acknowledged research hub around the concept of public space within the disciplines of Urban Planning and Urban Design, where the strength is research and development of an international and inter and multidisciplinary network, transmuting the theory and practice of city-building.”
In 2019, he took the responsibilities of Guest Scholar at LCAU (SA+P MIT) and is still handling it part-time. As a leader for the future generation, he is involved in three major research projects, one on Urban Form and Human Behavior and the other one on Authenticity – Contextual Cities and third on Synchronicity, as well as coordinating five research projects in the Centre for the Future of Places. He teaches three graduate courses (MSc), two post-graduate courses (Ph.D.), currently supervises 5 Ph.D. Students (As main and co-supervisor; total Ph.D. 18 students), as well as 5 Masters of Science Students (total 65 MSc. Students). Also, currently with Doctoral Fellow Ms. Jing Jing, Dr. Tigran is involved in a research project on urban loneliness, happy and healthy cities.
Moreover, he is working on five new books for 2020, 2022, and 2022/23 (Atheneum Scholars Press, Rowman & Littlefield, Routledge, Rizzoli, Gondolier/Sustasis Press, and Edwar Elgar).
Working at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to redefine urban architecture
Since its founding in 1827, the KTH-Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has grown to become one of Europe’s leading technical and engineering universities, as well as a key center of intellectual talent and innovation. They are Sweden’s largest technical research and learning institution and home to students, researchers, and faculty from around the world dedicated to advancing knowledge.
KTH is working with industry and society in the pursuit of sustainable solutions to some of humanity’s greatest challenges: climate change, future energy supply, urbanization, and quality of life for the rapidly-growing elderly population. KTH is addressing these with world-leading, high-impact research and education in natural sciences and all branches of engineering, as well as in architecture, industrial management, urban planning, history, and philosophy.
Being an Associate Professor, Director, Architect, and Urban Designer at the institute, he is leading the Centre for the Future of Places to promote sustainable urban development.
The Centre for the Future of Places has been established to promote sustainable urban development by shifting the urban discourse from objects to places in order to promote healthy and livable cities within the disciplines of Urban Planning and Urban Design.
His expertise, current research, and teaching focus on contemporary trends and paradigms in urban planning & design, new urbanism, sustainable urbanism, social housing, and urban transformations, and city development, aging society, design, and medialization of urban form.
He adds, “We envision a networked community of leaders actively working across sectors, frontiers, and disciplines to build a more just, sustainable, and prosperous world. The task of the Centre is to take a holistic approach in defining, classifying, and establishing the public space as an independent academic research field. This means that the center will systematically link together knowledge from all disciplines related to the field of public space, such as urban planning, urban design, environmental psychology, urban sociology, architecture, urban economics, human geography, and others.”
The focus on public space will serve as a cross-disciplinary framework to merge the knowledge from the different disciplinary silos, creating links between the experts within them to create a holistic understanding of the city that serves as the basis for practical and effective action will require extensive international cooperation.
The Centre for The Future of Places is committed to achieving this goal through collaborative interdisciplinary research projects, leadership forums, and conferences, publications, and an important presence at national and international gatherings where new ideas in urbanism are the focus.
Tackling the pandemic with new strategies
Universities and college campuses such as KTH-Royal Institute of Technology and MIT are places where students study, socialize, and live in close proximity to each other. These campuses are also the nexus for social and cultural hubs where students are brought together from all corners of the world where social and human capital is produced. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the unprecedented impact it has had on society, they had to adapt to teaching, research, and networking online and, most importantly, to do everything they can to protect the lives of their students and faculty.
One has to provide students with an easily accessible online version of their courses. Universities are better placed in a network society in this new digital age. If for nothing, this pandemic has taught everyone to be localized, less wasteful, more attuned to ecological footprint, comradeship, and the importance of micro-scale.
Dr. Tigran adds, “We will see a permanent condition of Hybrid Teaching and Research in the future as well as major changes in office environments; travel less, balance home, and work more.”
Maximizing online learning and teaching, developing robust but flexible systems, gathering information, and applying the best practices have been some of the hallmarks of this difficult period, as well as great collegial and comradeship throughout the days. The higher education sector has withstood pandemics and turbulent economic times in the past, and it will withstand them again, preparing to be adaptable, resilient, and sustainable in the long run.
Also, the new ideas for cities of the future in terms of density and spread of people and infrastructure, new office environments, and new public places are going to be omnipresent in any future planning and development processes. New theories, new data, new approaches — all of that is necessary in order to produce new resilient and just technological environments.
Overcoming the impediments on the way
Like every successful leader, Dr. Tigran also faced a plethora of impediments on his voyage to achieve success. However, he faced all of them boldly and progressed ahead to reach his goals.
He classifies the challenges faced in three categories, the micro, meso, and macro scales. Explaining each of them individually, he states, “Micro is the immediate one with all the challenges of competences, staff, tasks, immediate decisions, administration, and leadership as well as conﬂicts; the meso is the plane of projects and partnerships and cases on the ground and the cities where the work is being done but also the products, the media, networks, etc. and ﬁnally the macro with all the challenges and competition and major issues on the regional national and global level that inﬂuence the work and strategy of the place where one works.”
He believes he faced numerous roadblocks. However, there were many valuable lessons learned along the way. One of the main points that he highlights is that every challenge can be solved with the help of a tight organization that stands on good leadership and proper delegation of responsibilities so that everyone can work together to achieve the shared goal along with individual growth.
Striving for a Work-life balance
Balancing the personal and professional life is the key to undergo smart multitasking and engage in healthy home life. He says, “Different studies show that 71 percent of CEOs or directors/bosses get over six hours of sleep at night, and 60 percent exercise multiple times a week.”
Since stress increases with the responsibilities of networking, giving presentations, speaking at events, and managing an incredibly busy workday, it is extremely critical to keep it under check or at least balanced to avoid complications. For that, meditation, ambient music, good wine, reading books, using the free-ﬂowing imagination, enjoying good hobbies, getting in touch with mother earth, and establishing good companionship by building social capital outside work are some of the beneficial ways to keep stress at bay.
Bright Future plans
Adhering to the 5Ps (Passion, Perseverance, Professionalism, Persuasion, and Playfulness) motto in life, Dr. Tigran considers himself as an amalgamation of different “persons of bits,” namely, Walter Mitty, Peter Pan, George Clooney, Richard Florida, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and Oprah Winfrey.
With a challenge-loving approach, he is up for handling numerous jobs at one time including, directing a Centre, teaching in a master’s program, working as a researcher and mentor, and all the rest that goes into the tenure track at the university, publishing, events, seminars, etc. He aims to work more with post-doc colleagues and take out more time to write books.
He further adds, “After the center, I am looking forward to forming and leading perhaps a second research lab in my career, A City Research Lab. Cities are amazing places with limitless opportunities, problems, challenges, and sources of ideas. Also, as my friend, George Clooney would say: What else? What else indeed: this is the best job in the world.”