Jack Rusk

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I’m a current graduate student working toward degrees at the Yale School of the Environment and the Yale School of Architecture. Previous to graduate school, I worked in the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles as a woodworker, building or designing cabinets and furniture for everyone from community social centers to new homeowners to pop-up hair salons to A-list celebrities and blue chip artists. I also completed a B.S. degree in Plant Sciences summa cum laude at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where my thesis project studied native grassland restoration techniques and their efficacy. At Yale, I’ve tried to complement my experience in design and craft with research projects investigating the entanglement of built and natural environments.

Jack is the lead developer of EHDD’s EPIC tool, has presented research at the International Mass Timber Conference, and is currently working on applying machine learning and remote sensing techniques to modeling how urbanization is changing people’s exposure to natural hazards in mountainous areas. I’m also a member of the HMWRK research collective.

Across these projects, I’ve developed a skepticism about some dominant modes of interdisciplinary design research that can flatten disciplinary distinctions. Instead, I’m excited about processes that can approach each discipline on its own terms, highlighting rather than resolving the friction and difference between ways of seeing the world. In that spirit, this site doesn’t aim for completeness. If there are any potentialities that interest you in this portfolio of recent work, don’t hesitate to reach out.



July 2019 – May 2022

Master of Architecture I


August 2018 – May 2022

Master of Environmental Management


Summa cum laude

Plant Sciences, B.S.


RETROSPECTA 43 (2020) Potential energy: A political history of micro-grids, Essay

RETROSPECTA 44 (2021) (1) There is a light that never goes out: Changing patterns of occupation at Pueblo Bonito, Essay (2) Everyday Acts: A Community Theater in Dixwell, Studio Design Project (3) A New School for District 15, Studio Design Project (4) DFMA and systems integration, Illustration

EDUCATION DESIGN COMPETITION (2021) Flipped learning. With Sangji Han and Paul Meuser, Third Place

ADVANCING HIGH PERFORMANCE BUILDING DESIGN (2020) Life Cycle Analysis: Estimating & optimizing embodied carbon with operational energy to minimize a design’s total environmental impact, Guest Lecture


THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE (2021) The motivation for this conversation stems, in part, from a creeping feeling that the home/work binary is unworkable, and the new condition of their relationship is decidedly unhomely. In Anthony Vidler’s essay Unhomely Houses (1992), the unhomely is the haunting at the center of our domestic lives, a haunting based on experiences of disorientation and misreading that open onto the aesthetic category of the uncanny. There’s no doubt that the collapse of the conjunction of home and work has created uncanny situations, something we know because they are our present realities. Our aim here is to pull back the shroud, reveal the specters haunting them.

STAKES AND MISTAKES (2020) This issue of Paprika! takes issue with identity. Gathering contributions from people across the western hemisphere, we draw a constellation of struggles, media, and intellectual projects that reject identity as a set of stable categories to divvy up and categorize human experience and, conversely, use the messiness of lived identity to underpin emancipatory struggle against the world as it exists. Some of the contributors are established academics, but most are not. The credentials of writers aren’t important; what matters is their incisive analysis of the general misuse of identity in contemporary discourse, and a productive exploration of how identity could be recast as a tool for resistance.

WHEN DISASTER LOOMS, TAKE A HARD LOOK AT SOFT MITIGATION (2020) Hard infrastructure, like sea walls and levees, prevent damage from smaller hazards but increase vulnerability to larger ones. The next generation of disaster prevention should focus on “soft” strategies like community preparedness.

CLIMATE CHANGE’S DIRECT CONTRIBUTION TO WORSENING MENTAL HEALTH (2019) Low-income people were affected more than high income people, and respondents who identified as women were also more susceptible to the detrimental psychological effects of a changing climate than those whom identified as men. Taking these results to heart is essential for the equitable execution of climate change mitigation strategies.

SERVED SPACE (2021) To modern architect Louis Kahn, a building’s space could be divided into served and servant space, the space of subjects and that of supportive objects. In our present, the whole built world seems as a servant space for the served space existing on the cloud, on our socials, and in our digital working lives. To work in space and time is a sign of downward mobility, or a perversion of the elderly.

IN SPITE OF THE NEW AUSTERITY (2020) In some of the smaller studios where I’ve worked, most workers are considered ‘independent contractors’ with few or none of the protections afforded to full employees. The response of the architectural discipline to the pandemic—professionally and academically—has been to double down on these measures, asking increasingly precarious architectural workers to perform similar work but in their own spaces, on their own internet connection, and often with their own software.

NEW MODELS: REPORT ON RECENT STUDENT ORGANIZING AT YSOA (2020) Jack Rusk, Ruchi Dattani.The response to the crisis by Yale University, as well as many architecture firms, shifts costs onto students and workers while abdicating responsibility for these changes. In the working world, this response amplifies the precarity of the architectural worker, whose at-will employment now takes place in their own home, often on their own computer, and often with their own software. In academic settings, where students from diverse backgrounds engage in shared education, the response threatens to increase the inequity that education claims to combat, as students of means can complete projects that those without sufficient resources cannot.

VEGETATIVE SPREAD IS KEY TO APPLIED NUCLEATION SUCCESS IN NON-NATIVE-DOMINATED GRASSLANDS (2021) Karen Holl, Josephine Lesage, Tianjiao Adams, Jack Rusk, Richard Schreiber, Mickie Tang. Applied nucleation was similarly effective to full planting in restoring native grasses over the first 4 years and native forb cover through the end of the 7-year study period, even though nucleation treatments were planted with only 30% of the number of seedlings as in the full planting treatment.


EVERYDAY ACTS, YALE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE (FALL 2020) Critic: Emily Abruzzo. Dixwell’s Community Theater anchors the north end of the Dixwell Avenue corridor. This theater of the everyday is conceived of as a site within which the neighborhood’s social life encounters itself as art. The quiet exterior of the theater complex is counterposed to the messy life the interior enframes. The building acts as an armature to support the performance and teaching of theater, especially for younger people, but it also supports the community’s shared life. The interior spaces are all connected through an active enfilade and freely shift from hosting sobriety support meetings to improv classes, from sewing costumes to mending wedding dresses. “The Revolutionary Theater,” writes Amiri Baraka in an essay of the same name, is made by “men and women digging out from under a thousand years of ‘high art,’” whose performances “treat human life as if it is actually happening.” Along Dixwell, the show has already begun.

TRANSITION HOUSE, YALE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE (SPRING 2020) Critics: Beka Sturges, Adam Hopfner. Collaborators: Lilly Agutu, Audrey Hughes, Janelle Schmidt, Wenzhu Shentu, Jun Shi, Hao Xu, Yang Yue. This two-unit dwelling for formerly houseless individuals was designed for Columbus House—a New Haven, CT, nonprofit—as a competition entry for the 2020 Jim Vlock Building Project. The transition from a temporary homelessness to a rich and long-term domesticity is at the heart of this project. This dwelling also develops the concept of a transition to accommodate the changes in the occupant’s life over time. As the years pass and the residents age, both units are designed to accommodate their aging in place.

A NEW SCHOOL FOR DISTRICT 15, YALE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE (SPRING 2021) Critic: Alicia Imperiale. Collaborators: Paul Meuser, Sangji Han. We propose to build a new middle school for Brooklyn’s District 15 without building a school, and to address the inequities in the district without the ability to directly redistribute resources between District 15’s privileged and dispossessed communities. Our project works to expand the middle ground in the district, allowing students autonomy in their education and a place in the urban realm. This expanded middle ground becomes the site of the district’s eleventh middle school, which is composed of a network of Home Rooms in disused retail spaces. The Home Rooms are connected by a micromobility system, and animated by a pedagogical model based on social learning.

This project roots a vision of District 15’s urban vitality in middle schoolers, who are more used to loitering without any place to be, shooed from people’s stoops, and profiled by the police. By giving over part of the urban realm to people in a transitional period in their lives, we demarcate a more radical transition in District 15—a vision of a vital city that places people, not commerce or development, at the center of urban life.


FORMAL ANALYSIS (2021) Moving from Palliadio’s Cinquecento churches Loos’ Villa Muller, this series of drawings charts the prefiguration of modernity in the European renaissance. This analysis proceeds, both graphically and textually, through over a dozen projects by as many architects, terminating with an analysis of canonical early modernist works.

HMWRK (2020) is a research project by Rachael Tsai, Jack Rusk, Diana Smiljkovic, and Gustav Kjær Vad Nielsen while they were graduate students at the Yale School of Architecture. The project uses a range of media and practices to examine uncanny conjunctions of home and work. Through these activities, HMWRK investigates the motifs, experiences, and conditions such a conjunction engenders, as well as its social, economic, and political implications.

EXPANDING THE RANGE OF WOOD-DERIVED PRODUCTS IN BUILDING ASSEMBLIES (2021) The built environment is a major contributor to climate change. As the urgency in addressing anthropogenic climate change reaches accelerates, there is investment in carbon sequestration strategies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Increasing the use of biogenic products in building assemblies could sequester carbon and reduce the use of building materials with greater environmental and climatic impacts. Forest products have long been used in building assemblies as structural members. Advocacy for increasing their use is based on an increasing acknowledgement of their ancillary beneficial environmental and climatic benefits. Other wood-derived products (WDP) complement the use of wood structural systems and impart similar environmental benefits. The industry and technology required for these products are not as well-developed. These emerging technologies could complement the use of timber in building assemblies, creating industrial symbioses in the building and forest products industry.


LOS ANGELES (2012-2018) I built furniture, millwork, and cabinetry for private clients as well as for designers and architects. Working primarily in wood, my practice explored the relationship between craft, material, and form, based on the proposition that common materials and understated forms can be the basis of a rich spatial existence.