Graduating Student Spotlight: Denny Dine

Denny Dine.

Posted by Sam Fox School April 28, 2021

Q&A with Dennis "Denny" Dine, MArch21

What drew you to WashU?
I was drawn to Washington University by the Sam Fox School's commitment to social justice, its strength in urban design, and the unparalleled degree of freedom afforded by its Master of Architecture curriculum. Further, I knew the diverse faculty and their equally diverse research foci would afford me tremendous opportunities to broaden my architectural horizon. Lastly, my time with the current students during Open House weekend and the incredible facilities sealed the deal—it was clear to me that the Sam Fox was so much more than a School.

Denny Dine
Final presentation for the fall 2019 studio Extreme Environments: Radical Architecture.

What interests you most about your studies in architecture?
As architects, we need to respond to the considerable share our buildings hold in greenhouse gas emissions, as the effects of global climate change continue to worsen. Additionally, the events of the past year have highlighted the degree by which architectural and urban design have produced vulnerabilities for our most susceptible populations. But through these challenges emerge tremendous opportunities for our generation of forward-thinking architects and designers. Therefore, the courses at Sam Fox I found most interesting were those that explored this increasingly interconnected relationship between the built, social, and ecological environments.

What’s been the most memorable studio or project you’ve completed in the Sam Fox School?
During my entry semester in fall 2019, I was enrolled in Valerie Greer & Philip Holden's Extreme Environments: Radical Architecture studio. In this studio, we took an unconventional approach in starting our projects four times—focusing each start on the distinct attributes of site, light, thermodynamics, and gravity. I found this approach to be incredibly effective given the delicacy of our sites—all U.S. National Parks. Acknowledging humans as the most invasive of all species within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, my final iteration, “Trot Carefully,” revisited the vernacular “dog trot” house to create an environmentally, socially, and historically thoughtful proposal. And, through the rigorous hours inherent in the studio’s 4x start structure, I was able to bond with my new classmates, whom I am now honored to call some of my closest friends.

Denny Dine
“Trot Carefully,” Dine’s proposal for a research base and exhibition center at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What have you learned as an architecture student that you’d be most lost without?
As an architecture student, I have learned the value of an iterative design process. Recognizing each draft, revision, presentation as a testing of a hypothesis has freed me from the expectation of "perfection" at each step. This recognition has allowed my design work in grad school to be more inventive and exploratory. Today, the designs that I am most proud of are those that emerged by accident, as I know it was only through my willingness to fail that such accidents were possible.

Talk about your experiences on GAC—why did you first get involved, and what have you valued most about your involvement?
During the 2019 Open House weekend, I realized how integral the GAC is to the mission and culture of the Sam Fox School. Upon my entry at WashU, I wanted to get involved and joined the GAC as VP of Professional Development. Following a year of successful professional development networking events and fairs, I was nominated and elected President for the 2020-2021 academic year—one shaped by the challenges brought on by unprecedented crises. I have valued the trust placed upon me by my classmates to represent their interests and the Sam Fox School administration’s spirit of collaboration and understanding as we worked together to address the challenges of the year. Through this experience, I have learned how to be a better listener and effective negotiator, and have become more confident in my leadership abilities—skills that will undoubtedly prove invaluable as I begin my career.

Denny Dine-Library
In his third semester, Dine proposed a co-located branch of the St. Louis Public Library and 100 units of affordable housing as part of an urban design masterplan aimed at bridging the city’s north-south socioeconomic and racial divide along Delmar Boulevard.

Talk about the research work you’ve completed with professor Hongxi Yin.
Alongside collaborators at the Washington University School of Medicine and Purdue University, Dr. Yin and I have been exploring the evidence-based connections between the built environment, emerging technologies, and post-stroke rehabilitation outcomes. This research has allowed me to connect my own interests in architectural design, health care, and social justice, as stroke incidence and mortality disproportionately affects socioeconomically challenged communities of color. Our most recent paper was selected for publication in the proceedings of the 2021 ACSA Conference, and I had the opportunity to present our findings and serve as a panelist during the conference.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
As much of my time in St. Louis coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been extremely grateful for the gem that is Forest Park. Its miles of trails, picturesque vistas, and countless amenities have offered my classmates and me a much-needed retreat from the stresses of course work and global events. And after nearly two years, I still find myself discovering new routes and special architectural moments! Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed spending time exploring the impressive collections (and architecture) of the Saint Louis Art Museum, which is spectacularly located atop a hill at the park’s center.

Denny Dine
Integral to his proposal for the “Delmar Spine” was a Community Living Room that would bring much-needed amenities to the underserved community.

Think back to your first year at WashU. What would your 2019 self be most excited to learn about their future?
A crystal ball in 2019 would have certainly been helpful, right? All kidding aside, I would be excited to learn of the immense professional, leadership, and academic opportunities the Sam Fox School would afford me. Moreover, I would be excited to learn of the lifelong friendships I would soon develop with the strangers that surrounded me in Steinberg Auditorium on Day 1 of orientation.

Tell us something we should know about you that we forgot to ask!
One additional note I would like to add is one of gratitude for the efforts and dedication of Director Woofter, the chairs, and the entire faculty and staff of the Sam Fox School. Their tireless work throughout these unprecedented years has afforded my classmates and me unprecedented growth.

Denny Dine-models
A collection of physical models—both conceptual and presentation—constructed by Dine during his studies.


Growing up in Chicago, Dennis “Denny” Dine was exposed to world-class architecture since childhood. From his high school classrooms, he would gaze out at the Chicago skyline—inspiring a curiosity for tall buildings, architecture, and construction. This curiosity soon swelled to a passion, and Denny now holds a Master of Architecture degree from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Leveraging his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois School of Architecture and internships at noted global architectural firms, Denny capitalized upon opportunities at Washington University to further explore and refine his interests in building performance, health care design, and socially engaged practice. At a time marked by concurrent social and public health crises, Denny proved himself to be an empathetic and relentless leader. As president of the Graduate Architecture Council, he served as the official representative of the graduate student body to the School’s administration, faculty, and alumni. Beyond his work as President, Denny coordinated the annual publication of Approach, assisted in the instruction of graduate-level design studios, and conducted funded research centered on the link between the built environment and stroke rehabilitation outcomes.

Following his graduation in May of 2021, Denny will return to Chicago to join international design firm HKS. A believer in the transformative power of architecture and the resulting responsibility bestowed upon the architect, Denny intends to hold close the lessons learned at the Sam Fox School as he “makes no little plans.”