As a dual-degree candidate in architecture and urban design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Theodore “Teddy” Levy has studied sustainable design principles, zoning and code regulations and digital modeling techniques. He also learned to listen.
“I chose WashU, in large part, because of its focus on community-centric design — the belief that the community should drive the design process,” Levy said. “That requires getting out of the studio and into the community, learning its history and listening to the people who live there.”
For Levy, that meant partnering with community organization 4theVille to find ways to attract people and investment to the historic neighborhood while respecting its residential nature.
“I learned so much about Ville’s important history — this was the home of Arthur Ashe and important institutions like the Annie Malone Children’s Home and Homer G. Phillips Hospital,” Levy said. “But I also was so struck by the everyday ways people show up in the neighborhood to create place. That sort of human understanding is vital in the design process.”
Levy is among the 1,700 Washington University in St. Louis students who are set to earn their degrees this month. The university will celebrate their accomplishments at the annual December recognition ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Athletic Complex. Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop and a champion of quality K-12 education, will serve as the speaker. Clark recently launched the Delmar Divine, a home for nonprofits located in the former St. Luke’s Hospital on Delmar Boulevard.
Levy first started building houses — birdhouses, that is — as a child in Prince George’s County, Md., outside of Washington, D.C. At the same time, he noticed housing developments sprouting up on what was once farmland. Architecture and urban design, he realized, could hurt the environment and fuel economic inequality. But they also could improve the lives of the vulnerable and the invisible.
“I am Black, I’m gay and I also have Crohn’s disease, so I’ve always felt on the outside a little bit,” Levy said. “Being sick a lot of time and being around other people who were disabled has allowed me to see we need to make sure that everyone is being cared for.”
Levy started his education in architecture at Morgan State University. In 2019, he received a full scholarship to attend Washington University as a Chancellor’s Fellow, a cohort program for exceptional graduate students. During his time at Washington University, Levy was named a 2021 Foundation Fellow by the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and interned at Robert A.M. Stern Architects in New York. After graduation, he hopes to find a position in the D.C. area that marries his passion for architecture and advocacy.
“I want to lift up the voices of the marginalized in the built environment,” Levy said. “I would like to work with communities who are not having their voice heard and being a mediator between design decisions, policy and people so that decisions are equitable in the end.”