Paolo Tombesi is Professor of Construction & Architecture in the School of Architecture, Civil & Environmental Engineering (ENAC) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EFPL Lausanne), Switzerland.
He is also Professor at the Smart Living Lab, a research and development center that is run jointly by EPFL Fribourg, the School of Engineering & Architecture of Fribourg, and the University of Fribourg.
The overarching concern of his work is the relationship between the intellectual dimension of building and the socio-technical aspects of its physical construction. He adopts a comprehensive approach to the study of building activity and output that considers the relevant planning and implementation processes as well as all the technological frameworks in place. The subsequent analysis utilizes industrial economics, labor theory and regional development models to examine the relationship between design, technological innovation, knowledge production and building markets.
Paolo Tombesi trained as an architect in Italy, receiving a BArch from the University of Rome La Sapienza (1990). A former Fulbright Fellow, he has a PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles (1997) on the distribution of technical design knowledge in the building industry, developed by examining the construction of Frank Gehry’s buildings.
He was Chair in Construction in the Faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning of the University of Melbourne. He joined the University of Melbourne in 1997 and was appointed to the Chair in Construction in 2009. Since then, he has also held visiting positions at the University of Reading (United Kingdom), University of Yale and University of Minnesota (USA), and EPFL (Switzerland).
Paolo Tombesi was an Italian Government Research Fellow at the Faculty of Architecture of the Polytechnic of Turin as part of “Brain Return” program designed to build new research capacity in Italy (2005-09). He led a research group investigating the procurement of iconic public buildings in Italy and across Europe. He also worked on the World Heritage Listing nomination of the Sydney Opera House to UNESCO (2006). Most recently he has been involved in the activities of the Building Intelligence Project at Columbia University (C-BIP), and with the professional and academic scene in Sri Lanka.
His work has appeared in Architectural Research Quarterly, arcCA, Architecture Australia, Art China, Building Research & Information, Cartas Urbanas, Casabella, Center, Construction Management & Economics, Costruire, Domus, Journal of Architectural Education, Journal of Architectural Engineering, Journal of Architecture, Journal of Disaster Prevention, Harvard Design Magazine, Spazio & Societá, and UME.
His article “The carriage in the needle” on the industrial restructuring of the building and architectural sector, won the Journal of Architectural Education Award for outstanding article (2000), and received the Sisalation Prize. In 2005, with his colleagues Blair Gardiner and Tony Mussen, he received the Sisalation Prize from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. The resulting book, Looking Ahead: Defining the Terms of a Sustainable Architectural Profession, was published in 2007.
Paolo Tombesi was supervisor of the PhD thesis of Milinda Pathiraja, “The function of robust technology in the construction of a 'third world' practice: architecture, design and labour training” (Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne, 2011). This research contributed to the Global LafargeHolcim Awards Silver 2015 winning in project, “Post-War Collective: Community library and social recuperation” in Ambepussa, Sri Lanka by Milinda Pathiraja, Ganga Ratnayake and the team from Robust Architecture Workshop, Sri Lanka.