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Elena Vazquez Peña

Associate Professor 



Works at

Associate professor at Umeå School of Architecture

Elena Vazquez, PhD. is a computational designer, researcher, and educator. Her work focuses on smart materials for adaptive buildings, and it has been supported by the American Institute of Architects Upjohn Research Initiative Grant and the Architectural Research Centers Consortium. Her interdisciplinary research bridges material science and computational design and has won awards such as the 2023 ARCC Dissertation Award, and the 2022 Rustum and Della Roy Innovation in Materials Research Award.

Elena holds a Ph.D. in Architecture, a Master of Science in Architecture, and a graduate certificate in Additive Manufacturing from Penn State. She obtained her professional degree in Architecture from the Universidad Nacional de Asunción. There, she founded an architecture studio with her partner and worked on several housing projects' design and construction supervision. Her master's work: "Perforated Masonry Walls: Creating a digital framework for optimizing environmental performance through shape configuration," has been recognized with the "Distinguished Master's Thesis Award," an acknowledgment of excellence in master's thesis research. In Spring 2018, she received the ARCC King Medal for Excellence in Architectural and Environmental Research.

As a computational designer, she has worked and collaborated with architecture studios and manufacturing companies such as SOM, Zahner, and BamCore. In addition, she has extensively published in computer-aided architectural design proceedings, including eCAADe, Sigradi, Caadria, and CAADFutures, and peer-reviewed journals. Elena is a 2016-2018 Fulbright scholar, a 2020-2021 Waddell Biggart Graduate Fellow, and a 2021-2022 Freiburg Rising Star. 

Journal of Building Engineering, Elsevier 2024, Vol. 82
Vazquez, Elena; Correa, David; Poppinga, Simon
Architectural Science Review, Taylor & Francis 2024, Vol. 67, (2) : 165-172
Vazquez, Elena; Willett, Christopher
Integrated project design: from Academia to the AEC industry, Springer Nature 2023 : 129-148
Farrokhsiar, Paniz; Vazquez, Elena; Brown, Nathan; et al.
Journal of Architectural Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2023, Vol. 29, (4)
Vazquez, Elena; Diarte, Julio; Duarte, Jose
Construction and Building Materials, Elsevier 2023, Vol. 392
Vazquez, Elena; Ounaies, Zoubeida; Iatesta, Ethan; et al.
ARCC-EAAE 2022 International conference: proceedings, Architectural Research Centers Consortium 2022 : 423-430
Diarte Almada, Julio; Vazquez, Elena
Journal of Facade Design and Engineering, Stichting OpenAccess Foundation 2022, Vol. 10, (1) : 55-74
Vazquez, Elena; Duarte, Jose
Smart materials and structures, Institute of Physics (IOP) 2022, Vol. 31, (3)
Vazquez, Elena; Duarte, Jose P.
Behavior and Mechanics of Multifunctional Materials XVI
Vazquez, Elena; Ounaies, Zoubeida; Duarte, Jose P.
EAAE-ARCC International Conference & 2nd VIBRArch 11-14 november, 2020: The architect and the city, Valencia: Editorial Universitat Politècnica de València 2021 : 808-817
Diarte Almada, Julio; Vazquez, Elena
AUS [Arquitectura / Urbanismo / Sustentabilidad], Universidad Austral de Chile 2021, (29) : 12-21
Diarte, Julio; Vazquez, Elena; Ferres, Laura
eCAADe 2021. Towards a new, configurable architecture: Proceedings of the 39th eCAADe Conference - Volume 1 : 365-504
Vazquez, Elena; Evrim, Berfin; Duarte, Jose
SIGraDi 2020: Proceedings of the 24th Conference of the Iberoamerican Society of Digital Graphics, Edgard Blucher 2021 : 600-607
Vazquez, Elena; Gursoy, Benay
Projections: Proceedings of the 26th CAADRIA Conference - Volume 1 : 533-542
Vazquez, Elena; Oghazian, Farzaneh
Architectural Science Review, Taylor & Francis 2020, Vol. 64, (3) : 262-274
Vazquez, Elena; Duarte, Jose; Poerschke, Ute
Computer-Aided Architectural Design. "Hello, Culture": 18th International Conference, CAAD Futures 2019, Daejeon, Republic of Korea, June 26–28, 2019, Selected Papers, Springer Nature 2019 : 384-398
Diarte, Julio; Vazquez, Elena; Shaffer, Marcus
Architecture in the age of the 4th industrial revolution: Proceedings of the 37th eCAADe and 23rd SIGraDi Conference - Volume 2 : 769-778
Diarte, Julio; Vazquez, Elena; Shaffer, Marcus
ARCC 2019: The future of praxis: applied research as a bridge between theory and practice
Vazquez, Elena; Duarte, Jose
Intelligent & Informed: Proceedings of the 24th CAADRIA Conference - Volume 2 : 391-400
Vazquez, Elena; Gursoy, Benay; Duarte, Jose
International Journal of Architectural Computing, Sage Publications 2019, Vol. 18, (1) : 67-83
Vazquez, Elena; Gürsoy, Benay; Duarte, Jose Pinto
Journal of facade design and engineering, Vol. 7, (2) : 93-114
Vazquez, Elena; Randall, Clive; Duarte, Jose
CAADRIA 2018, f the 23 rd International Conference on Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia, Beijing, China, May 17-19, 2018
Vazquez, Elena
eCAADe 2018. Computing for a better tomorrow: Proceedings of the 36th eCAADe Conference - volume 1 : 827-834
Vazquez, Elena; Shaffer, Marcus
XXI Congreso Internacional de la Sociedad Iberoamericana de Gráfica Digital : 544-551
Vazquez, Elena

Research groups

Head of Research Group
Digital Materials
Group member

I use a computational approach to teaching architectural design. Taking inspiration from baking shows, I develop project-based assignments for my students. 

Computational designers are toolmakers that craft scripts to solve architectural design problems. When teaching digital design, students learn to make tools for real-life design problems. In my Parametric Design class, they watch video tutorials before class and then are challenged with a digital tool-making assignment during class. For example, they analyze an aluminum facade and then create a script to generate a similar design. By relying on real examples, students immediately understand the applicability of what they learn and report feeling comfortable with new parametric design software. 

When teaching design studio, students learn computational design concepts through a series of short projects that build to a final design throughout the semester. For instance, an in-class assignment asks novice designers to develop five quick paper models to express different designs based on making rules such as adding, folding, or cutting. They produce these paper models and then select the rules that they find more helpful in conceptualizing their design ideas for further iterations. The assignment helps them understand that rule-based making can elicit design intents while providing a framework for explorations. These computational approaches to design are strategies that students will take with them and implement in future projects.

In sum, my pedagogical approaches engage students in project-centered learning and provide them with frameworks and computational strategies that will remain with them long after leaving my classroom. I have experience teaching: Architecture Studio, Robotics in Architecture, Parametric Design, Shape Grammars, Resilient and Sustainable design.