Tara Pearson is a design studio instructor at the School of Architecture and instructs a course on graphic design in the Visual Communications Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Pearson designed and taught an elective, Infectious Architecture: Designing Against Contagion, during the spring ’22 semester. This course examined an array of infamous pandemics, beginning with the 14th c. Black Death through the ongoing COVID crisis. Through each case study, students considered how different infectious disease drove the development of critical architectural, landscape, and infrastructural interventions. Students worked through the evolving popular belief systems and scientific knowledges that impact(ed) the use and design of space, and explored many of the social, economic, and political issues at play during each respective epidemic.
Pearson’s work is influenced by an unorthodox menagerie of academic endeavors and professional experiences, which include architectural design, infectious disease and biohazardous threats, politics, terrorism, and feminist issues. Pearson received her Master of Architecture degree from Syracuse University, having earned the American Institute of Architects’ Henry Adams Medal and Certificate of Merit for achieving the highest academic ranking in 2020. Her thesis project, Sinister in Situ: Gendered Abjection in the Architectural In-between, received a Citation for Excellence in Thesis Design, as well as an honorable mention for the 2021 Syracuse University Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Work.
Prior to joining the School of Architecture, Pearson earned her bachelor’s degree double majoring in Biology and Women’s Studies at SU and earned her first master’s degree in Biohazardous Threats and Emerging Infectious Disease at Georgetown University. She also launched an intense and fast-paced career as an analyst at the National Counterterrorism Center. These shape her insight into myriad socio-political contexts, but most powerfully impact her perspectives on—and interest in probing—the darker nature of the human condition.
Pearson’s recent work investigates women’s encounters with dread in architecture’s liminal spaces and representations thereof—particularly in the horror genre. More broadly, her research interests are situated at an intersection where visual representation and the built environment confront fear, trauma, illness, and death.