2019 Tillman Scholar

Christopher Villalta

Rhode Island School of Design

“Immersing in the destruction of war-torn nations has motivated my work in architecture to respect and serve people, landscapes, ecosystems, and regional cultures.”

Chris enlisted in the Army infantry at 18 and has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. While deployment altered some of his goals, it also introduced new passions: mentorship and ethical architectural design.

Chris has witnessed the destruction of land, monuments, and traditions but also experienced enduring structures and thriving cultures. As part of a larger mission, Chris trained Afghan soldiers in Qalat to strengthen their defensive position, a Hellenistic fortress built by Alexander the Great. He felt privileged to teach them how to defend their families and homeland from oppressive forces.  The construction and condition of their ancient stronghold was incredible. This experience grew Chris’ vision to design buildings that integrate indigenous traditions, newer technologies, and situational landscapes.

While pursuing an MBA, Chris accepted an opportunity to train Army Officer Candidates at Fitchburg State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Fort Knox. He also completed a Master of Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design.  Furthermore, Chris designed and taught a new collegiate-level course in the 2019-2020 school year about ethical, inclusive design. He is currently working as an architectural designer in Boston, while serving in the National Guard. With over 17 years of service in the military, his goal is to retire as a First Sergeant after developing unit cohesion and expertise such that it sets a new standard for his battalion.  After completing licensure exams, Chris plans on developing strategies for better integrating construction, landscapes, ecosystems, and regional cultures.