Rowe served as Dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard from 1992 to 2004, and was Chairman of the Urban Planning and Design Department from 1988 until 1992, and Director of the Urban Design Programs from 1985 until 1990. Prior to Harvard, Rowe served as the Director of the School of Architecture at Rice University from 1981 to 1985 and also directed many multi-disciplinary research projects through the Rice Center, where he was Vice President from 1978 onwards, and at the Southwest Center for Urban Research.
Rowe’s research and consulting are extensive, diverse and international in scope, including subjects dealing with matters of cultural interpretation and design, as well as the relationship of urban form to issues of economic development, historic conservation, housing provision and resource sustainability. He has served as a principal investigator on projects sponsored by a wide range of U.S. government agencies, and has served as an advisor to a number of cities on matters of urban design and planning including Beijing, Guiyang, Guangzhou, Kunming, Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuhan and Wenzhou in China; Incheon in South Korea and Barcelona in Spain. He was also a board member of several prominent cultural and academic institutions, like the Center for Canadian Architecture and the Cities Programme of the London School of Economics, as well as on the board of several companies involved in low-cost housing provision and the use of environmentally sustainable technologies.
A recognized critic and lecturer in the field of architecture and urban design, in addition to numerous articles, Rowe is the author, co-author, or editor of fifteen books: Principles for Local Environmental Management (1978); Urban Watershed Management: Flooding and Water Quality (1979); Design Thinking (1987); Making a Middle Landscape (1991); Modernity and Housing (1993); Civic Realism (1997); Projecting Beirut (1998); L’Asia e il Moderno (1999); Modern Urban Housing in China: 1840-2000 (2001); Architectural Encounters with Essence and Form in Modern China (2002); Shanghai: Architecture and Urbanism for Modern China (2004); East-Asia Modern: Shaping the Contemporary City (2005); and Building Barcelona: The Second Renaixença (2006); A City and Its Stream: The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project (2010); and Emergent Architectural Territories in East Asian Cities (2011).