Michelle LaFoe, AIA

Michelle LaFoe, AIA, is a founding Principal of OFFICE 52 Architecture, which garnered national attention in 2011 when the studio won an invited competition to design Scott Hall, the new 109,000 square foot Nano-Bio-Energy Technologies Building for the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.  Throughout her 25 year career, she has collaborated with creative organizations, educational institutions, museums and private clients on the planning, design, and realization of award-winning projects.  As a licensed architect in New York and an accomplished artist, Michelle is one of the rare few who have managed to forge a versatile path in both architecture and art with project-based and series-based work in the studio practice.  In her work, she is interested in exploring the relationship of the materials and fabrication technology used in the construction of a spatial idea whether a sculptural installation or a building.  Her diverse experience ranges from the design of higher education projects such as Scott Hall with OFFICE 52, to design work with the Charles Moore-founded Centerbrook Architects & Planners in Essex, CT., and prestigious museum projects such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Osaka, Japan while working with AIA Gold Medal winner Cesar Pelli, FAIA, at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

Michelle began her career in the office of a structural engineer, with a focus on structural integrity, construction and materials technology.  As such, she is interested in the act of making things that combine the pragmatics of construction with the transcendent qualities of a project, and her design process combines studio art and architectural approaches with a focus on color, light, texture, consideration of the tactile, materials technology and the poetics of a project.  For her, architecture is about looking and seeing and listening and thinking and sketching and building and experiencing the space.  It’s about the idea, and about how forms and planes and the chosen materials interact with the natural light and surrounding landscape to create a transformative experience.  As part of a current series of explorations into architectural form, materials and natural light, Michelle is working on three privately funded installation pieces, one of which is a large scale transfer drawing series in which she is looking at circular textures in several cities throughout North America.

Michelle earned a Bachelor of Architecture and a Bachelor of Arts at Rice University with honors, a Post-Baccalaureate Graduate degree in Drawing, Painting and Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Master of Architecture as a full-scholarship Distinguished University Research Fellow as a former Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.  Afterwards she completed fellowship-sponsored, post-graduate research in materials and fabrication technology at Yale University. Michelle is a former Fulbright-Hayes Scholar in Architecture and Fine Arts to Perugia and Rome, Italy, and a grant recipient from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts.  She has taught and been a visiting critic with several programs in Italy, including McGill, RISD, Yale and Penn State, and she has lectured and exhibited internationally, with numerous awards for her art, fabrication and design work to her credit.

Career Project Experience