To say that Sheila Kennedy is redefining architecture is not an understatement. When she formed Matx, the materials research unit at Kennedy & Violich Architecture, where she works with Juan Frano Violich (B.S. Architecture, UC Berkeley ’80), it was unusual for an architect to work with soft infrastructure: information, light, energy and digital networks. Kennedy saw that architects can expand the idea of “material” to include these organizational systems with which architecture is made. As she explained in her statement to the Berkeley-Rupp nominating committee, “There were no guidelines, no rules for what my team at Matx would do or how we would find work—it was a risk, and one that is still playing out.”
“At KVA Matx we are committed to the idea of agency in architecture and to the full engagement of the architectural imagination,” Kennedy writes in her statement for the 2014 Venice Biennale. “In our practice, we explore the soft in design as both a loosening of inherited assumptions and as a new constellation of architecture, natural systems and digital networks.” For Kennedy, agency in architecture is about transforming “givens,” shifting people’s perceptions and proposing new ways to get things done.
Today, with projects such as the Portable Light Project, the NYC Public Ferry Terminal and the Soft House, Kennedy creates bridges between “high” and “low” technologies, and brings new capabilities to traditional building materials such as wood, textiles and masonry. With her team at Matx, she is exploring how industrially produced renewable materials and bio-materials can be transformed through digital design and fabrication techniques for public benefit.
Sheila Kennedy received her Bachelor’s Degree in history, philosophy and literature from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University where she studied with philosopher Elizabeth Young-Bruel. Kennedy studied architecture at the Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris and received the Masters of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University where she was graduated with Distinction, the School’s highest academic honor. As Associate Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, Kennedy was Director of the M Arch II Program from 1991–1995 and is currently Professor of the Practice of Architecture at MIT.
As a founding principal of KVA Matx, Kennedy directs an interdisciplinary design practice that works at the intersection of architecture, urbanism, and new infrastructure for emerging public needs. Her projects in Brazil, France, Germany, Africa, China and the United States include notable building commissions with leading research universities, sustainable waterfront design projects, carbon neutral housing and global initiatives for portable clean energy and lighting.
Detailed background information on Sheila Kennedy and her work can be found in the profiles and links to selected media below.
- Sheila Kennedy: MIT Industry Design Research Profile
- Sheila Kennedy: MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism
- KVA Matx Leadership
- Architizer KVA Matx Profile
- Phaidon Architecture KVA Matx Profile
- AIA Doer Profile Sheila Kennedy
- Engineering for Change Profile
- Architect Visits KVA (Video profile of KVA Matx)
- Sheila Kennedy discusses KVA Matx
- Urban Omnibus: Multi-Tasking Infrastructures
- Sheila Kennedy on “the SOFT”—The “Rarified” lecture series, 2014, Princeton University
- Architectural Record, Timber’s New Wave: A set of rowhouses offers a new model for low-carbon living , 2014
- Architect Magazine, 2014 Research & Design Issue
- Bracket 2: Brackett Goes Soft