Bausman, Karen

Karen Bausman

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Dates of Birth and Death

b. February 8, 1958


Allentown, Pennsylvania


  • The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, 1982

Years of practice

1982– (estimated)


  • Karen Bausman + Associates


New York, New York City


Early life and education

Karen Bausman (b. February 8, 1958, in Allentown, Pennsylvania) is an American architect. Educated at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, from which she graduated in 1982, Bausman has since held the Eliot Noyes Chair at the Graduate School of DesignHarvard University, and the Eero Saarinen Chair at Yale School of ArchitectureYale University, the only woman to hold both chairs. She is principal of Karen Bausman + Associates, an architecture firm located in New York City.

Career in Architecture

Bausman’s study of nature’s sustainable structures – a bird’s nest, for example[1] – and her research into biological composite systems, such as the surface and structure of a rose bloom, underlie her dynamic[2] and widely published building designs. Suggesting unfolding flower petals[3] Performance Theater, which was designed as a hybrid performance venue for Warner Bros. in Los Angeles, replaces a bleak parking lot in the center of its Burbank campus with flexible stage and amphitheater spaces for use by the entertainment community. “It springs from the ground in a way that is expressive of the expansive new ideas embodied by the company’s roster of performing artists,” she said when accepting the prestigious Progressive architecture award for the theater’s design.[4]

This commission and other works that push the boundaries of structural and visual poetry[5] formed the basis of Karen Bausman: Supermodels, a solo exhibition of her building designs and working methods at Harvard University in 2001.

Major Buildings and Projects

  • Performance Theater for Warner Bros.Los Angeles (P/A Award 1998)
  • Hamlin Chapel and Library (Architecture Awards Issue)
  • Korean Memorial and Cultural Center (Karen Bausman: “Supermodels” Exhibit, Harvard GSD)
  • Flower Tower

Institutional Affiliations

The earliest and most lasting influence on her expanding thoughts about art and architecture, according to Bausman, was John Hejduk, Cooper Union’s influential dean who revolutionized architectural education in the United States and encouraged independent research.[6] Her thesis project, One-Way Bridge, was featured in Education of an Architect, published by Rizzoli International Publications in 1988.[6]

With an ongoing commitment to the field of architectural research and education, Bausman was a faculty member of Columbia University‘s School of Architecture’s Advanced Architectural Design Studio (AAD) from 1990 to 2004, a theoretical powerhouse during the exciting time when the design studio was radically altered by digital visualization, the introduction of new materials, and the integration of digital with analog production.[7] Her applied research into biological and other natural structures, together with computational design techniques she developed[8] are featured in INDEX Architecture, a Columbia GSAPP book published by MIT Press in 2003.

In 1994 Bausman was awarded the Rome Prize at a White House ceremony.[9] She was awarded the Cooper Union Citation for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Architecture in that same year. In 1995 she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

Bausman was the subject of a 2005 New York Times profile after her firm was awarded a multiyear Design and Construction Excellence contract as part of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s initiative to bring new ideas and technologies to the design of city-financed libraries, community centers, and other structures in New York. Among Bausman’s interior design projects are award-winning New York headquarters for her private clients Warner Bros. and Elektra Entertainment Group.[10] She has also built numerous private residences.

Bausman lectures on her work and on architecture at universities nationwide and as a TV commentator, most recently on Secrets of New York – Secrets in the Sky: The Towers of Gotham, the 2007 New York Emmy Award winning program airing on PBS stations across the United States.