Kennedy, Sheila

Sheila Kennedy

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  • MArch, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 1985
  • Architecture, 1st Degree Cycle, Ecole Normale Superieure des Beaux Arts, 1980
  • BA, Wesleyan University, 1979

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Career in Architecture

Sheila Kennedy received her Bachelor’s Degree in history, philosophy and literature from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. 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 won the SOM National Traveling Fellowship and 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 Principal of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd. (KVA), over 15 years Sheila Kennedy has established an internationally recognized design practice that explores architecture, digital technology and emerging public needs. Designated as one of Fast Company’s Masters of Design, Kennedy is described as an “insightful and original thinker who is designing new ways of working, learning, leading and innovating”. Kennedy creative problem defiiton, concept creation strategy for clients, WHAT SHE DOES directs MATx, the materials research unit at KVA. MATx works collaboratively with business leaders, manufacturers, cultural institutions and public agencies to apply creative production across the fields of design, electronics, architecture and material science. MATx has developed designs and technology applications for Dupont, Siemens, Osram, Herman Miller, Saint-Gobain, The North Face, the City of Porto in Portugal, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States Department of Energy. The MATx Portable Light Project, a non-profit global initiative that enables people in the developing world to create and own portable energy harvesting solar textile kits has been recognized with a 2012 Energy Globe Award, 2009 US Congressional Award, a 2009 Energy Globe Award and a 2008 Tech Museum Laureate Award for technology that benefits humanity.

Kennedy’s work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the International Rotterdam Biennale, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA), and the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) “Design & the Elastic Mind” exhibition on breakthrough designs for new technologies. Kennedy has served as an advisor to the United States Department of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences’ Government-Industry Partnerships, and the Vision 2020 National Technology Roadmap. She is the author of multiple patents for the integration of digital technologies into architecture, building materials and textiles. Kennedy’s research and work in architecture have been recognized by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Academy of Sciences.

MATx works collaboratively with business leaders, manufacturers, cultural institutions and public agencies to create designs that advance the integration of new and traditional materials and material fabrication techniques in architecture.

In 1990, she founded Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA MATx) in partnership with Juan Frano Violich.

Press and Awards

Women in Design Award of Excellence (2010)

Institutional Affiliations

  • Professor of the Practice, MIT: 2008-present
  • Eliel Saarinen Professorship for Distinguished Practitioners in Architecture, Taubman School of Architecture, Ann Arbor, MI: 2005
  • Bruce Goff Chair of Innovation Professorship, University of Oklahoma: 2003
  • Associate Professor, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA: 1990-2000