Dr. Sharon E. Sutton FAIA holds degrees in architecture, music, philosophy, and psychology. Educated initially in music, studying French horn with Gunther Schuller at the Manhattan School of Music and later at the University of Hartford. After earning a B.Music in 1963, she worked as a professional musician in New York City, most notably for Sol Hurok Attractions and in the original cast of the long-running “Man of La Mancha.” In 1967, Sutton enrolled in Parsons School of Design and then, recruited as a result of the civil rights era affirmative action efforts, transferred to Columbia University where she earned the MArch in 1973. In 1981, she received the MA in psychology from Hunter College; and in 1982, she received the M.Phil and Ph.D. in psychology from the City University of New York.
She began her career as an architecture educator in 1975, and has held positions at Pratt Institute, Columbia University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan where she became the first African American woman in the US promoted to full professor in an accredited professional degree program in architecture. She came to the University of Washington College of Built Environments (formerly College of Archtecture and Urban Planning) in 1998 as a Professor of Architecture, and Director of the Center for Environment, Education, and Design Studies (CEEDS). At UW, she holds a joint appointment in Urban Design and Planning, an adjunct appointments in Landscape Architecture and Social Work.
Her teaching at UW includes undergraduate and graduate design studios, and seminars in thesis research and professional practice; she also advises doctoral students in several disciplines, and assists teachers and prospective teachers to utilize design processes in K-12 education. In Spring 2000, CEEDS assumed leadership of the Architecture Department’s annual spring charrettes, reorganizing them as interdisciplinary, intergenerational events serving communities in the Seattle area. Her 2011 co-edited book, The Paradox of Urban Space: Inequity and Transformation on Marginalized Communities (Palgrave Publishers) came about as a result of an on-going collaboration among CEEDS faculty affiliates. Her 1996 book, Weaving a Tapestry of Resistance: The Places, Power, and Poetry of a Sustainable Society (Bergin and Garvey), derives from a K-12 urban design program she founded while at the University of Michigan. Her 1985 Learning through the Built Environment: An Ecological Approach to Child Development (Irvington) describes a study of low-achieving children who participated in design-build activities at a New York City public school—a study that received a National Endowment Design Research Award.
Dr. Sutton’s research, focused on youth participation in community development, has received funding from the Aspen Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, Tukwila School District, University of Michigan, the University of Washington, and most recently the Ford Foundation. Formerly a Kellogg National Fellow and a Danforth Foundation Fellow, in 1997-1998 she served as President of the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). She has served on the Seattle Design Commission and chaired Seattle’s Capitol Hill Design Review Board.
Dr. Sutton frequently lectures at colleges and universities internationally, and keynotes professional conferences in several disciplines—architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, planning, and psychology—and has developed experiential workshops for several AIA components as well as national gatherings, including among others the AIA Diversity Conference. Her fine art has appeared in galleries and museums, in the collections of business enterprises as well as colleges and universities, and in the holdings of the Library of Congress.
The AIA College of Fellows inducted Dr. Sutton in 1995. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture honored her as an ACSA Distinguished Professor in 1996; and in 1997 she received the “Life Recognition Award” from the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2011 the AIA presented Dr. Sutton with the Whitney Young Award, acknowledging her success in “increasing minority participation in the design professions and her advocacy on behalf of environmental and social justice.”