First Projects: An Unplugged Conversation

First projects poster: post-it notes with participant names

Join First Projects, a candid roundtable conversation with leading designers hosted by the Practice Platform.  Unplugged and off-the-record, designers will share an inside glimpse into the origins of practice, revealing stories behind first projects and the seminal efforts that launch remarkable careers.

This unique Beer & Dogs event, co-sponsored by the GSD Alumni Council and the Practice Platform, will not be broadcast or recorded.



Preston Scott Cohen: The architecture of Preston Scott Cohenfounder and principal of Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. of Cambridge, MA, encompasses diverse scales and types of buildings including houses, educational facilities, cultural institutions and urban designs for private owners, institutions, government agencies and corporations. Recent projects include: Datong City Library [2008-2013], The Tel Aviv Museum of Art Amir Building, Tel Aviv, Israel [2003-2011], Taiyuan Museum of Art, Taiyuan, China [2007–2013], Nanjing Performing Arts Center, Nanjing, China [2007-2009], The Goldman Sachs Canopy, with Pei Cobb Freed Associates, New York, NY [2005-2008], Robbins Elementary School, Trenton, New Jersey [2005-2011], Goodman House, Pine Plains, New York [2002-2004]. Awards include the Progressive Architecture Award for Taiyuan Museum of Art [2010]; First Prize, Taiyuan Museum International Competition [2007]; First Prize Competition Robbins Elementary School, Trenton, NJ [2005]; Academy Award in Architecture, American Academy of Arts and Letters [2004]; Progressive Architecture Award, Architecture Tel Aviv Museum of Art [2004]; First Prize, Herta and Paul Amir International Competition for the New Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art [2003]; Progressive Architecture Awards: Torus House [2000], Terminal House [1998].

Cohen is Gerald M. McCue Professor of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He is the author of Contested Symmetries (Princeton Architectural Press, 2001) and numerous theoretical and historical essays on architecture.  His work has been widely published and exhibited and is in numerous collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard.  He lectures regularly in prestigious venues around the world.

Cohen’s work has been the subject of numerous theoretical assessments by renowned critics and historians including Nicolai Ouroussoff, Sylvia Lavin, Antoine Picon, Michael Hays, Nikolaus Kuhnert, Terry Riley, Robert Somol, Hashim Sarkis and Rafael Moneo. Cohen has held faculty positions at Princeton University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Ohio State University. He was the Frank Gehry International Chair at the University of Toronto in 2004 and the Perloff Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2002.


James Dallman is principal of LA DALLMAN, internationally recognized for the integration of architecture, engineering and landscape.  The practice, located in Boston and Milwaukee, is engaged in the transformation of site through spatial and material investigations of diverse scale and type.  Co-founded with Grace La, LA DALLMAN is the first American practice to receive the Rice Design Alliance Prize, an international award recognizing exceptionally gifted architects in the early phase of their career.  The firm has been awarded numerous professional honors, including the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices, the Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Silver Medal, multiple Design Awards from the American Institute of Architects Wisconsin, and prizes in international design competitions.

James Dallman’s commitment to artistic and technical integration has been recognized with honors from the American Society of Civil Engineers WisconsinAssociation of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, and the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois.  Completed projects include the Marsupial Bridge, the Miller Brewing Meeting Center, permanent science exhibits for Discovery World, the UWM Hillel Student Center, Kilbourn Tower, and residential projects. Dallman has held visiting faculty appointments at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Syracuse University, and Arizona State University.

LA DALLMAN’s work is featured in publications by a+t, Architectural Record, Azure, Praxis, Princeton Architectural Press, Routledge, and Topos, and they have lectured and exhibited widely, including at the Danish Architecture Center, the Carnegie Museum of Art Heinz Architectural Center, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the New Museum in New York City.

James Dallman is a member of the AIA and is licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of Wisconsin.  He received his M. Arch from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and his B.S. in Architecture from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, including study at the Ecole Speciale D’Architecture in Paris.


Jeanne Gang, FAIA, is the founding principal of Studio Gang, an international architecture and urban design practice based in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Drawing insight from ecological systems, Jeanne is recognized for a research-based design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities, and environments. Her analytical and creative approach has produced projects across scales and typologies, from cultural and public buildings to urban parks and high-rise towers. These include Writers Theatre, a professional theater for a company north of Chicago; the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and the 82-story Aqua Tower in downtown Chicago. Intertwined with their built work, Jeanne and the Studio also develop research and related projects such as publications and exhibitions that push design’s ability to create public awareness and give rise to change—a practice they call “actionable idealism.”

Jeanne and Studio Gang are currently designing major projects throughout the Americas and Europe. These include the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; the new United States Embassy in Brasília, Brazil; a unified campus for the California College of the Arts in San Francisco; Civic Commons, a multi-city project reimagining public spaces across the United States; and mixed-use towers in Toronto, Chicago, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles.

The recipient of the 2017 Louis I. Kahn Memorial Award, Jeanne is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was named the 2016 Architect of the Year by the Architectural Review. She is the author of three books on architecture and the work of Studio Gang has been honored and exhibited widely, including at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Chicago Architecture Biennial, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

An alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (M.Arch with Distinction), Jeanne also studied urban design at ETH Zürich as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has taught architecture at the GSD since 2011 through studios exploring the multi-faceted potential of materiality, and served as the John Portman Design Critic in Architecture in 2017.


Gary Hilderbrand: A committed practitioner, teacher, critic, and writer, Gary is the Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he has taught since 1990. His honors include Harvard University’s Charles Eliot Traveling Fellowship, the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture, the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices Award with Douglas Reed, the 2013 ASLA Firm of the Year award, Dumbarton Oaks’ 2016 Mellon Practicing Senior Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies, and the 2017 ASLA Design Medal.

Through three acclaimed books and two dozen essays, Hilderbrand has helped to position landscape architecture’s role in reconciling intellectual and cultural traditions with contemporary forces of urbanization and change. His essays have been featured in Landscape Architecture, Topos, Harvard Design Magazine, Architecture Boston, Clark Art Journal, Arnoldia, New England Journal of Garden History, and Land Forum.

In addition to his co-authorship of the firm’s 2012 monograph, Visible Invisible, he produced Making a Landscape of Continuity: The Practice of Innocenti & Webel (1997), which was recognized by ASLA and AIGA (50 Best Books); and The Miller Garden: Icon of Modernism (1999). He has served on the editorial boards of Spacemaker Press, Harvard Design Magazine, and Landscape Architecture Magazine. As a competition juror, he’s participated in Harvard’s Green Prize for Urban Design (2006, 2013); I Premi Europeu de Paisatge Rosa Barba Barcelona (2000, 2002, 2003, 2018); and “Suburbia Transformed” for the James Rose Center (2010). He chaired the ASLA National Awards Jury in 2005 and the ASLA Annual Student Awards Jury in 2006.

Hilderbrand has developed an abiding commitment to promoting a heightened focus on urban forestry practices through the firm’s work in cities, and through design studios and sponsored research projects at Harvard. In addition, his constructed drawings and personal photo-collage works have been exhibited at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Sotheby’s, Harvard University, and the Boston University Art Gallery.


Eric Howeler is Associate Professor of Architecture. He teaches in the core studio sequence and offers courses in other areas, including building assemblies.

Höweler was born in Cali, Colombia and received his degrees, Bachelor of Architecture and Masters of Architecture, from Cornell University. He is a principal of Höweler + Yoon Architecture LLP. HYA is a multidisciplinary practice working between architecture, art and media. Their multi-disciplinary projects include architecture, interactive environments, interiors, installations, furniture, concept clothing and artist books.  They embrace all scales as an opportunity to engage design research to investigate the relationships between form/performance, interactivity/media, and inhabitation/event. HYA’s work is the subject of a monograph entitled: Expanded Practice, Howeler + Yoon Architecture / MY Studio, published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2009. Awarded the Architecture League’s Emerging Voices award for 2007 and Architectural Record’s Design Vanguard for 2007, their interactive architecture / landscape projects were featured in the 2006 National Design Triennial at the Cooper Hewitt in New York and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.  Their work has been included in exhibitions at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.  Their work has been published and reviewed in Architect, Architectural Record, Domus, Interior Design magazine, Architectural Lighting and I.D. Magazine, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Financial Times and published in the following books: Light Color Sound, Sensory Effects in Contemporary Architecture (Norton, 2010), Utopia Forever(Gestalten 2010), Small Scale, Creative Solutions for Better City Living (PAP 2010), 1000X Architecture of the Americas (Verlagshaus Braun 2008), Provisional Practices- Emerging Modes of Architectural Practice USA (PAP 2008), and Young Architects Americas (DAAB 2007).

Current projects include the new headquarters for the Boston Society of Architects at Atlantic Wharf, scheduled for completion in November 2011, Skycourts, a 20,000 sf corporate retreat in Chengdu China, Rongsheng Complex, a 2.8 million sf mixed-use structure in Nantong China, and a series of public space immersive environments commissioned by Bharti Airtel in Delhi, India. Recent projects include: Building 2345, a 4,500 sf mixed use building in Washington DC, Low Rez Hi Fi, an interactive public art installation in Washington DC, Light Drift, an interactive light installation for the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, and Windscreen, a project for the MIT 150thFestival of Art Science and Technology. His firm’s website:

Prior to forming HYA, Höweler was a Senior Designer at Diller + Scofidio where he worked on the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Juilliard School projects, and an Associate Principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, where he was the senior designer on the 118 story ICC Tower in Hong Kong. He is LEED AP, and a registered architect in state of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. He has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard Design School.

He is author of Skyscraper: Vertical Now, published by Rizzoli/Universe Publishers in 2003, and Public Works, Unsolicited Small Projects for the Big Dig (with J. Meejin Yoon and Meredith Miller), published by MAP Book Publishers in 2009, and 1001 Skyscrapers (with J. Meejin Yoon), published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2000. Höweler has published essays and articles in Perspecta, Archis, Thresholds, The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Lighting, and Praxis.


Grace La is Professor of Architecture, Chair of the Practice Platform, and former Director of the GSD’s Master of Architecture Programs.  She is also Principal of LA DALLMAN Architects, internationally recognized for the integration of architecture, engineering and landscape.

Cofounded with James Dallman, LA DALLMAN is engaged in catalytic projects of diverse scale and type. Noted for works that expand the architect’s agency in the civic recalibration of infrastructure, public space and challenging sites, LA DALLMAN was named as an Emerging Voice by the Architectural League of New York in 2010 and received the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Silver Medal in 2007. In 2011, LA DALLMAN was the first practice in the United States to receive the Rice Design Alliance Prize, an international award recognizing exceptionally gifted architects in the early phase of their career. LA DALLMAN has also been awarded numerous professional honors, including architecture and engineering awards, as well as prizes in international design competitions.


Mack Scogin  is a principal in the firm of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the Kajima Professor in Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he was the chairman of the Department of Architecture from 1990 to 1995. He offers instruction in the core studio sequence and in advanced studio options. Recent studios have included: Everybody loves FrankField Trip“My Way”—A Trip to Gee’s BendSymmetrical Performance“Empathy”13141516171819Beige Neon, and Doing and Dancing.

With Merrill Elam, he received the 1995 Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 1996 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, the 2006 Boston Society of Architects Harleston Parker Medal and a 2008 Honorary Fellowship in the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Projects by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects have received over fifty design awards including six national American Institute of Architects Awards of Excellence. Their work has been widely featured in popular and academic publications on architecture including the 1992 Rizzoli publication, Scogin Elam and Bray: Critical Architecture / Architectural Criticism, the 1999 University of Michigan publication Mack & Merrill and the 2005 Princeton Architectural Press publication Mack Scogin Merrill Elam: Knowlton Hall. Their work has been exhibited at many museums and galleries including: Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center; Wexner Center for the Arts; Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, Spain; Deutches Architektur Museum in Frankfurt, Germany; and the Global Architecture Gallery in Tokyo, Japan.

Recent projects include the new United States Federal Courthouse in Austin, Texas; New Student Housing at Syracuse University; the Yale University Health Services Center; the Gates Center for Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University; the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center and Davis Garage for Wellesley College; the Knowlton School of Architecture for The Ohio State University; the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library for the University of California at Berkeley; the Herman Miller Cherokee Operations Facility in Canton, Georgia; the Zhongkai Sheshan Villas in Shanghai, China and a variety of projects for Tishman Speyer Properties in New York City; Washington DC; Atlanta, Georgia and Hyderabad, India.


Georgeen Theodore  is an architect, urban designer, and Professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture and Design, where she is the Director of the Master of Infrastructure Planning program. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where she graduated with distinction. Theodore is founding partner and principal of Interboro, a New York City-based architecture and planning research office. Since its founding in 2002, Interboro has worked with a variety of public, private, and not-for-profit clients, and has accumulated many awards for its innovative projects, including the Rice Design Alliance Spotlight Award (2013), the Museum of Modern Art PS1’s Young Architects Program (2011), the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices Award (2011) and Young Architects Award (2005), and the AIA New York Chapter’s New Practices Award (2006). In addition to New Jersey Institute of Technology, Theodore has taught at the Bauhaus Kolleg in Dessau, Lawrence Technical University, University of Pennsylvania, and Ohio State University, where she was awarded the 2011-12 Herbert Baumer Visiting Studio Professorship. In 2013, Theodore was invited to lead the University of Michigan’s Networks Studio Expertise Workshop.

Theodore has been recognized as having a significant voice in the field: in 2008, she and her partners were invited to co-curate the American contribution to the 2009 Rotterdam Architecture Biennale. Also in 2008, she was honored to have been selected as a juror of the 53rd Annual Progressive Architecture Awards, one of the most prestigious and oldest awards for architecture and urban design in the United States. In 2010, her practice won the Museum of Modern Art’s P.S.1 Young Architect’s Program with the project “Holding Pattern.” In 2013, Interboro was one of ten teams selected in an international competition to participate in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design Competition. In 2014, Interboro was chosen as one of the competition winners, with HUD allocating $125 million to implement the team’s proposal.

Theodore’s working methodology, tested both in research and practice, stresses the relationship between strategic planning and local development. Theodore has experience in sustainable urbanization, regional planning, transportation planning, masterplanning, urban design, participatory planning and design, and equitable development.

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