Heather Woofter, co-director of St. Louis-based Axi:Ome llc, has been promoted to director of the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, both part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.
Woofter joined the Sam Fox School as an assistant professor in 2005; has chaired the Graduate Program in Architecture since 2010; and became a full professor in 2015. Her appointment begins July 1.
She will succeed Bruce Lindsey, E. Desmond Lee Professor of Community Collaboration and current President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Lindsey has led architecture for the past 10 years and will join the faculty after a one-year sabbatical.
“Bruce leaves an important legacy,” said Carmon Colangelo, Dean Ralph J. Nagel of the Sam Fox School. “His vision and energetic leadership helped shape the Sam Fox School, promote cross-disciplinary connections on campus, and contribute to the national discourse on architectural education.
“Heather is an internationally renowned architect and design educator whose career embodies the close ties between academic research and studio practice,” added Colangelo. “I am proud to announce her appointment and look forward to working closely with her as we begin a new era in school life.”
A native of Maryland, Woofter earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She began her career as a project architect with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Marks Barfield in London, and Robert Luchetti Associates in Cambridge, Mass.
Before coming to St. Louis, Woofter was an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and a visiting professor at both Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and Konkuk University in Seoul. She has also taught at Boston Architectural College and Roger Williams University.
In 2003, Woofter co-founded Axi:Ome with Sam Fox School teacher Sung Ho Kim. Major projects include: UMSL at Grand Center, home to NPR affiliate St. Louis Public Radio; interiors for PBS affiliate KETC-TV; and the adjacent Public Media Commons.
The company has won national and international recognition, including numerous honorary awards from the AIA, both for construction work and competition entries. It has also been featured in several monographs, the most recent ‘Axi:Ome’ and ‘Three Stages of Architectural Education’ (both 2016).
Axi:Ome’s current projects include Art Walk in the Grand Center and a major expansion of COCA, the Center for the Creative Arts.
“St. Louis has a rich architectural history, but it’s also an interesting lens through which to look at the obligations of architecture today,” Woofter said. “Connectivity, sustainability, social responsibility, the role of technology – these are all critical issues that shape our way of life and the way architects approach their work.
“As a major city in the Midwest, St. Louis is an important site of engagement,” Woofter added. “It is also a place open to learning, experimenting, developing new approaches and experimenting with potential solutions. The seeds we plant here can bear fruit in cities and communities around the world. »
A culture of critical thinking
Woofter’s appointment comes amid a period of substantial growth. Over the past decade, enrollment at the nationally ranked Sam Fox School of Architecture and Urban Design has nearly doubled. The Sam Fox School also recently opened Anabeth and John Weil Hall, which will house new studios for graduates in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, art and design.
“As Chair of Graduate Architecture, Heather has been instrumental in creatively managing our growth, shaping the graduate curriculum into contemporary practice, and strengthening our ties to the professional community,” Lindsey said.
“Heather is a gifted architect and skilled leader, and has a longstanding and intimate understanding of the school, students, and faculty,” added Lindsey. “I am honored to leave the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design in his able hands.”
In addition to his administrative duties, Woofter has won a series of research, teaching, and course development grants. In 2009 she curated ‘Metabolic City’, a survey of experimental architecture projects, for the university’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. In 2010, the exhibition, which brought together works by the British collective Archigram, the Japanese Metabolist movement and the Dutch painter Constant Nieuwenhuys, won an award of merit for interior environments from ID magazine.
More recently, Woofter served as senior advisor to the Women in Architecture and Design student group, which organized “Women in Architecture 1974 | 2014.” The national symposium explored both the achievements of female practitioners and the challenges many still face. Participants included Nasrine Seraji, dean of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais; Laura Briggs, Head of Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design; and Cynthia Weese, dean of architecture at the University of Washington from 1993 to 2005.
“There is still a gap between architectural education and architectural practice,” Woofter said. “Male and female students are graduating at about the same rate, but even today fewer women are graduating. As a profession, we certainly have work to do.
“But it’s not really about men vs. women – it’s about lifestyle, choice and discipline transformation,” Woofter added. “The success of our programs, and ultimately of the architecture itself, will depend on our ability to create a supportive culture that fosters research, collaboration, and critical thinking.”