Heather Woofter, co-director of the St. Louis-based firm Axi:Ome llc, has been promoted to director of the College of Architecture and 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 architecture program since 2010; and became a full professor in 2015. Her appointment begins July 1.
She will succeed Bruce Lindsey, the E. Desmond Lee Professor for 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 yearlong sabbatical.
“Bruce leaves a significant legacy,” said Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School. “His vision and energetic leadership have helped to shape the Sam Fox School, promoting interdisciplinary connections across campus and contributing to the national discourse in architecture education.
“Heather is an internationally distinguished architect and design educator whose career embodies the close ties between academic research and studio practice,” Colangelo added. “I am proud to announce her appointment and look forward to working closely with her as we embark on a new era in the life of the school.”
A Maryland native, Woofter earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech and a Master of 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 served as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and as a visiting professor at both Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and Konkuk University in Seoul. She also has taught at Boston Architectural College and Roger Williams University.
In 2003, Woofter cofounded Axi:Ome with fellow Sam Fox School professor 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 firm has won national and international recognition, including numerous AIA Honor Awards, for both built work and competition entries. It also has been profiled in several monographs, most recently “Axi:Ome” and “Three Stages of Architectural Education” (both 2016).
“St. Louis has a rich architectural history, but it’s also an interesting lens through which to examine the obligations of architecture today,” Woofter said. “Connectivity, sustainability, social responsibility, the role of technology — these are all critical issues that shape how we live and how architects approach their work.
“As a major Midwestern city, St. Louis is an important site of engagement,” Woofter added. “It is also a place that is open to learning, to experimentation, to developing new approaches and testing 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 amidst a period of substantial growth. Over the last decade, enrollment in the Sam Fox School’s nationally ranked Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design has nearly doubled. The Sam Fox School also recently broke ground on Anabeth and John Weil Hall, which will house new studios for graduate architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and art and design.
“As chair of graduate architecture, Heather has been instrumental in creatively managing our growth, in shaping the graduate curriculum towards contemporary practice, and in strengthening our ties to the professional community,” Lindsey said.
“Heather is a gifted architect and a skilled leader, and has an intimate and long-standing understanding of the school, the students and the faculty,” Lindsey added. “I am honored to leave the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design in her capable hands.”
In addition to her 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 incorporated works by the British collective Archigram, the Japanese Metabolist movement and Dutch painter Constant Nieuwenhuys, won a merit award for interior environments from ID magazine.
More recently, Woofter was a principal faculty adviser 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 the Rhode Island School of Design; and Cynthia Weese, dean of architecture at Washington University from 1993-2005.
“There is still a gap between architectural education and architectural practice,” Woofter said. “Male and female students graduate at about the same rates, but even today, fewer women are getting their licenses. As a profession, we definitely have work to do.
“But it’s not really about men vs. women — it’s about lifestyle and choices and transforming the discipline,” Woofter added. “The success of our programs, and ultimately of architecture itself, will depend on our ability to create a supportive culture that fosters research, collaboration and critical thinking.”