The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Feature Stories

Inclusive Design

Paving a path for sustainable architecture
  • View of nautical and oceanic architectural high-rise by student Marcus Lafond

Lugosch is the recipient of the 2013 Women in Design award in recognition of her many contributions to the field as an architect, designer, and educator.

From the classroom to the construction site, award-winning architect and designer Kathleen Lugosch (Art, Architecture and Art History) has been pushing the boundaries of architecture for more than 30 years. Her socially conscious, sustainable designs and her passion for employing her skills to guide others continue to garner national attention.

Since joining the UMass Amherst faculty in 1995, Lugosch has played a leading role in charting the course for the campus’s masters program in architecture, New England’s first and only accredited program of its kind that incorporates undergraduate pre-professional and multiple graduate-level professional degrees. Hallmarks like the Center for Design Engagement put UMass Amherst at the forefront—few other programs as resolutely incorporate outreach and social movement into their program’s framework. Lugosch started the center in 2010 with colleagues Joseph Krupczynski and Max Page, defining a mission to bring architectural design services to underserved communities. In keeping with values of the Architecture and Design program, the center serves as a vehicle to support community-based design projects, bridge academic research with community needs and promote innovative solutions to modern-day design problems.

“There are many people here who really care about bringing a social agenda into design…that’s something that we carefully crafted into the Architecture and Design program,” says Lugosch. “It’s important to us.”

Lugosch’s leadership and contribution to the field was recently acknowledged by the Boston Society of Architects with the 2013 Women in Design Award of Excellence—an award given to those who epitomize a “life in design,” those who “give back” and exemplify the “best of process and practice.” For Lugosch, the award strikes a nerve. She recalls how little diversity there was in the profession when she was a fresh-out-of-college graduate three decades ago and acknowledges the gender disparity that remains within the field of practicing architects. In contrast, Lugosch feels proud to lead a department whose faculty is now 70 percent women, one of the highest in the world. 

“It is important for us to be able to model the profession for our women students,” says Lugosch.

Lugosch was also recently inducted into the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Fellowship program, which recognizes architects who have made significant contributions to architecture and to society. 

To provide meaningful field opportunities for her students while addressing the need for affordable housing, Lugosch is working to build a relationship with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. In one recent studio, Lugosch’s students worked hand-in-hand with the local chapter to design energy efficient models of homes. While the project awaits approval from the town, Lugosch hopes to partner with the organization to build one of the student designs, giving students (Architecture and Design, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning) invaluable hands-on experience in taking a project from design through final construction.

Lugosch and her team employ sophisticated energy modeling software to test various sustainable construction techniques, such as structurally insulated panels for low-resource temperature maintenance. They are also experimenting with ways in which structures can be built to take advantage of natural airflow and reduce the need for home heating and cooling systems. Students are encouraged to think outside of the box for inexpensive ways to make the structure more efficient.

“We work to incorporate an understanding of the progression from idea into actual construction,” says Lugosch.

The program was recently awarded funding from the National Council of Architectural Registration Board to expand efforts to merge practice and education. Entitled Voices from the Field: From Design Concept to Reality, the project will focus on familiarizing students with the many nuances of the construction process—knowledge not typically attained until after graduation.

“Because we have this mix of real social concern, technical rigor and artistic vision, our students come out of the program able to do very interesting work. I hope that is our program legacy,” Lugosch says.

In designing projects, Lugosch and her students take a holistic approach to design. Topography, solar exposure, view, concerns of inhabitation, community and privacy are all factored in and shaped around an enhanced environment with responsive design elements.

“We’re trying to use design to emphasize lifestyle values and to create meaningful spaces…I really do feel that architecture can make a difference in peoples’ lives. Just how you walk through your day can be impacted by architecture,” says Lugosch.

Plans are now underway for a new Integrated Design Building on campus that will join Architecture and Design, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Building and Construction Technology programs under one roof. The project exemplifies the University’s commitment to sustainability and will enhance interdisciplinary collaborations in green building and design.

Lugosch, herself, chose architecture because she was attracted to the duality of architecture. She thrives in a job that is intellectually challenging and artistically stimulating.

“I find that one of the most attractive features—that there’s a lot of technical rigor, but also delight in space and form and movement. Architecture is such an incredible blend of things happening simultaneously,” says Lugosch.

Amanda Drane ‘12

Banner image: Detail of Nautical and Oceanic Architectural Highrise (NOAH) - Thesis project by Marcus Lafond, 2013