Katherine W. Swenson is a nationally recognized design leader, researcher, writer, and educator. She is a Senior Principal of MASS Design Group, an international non-profit architecture firm whose mission is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity. Before joining MASS in early 2020, Swenson was vice president of Design & Sustainability at Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit organization that invests more than $8 billion annually in community development. Katie’s work explores how critical design practice can and should promote economic and social equity, environmental sustainability, and healthy communities.
A member of the second class of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship, Swenson was tapped to grow and lead the program in 2007, after completing her fellowship with the Piedmont Housing Alliance in Charlottesville, Va. Under her leadership, Swenson recruited and mentored 85 fellows who are the next generation of leaders in architecture and community development. The Rose Fellowship has been showcased at the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the New York Center for Architecture, and the National Building Museum and been recognized by the American Institute of Architects for its groundbreaking work, receiving AIA Awards in 2017 and 2018 for Collaborative Achievement. Swenson founded the Charlottesville Community Design Center and has received numerous design and social innovation awards. Katie has 20 years of experience in the theoretical and practical application of design thinking and is a talented global public speaker and thought leader.
A prolific writer, she is releasing two books in the fall of 2020: Design with Love: At Home in America, and In Bohemia: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Kindness, both by Schiffer Publishing. In 2008, she co-authored Growing Urban Habitats: Seeking a Housing Development Model. She is a contributing author to Activist Architecture: Philosophy and Practice of Community Design and Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Architecture from The University of Virginia. Katie was a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is fluent in French and is the single mother of three spirited daughters.
Design with Love: At Home in America is an essay and photo book featuring the work of Rose Fellows from 2000 to the present by Katie Swenson. With photography by Harry Connolly, the book is a photojournalist dream and coffee table book documenting partnerships and innovations in design across the U.S. led by some of the most talented social entrepreneurs, architects, and community planners in the country. The book captures the lessons of 20 years of community-based development to create beautiful, well-designed affordable housing for some of America’s most vulnerable communities, from the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles to disinvested blocks of West Baltimore. These hopeful stories and photographs show how designers, social activists, and community members have worked together to improve justice and equity — even in the direst of circumstances of inequality, racism, and neglect.
For more information on Katie’s new book, click here.