Judith Chafee began her career rubbing elbows with some of the most significant architects of the twentieth century. Her education at Yale University under Paul Rudolphcame at a momentous time when the best of a generation gathered in New Haven to debate the future of architecture. While thriving in this competitive environment, Chafee established herself in the Northeast and practiced for a decade with Walter Gropius, Sarah Harkness and Ben Thompson at the Architects Collaborative, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo at Eero Saarinen and Associates, Edward Larrabee Barnes and the Office of Paul Rudolph. Recognition immediately followed her early design projects including a Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome with Charles Eames and Diane Lewis in residence. Her inaugural independent project landed on the front of Architectural Record— the first Record House Award cover by a woman architect.
In 1970, Chafee returned to Tucson, Arizona and began a private practice that combined an interest in the Sonoran Desert landscape of her childhood, endemic building techniques and the experimental outlook that she embraced during her internship on the East Coast. Within the first decade of practice, she became celebrated for finely tuned buildings, situated with care in iconic desert landscapes. These houses bring form to priorities that are now widely embodied by the sustainability community and mindful designers worldwide. A close study of Judith Chafee’s early training and built work provides a unique understanding of making architecture that is both regional and far-reaching— an architecture that leverages limitations to stimulate an identity.
Christopher Domin is an architect and educator at the University of Arizona and lectures internationally on the topic of regional modernism and technological innovation. Professor Domin is a co-author of the book Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, published by Princeton Architectural Press.