The New Jersey School of Architecture (NJSOA) at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) recently announced the appointment of architect Karen Nichols, FAIA, to the NJSOA Board of Visitors.
Nichols is a principal of Michael Graves & Associates, Princeton and New York City. She graduated from Smith College in 1974 with a degree in art history and later received a Master’s of Architecture from MIT, where she taught interdisciplinary courses in the architecture department.
Nichols joined Graves’ architecture firm in 1977. In addition to overseeing the practice as a whole over the past 26 years, she has been responsible for numerous architectural and planning projects, primarily for educational and arts-related institutions. Among these are the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati, the master plan for the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the ongoing renovation and expansion of the Newark Museum, which received a National AIA Honor Award in 1990. Nichols is part of the team that developed the firm’s product design department, which has designed more than 1000 consumer products for manufacturers such as Alessi and retailers such as Target.
Nichols was elevated to the College of Fellows of the AIA this year in recognition of her career achievements and contribution to the profession. She has dedicated her career to developing and implementing innovative operational and practice models that have influenced how architects practice and are engaged with the public. Working with Graves and her five other partners, she has built the firm’s practice around the integration of architecture, interior design and product design. Within the firm, this strategic diversification of services and financial structures has counteracted the architecture profession’s vulnerability to economic fluctuation. Externally, the product design practice—which ranges from architectural to tabletop products—has broadened the role of the architect in the public’s eyes and has raised awareness of the value of good design.
Nichols has consistently been interested in educating the public about architecture and design. In addition to preparing lectures and articles, she developed the firm’s website and designed over 35 exhibitions, including the exhibition entitled “The Language of Michael Graves: Architecture and Product Design” held at the NJSOA at NJIT in 2000. She has also edited seven monographs on the work of Graves and the firm, including a new volume being published by Rizzoli in December 2003. She has been a board member of New Jersey AIA and the Arts Council of Princeton.