New Harvard Design School Leader a Longtime Local Architect

Grace La. Photo by Maggie Janik, distributed by Harvard University.

Grace La. Photo by Maggie Janik, distributed by Harvard University.

The new chair of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) is a former Milwaukee architect.

And though she’s traded the Cream City for Beantown, Grace La‘s work, still dots Milwaukee. Through her firm, La Dallman Architects, it includes the Marsupial Bridge under the Holton Street Viaduct and Kilbourn Tower.

Both La and her husband James Dallman served as architecture professors at UW-Milwaukee in addition to operating their practice locally. The firm continues to work in Wisconsin, including on a new museum in a repurposed granary in Door County.

La and Dallman both hold master’s degrees in architecture from Harvard, where they now work. La has served as a professor at the university since 2013, Dallman as a design critic since 2019. In 2022, they were appointed faculty directors for the Graduate Commons Program. La previously was the inaugural chair of the university’s practice program and director of its master of architecture degree programs.

On July 1, La will assume her new role.

“I am honored by the GSD’s trust and look forward to collaboration on the next chapter of this esteemed department,” said La in a statement. “As a highly negotiated art form, architecture remains at the vital intersection of culture and space. The discipline is also experiencing transformations in pedagogy, with opportunities to advance environmental expertise, social engagement, and artistry. I am thrilled to work on this shared project and on the continued mission to harness the immense intellect, imagination, and energy of the GSD’s creative community.”

La is the second woman to lead GSD and the first Korean American to be tenured at the school. She has won several design works individually and through La Dallman.

La Dallman’s other projects include UW-Milwaukee’s Hillel Student Center, the 2017 renovation of the Wilson Theater at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, an employee meeting center at Molson Coors, the 2015 Menomonee Valley 2.0 plan and multiple private residences. Its phased plan for the Marsupial Bridge includes a median garden now repurposed as Swing Park.

“I am very excited about Grace’s appointment,” said Sarah M. Whiting, dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. “Her commitment to the core curriculum and focus on practice as a fundamental pillar of architectural education are at once timely and timeless for the School’s pedagogy. And as we welcome Grace into her new role, I am also deeply grateful to Mark Lee for his steady leadership of the department these past five years.”

Dallman is a Milwaukee native. La, the daughter of Korean immigrants, met Dallman while studying at Harvard.

The couple launched their firm in 1999. Long based in the Historic Third Ward, the firm’s website currently gives a P.O. box address for its Milwaukee mailing address. Its Boston area office is located in Somerville, a Boston suburb located just northeast of Harvard’s home in Cambridge.

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