Innovation and unconventional thinking are both hardwired into Jennifer Siegal’s DNA. This shows in a body of work and research that questions everything, particularly the static, heavy, inflexible architecture that we somehow still expect in a world that is anything but. In 1998 she named her firm Office of Mobile Design, a nod to her obsession with the transitory. The firm focuses on “portable, demountable, and relocatable structures,” from homes to schools to stores. It also explores prefabrication, taking advantage of industrial processes to create a more efficient and nimble architecture. Wheels are an important part of OMD’s design approach, examining ways that any city environment can be made more usable and more dynamic if it can be hitched-up, towed, pulled, or driven from place to place. Siegal states “For me, mobility is not about erasing everything that exists, but adding to the infrastructure in a more environmentally sound way — a more intelligent way of inhabiting the landscape — resting lightly on the ground.”
Siegal and her firm have developed a reputation not only for hands-on research, but for rethinking already radical ideas. Her architecture, she stresses, is not just a “nod to the fantastical past,” like the visionary ideas of Archigram, the Metabolists and Ant Farm. The utilization of the existing industrial vernacular to create the new is a key element in Siegal’s work.
Siegal is the winner of the 2016 arcVision Prize – Women and Architecture - an international award to women’s architecture organized by Italcementi. She was unanimously chosen by the jury for being “a fearless pioneer in the research and development of prefabricated construction systems, at low prices for disadvantaged users and areas, who has been able to invent and build practical solutions and a new language for mobile and low-cost housing."
She earned a master’s degree from SCI-Arc in 1994 and was a 2003 Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she explored the use of intelligent, kinetic, and lightweight materials. In 1997 she was in-residence at the Chinati Foundation and in 2004 a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony in her hometown, Peterborough, New Hampshire. She was the inaugural Julius Shulman Institute Fellow at Woodbury University, and is presently an Adjunct Associate Professor at USC. She is the editor of both Mobile: the Art of Portable Architecture (2002), More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today (2008), and was the founder and series editor of Materials Monthly (2005-6), published by Princeton Architectural Press. A monograph on Jennifer Siegal was published in 2005.