Photo by Greg Benson  

By Virginia Fairweather


Two days back from a month’s vacation in Italy, Wendy Evans Joseph C’77 is in her home-office in Manhattan—a definitely deluxe two-story penthouse with amazing views in every direction—surrounded by architectural models and piles of sketches for her latest project, a proposed Holocaust memorial garden in Salt Lake City. The client has just left when I arrive, and beyond the mirrored wall of her 40th-floor office, Joseph’s two children—Danielle, seven, and Nicholas, six—are playing. Tomorrow, Joseph will take them to their first day at school. “I like to do a lot of things simultaneously,” she says.
    Joseph didn’t start out to be an architect. She began at Penn intent on majoring in math and physics, but fate intervened. She was sitting along Locust Walk when a passerby noticed her notebook covers, encrusted with sketches of the campus. He was an architecture student and told her she ought to be one, too. On a whim, she went to a studio class at the Graduate School of Fine Arts. Within minutes of watching what the students were doing, Joseph thought, “This is it!”

    That serendipitous visit launched her on a career trajectory fueled by rare talent and intensity. She graduated from Penn summa cum laude, with distinction in design, worked for a Cambridge, Massachusetts architecture firm for a year before she went on to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. There she was class valedictorian, winning the Henry Adams Award and the Kelly prize for the best thesis design (a concept for the Portland Museum of Art).
    One of the jurors was Henry Cobb of Pei, Cobb and Freed, who was impressed enough to offer her a job. She accepted and, after three years at the firm, she won the Rome prize, a plum architecture award that funds a year’s study in Italy. Joseph then returned to the Pei firm, where she worked for the next nine years—seven of them on the very high-profile and influential Holocaust Museum project in Washington.


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Copyright 2000 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 11/3/00


Joseph's design for the Women's Museum: An Institute for the Future included a free-standing two story gift shop of glass and steel (left). Exhibits include interactive video displays (below).