About Stephanie Smith
Stephanie Smith trained as an architect at Harvard University (MArch, 1997), and is also a developer, entrepreneur, and orchardist. She designs greenhouses, outhouses, yurts, tipis, tent cities, campsites and homesteading products under the mantra “Lighten Up!” Her ‘Cul-de-sac Commune’ project is a new model for resource sharing in the city, the suburbs and beyond. She lives and works in Joshua Tree, California.
Her ideas have made her “one to watch” in the worlds of architecture, art and culture. In 2008 the Whitney Museum identified her as one of the designer/entrepreneurs most actively taking the ideas of Buckminster Fuller into the 21st century. She has been featured in publications such as The New York Times and Dwell. Smith’s social design project ‘Wanna Start a Commune?’ triggered ‘Cul-de-Sac Communes‘ in Southern California and beyond. The project was featured on All Things Considered (NPR) in early 2009.
Smith received her M.Arch from Harvard University, working under acclaimed architect Rem Koolhaas. She was project leader of Koolhaas’s influential ‘Harvard Project on the City’ in its first year (1996). Her essay, “To Get Rich is Glorious,” about the transformation of China from a local to a global economy, then back again, was published by Taschen in ‘Great Leap Forward’ and was included in the international art fair ‘documenta X’. According to one critic, “Stephanie Smith’s diary of encountering the people and customs of the new, development crazed Dongguan City in southern China, offers the compelling and evocative observation of a first-class novel.”
Smith’s design studio Ecoshack (2004 – 2010) manufactured a shelter product, The Nomad Yurt, which was nominated for a Cooper-Hewitt Peoples’ Design Award. Other Ecoshack projects included ecovillages, beekeeper’s huts, tipis and tent cities. Ecoshack began as an experimental 5-acre design lab and fabrication facility in Joshua Tree.
As an architectural designer and artist, Smith has completed projects across a range of media. Projects include a set design for the reenactment of Allan Kaprow’s seminal 18/6 happening for MOCA as part of its Allan Kaprow: Art as Life show, and a social design project to create an urban network of resource-sharing ‘kiosks’, which was featured in the Fuller-themed traveling exhibition ‘29 Chains to the Moon’ (Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University), and was positively reviewed by Art in America. Smith was a visiting artist at UCIRA (University of California Institute for Research in the Arts), and with students and faculty co-created a technology platform for artist collaboration among UC arts programs.
Smith has lectured widely, most recently at Harvard University, the Whitney Museum and Carnegie Mellon University. She is a critic at design schools including Harvard University Graduate School of Design, UCLA, and Art Center College of Design. And from 1998 to 2010 she was a design instructor at SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture). Her design studios explored ideas of fabrication, sustainability and alternative forms of community. Course titles included ‘Instant City: A Manufactured Kit for a Temporary Community’, and ‘Unplugged: An Off-the-grid Ecovillage for 20 Surfers’.
Smithʼs articles have appeared in a number of journals. Texts include “The GOOD Guide to Buckminster Fuller” (Good Magazine, July/August 2007), and a short text on the topic “Why We Should Pursue Fabrication at Full Scale,” for a Columbia University publication on the role of fabrication in architecture. Her other published essays include “The Future of Retail” (Wiley Press), and “Ten Strategies for Urban Transformation” (Diadalos).