Clare Olsen

Position Professor 




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Areas of Expertise

Architectural Ceramics
Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Shell Structures
Foundation Design 


Clare holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Brown University and a Masters of Architecture with distinction from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has taught at Tulane University, Cornell University and Syracuse University.

Clare co-authored with engineer, Sinead Mac Namara, the second edition of their book entitled Collaborations in Architecture and Engineering, which includes in-depth case studies of cross-disciplinary collaborations and an overview of the tools and methods for successful interdisciplinary partnerships. Clare also runs her practice, C.O.CO., where she investigates systems thinking on an installation scale.

Teaching Philosophy

As Clare learned while a graduate student at UCLA, design education should challenge students to make contributions to the practice. Throughout her teaching career, she has endeavored to encourage students to explore new approaches and take risks. Students’ design explorations are supported through instruction in software and fabrication, and the work is contextualized within contemporary theory and practice through readings discussions. In this post-digital age, the values, methods and styles of contemporary practice are multiplicitous. Numerous design tactics are supported in Clare’s courses; however, all students are encouraged to explore strategies that push the field through innovative approaches to material, form and ecology. 


Educational Credentials:

  • Master of Architecture, University of California, Los Angeles 2003
  • A.B. in Environmental Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI  1997

Teaching Experience:

  • Assistant Professor, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY  2008-2011
  • Visiting Professor, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY  2011
  • Adjunct Professor, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA  2006-2008

Professional Experience:

  • Proprietor, C.O.C.O. | Clare Olsen Company  2006-present
  • Project Manager, Kanner Architects, Los Angeles, CA  2003-2006
  • Design Team Member, servo, Los Angeles, CA  2002


  • Registered Architect, New Jersey


Selected Publications and Recent Research:

  • Olsen, Clare and Sinead Mac Namara, Collaborations in Architecture and Engineering 2nd Edition book, Routledge, 2022. 
  • Olsen, Clare. "Teaching Agency and Entrepreneurship in Architecture Studio." In ACSA Playing with the Rules. Proceedings of Playing with the Rules, Milwaukee, WI. Washington: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2018. 
  • Olsen, Clare and Edmond Saliklis. "Playing with Geometry and Physics." In ACSA Playing with the Rules. Proceedings of Playing with the Rules, Milwaukee, WI. Washington: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2018. 
  • Olsen, Clare. “Teaching Empowerment and Agency Through Design,” presentation at ACSA Playing with the Rules, Milwaukee, WI, October 2018.  
  • Olsen, Clare and Edmond Saliklis. “Playing with Geometry and Physics,” presentation at ACSA Playing with the Rules, Milwaukee, WI, October 2018. 
  • Olsen, Clare. "On Technological Limits." In The Interior Architecture Theory Reader, ed. by Gregory Marinic. Taylor & Francis, 2018. 
  • Olsen, Clare and Sinead MacNamara. "The Rewards of Collaboration: Lessons Learned from Innovative Practices." In ACSA 104 Shaping New Knowledges. Proceedings of Shaping New Knowledges, Seattle, WA. Washington: Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2016. 
  • Ponitz, J. with M. Cabrinha and C. Olsen. "Surface Effects and Spatial Affect in Digital Fabrication." NCBDS 31: Engaging Media. Proceedings of the 31st National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Houston, Texas, February 2015. 
  • Olsen, Clare, “Questioning Fundamentals: Pedagogical Experimentation in Beginning Design Studio,” paper presented at NCBDS, Houston, 2015. 
  • Olsen, Clare and Sinead Mac Namara, Collaborations in Architecture and Engineering. Book published by Routledge, Summer 2014. 
  • Olsen, Clare, Animating Experience in Beginning Design Studio, ACSA 102, Miami, April 2014. 
  • Olsen, Clare, Prefabrication in an Expanded Field, ACSA 102, Miami, April 2014. 
  • Olsen, Clare and Errol Willett, Collaborative Craft: An Interdisciplinary Ceramics and Architecture Studio, ACSA 101, San Francisco, March 2013. 
  • Ponitz, J., M. Cabrinha, C. Olsen, and C. Trudell. "Project-Based and Procedural Pedagogy in Digital Fabrication." NCBDS 29: Actions: Making of Place. Proceedings of the 29th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Philadelphia, PA, April 2013. 
  • Olsen, Clare. “Innovating at the Core: A Case Study in Interdisciplinary Design for Second Year Studio,” paper presented at the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student at Temple University, 2013.
  • Olsen, Clare. “The Performative Potential of Ceramic Systems for Prefabricated Construction,” paper presented at ACSA Regional Conference, OFFSITE, Philadelphia, September 2012. 
  • Olsen, C.J. and E. S. Willett, "Digital Craft: Fabricating Ceramic Surfaces, An Interdisciplinary Design Collaboration." Poster presented as part of the 3rd North American Materials Education Symposium, San Luis Obispo, Calif., 29-30 March 2012. 
  • C.J. Olsen and S.C. Mac Namara, In Support of Pre-Professional Relations: Guidelines for Effective Educational Collaborations Between Architecture and Engineering, ACSA 100th conference, 2012. 
  • C.J. Olsen and S.C. Mac Namara, The Value of Collaborative Design Education for Structural Engineers and Architects, 2011 International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE), University of Ulster Belfast, Ireland, August 21-26, 2011. 

Selected Awards:

  • Co-authored a Professional Learning Community grant awarded by the Cal Poly Center for Teaching and Learning, 2012.
  • Co-Principal Investigator on a $400,000 National Science Foundation Innovations in Engineering Education grant to the Syracuse University Schools of Architecture and Engineering, 2009-2011.
  • Exhibited work with Haptek Lab at the Architecture Ceramics Assemblies Workshop online exhibition, August 2020.
  • PP5 Frame chair co-designed with Thaddeus Zarse (together known as TZCOCO) exhibited at the American Institute of Architects show at Chicago Biennial, 2017.
  • Selected to exhibit winter 2015 second year students’ work at the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Braced: A One Week Design Charrette, Houston, 2015.
  • Exhibited image of Reflection installation in Rumble, an alumni exhibition at UCLA, 2014.
  • Invited exhibition of the design process for Reflection at Kennedy Library, 2014.
  • WindNest (co-designed with Trevor Lee) was exhibited by Land Art Generator Initiative at the World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi, 2011.
  • TEXtile (co-designed with Vasilena Vassilev) was one of four projects selected as runner up in the TEX-FAB Repeat Competition, exhibited 2011 at the University of Houston. 
  • PP5_Frame and AiryPlane Table (co-designed with Thaddeus Zarse) were exhibited at The Center for Design, New Orleans, summer 2010.
  • PROJECTions was selected for exhibition in UCLA alumni show, Past, Present, Future, 2010. 
  • Exhibited Expo 2012, Yeosu and Phoenix Parasol at Syracuse University, 2010. 
  • Selected to design and fabricate a semi-permanent installation, PROJECTions, at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, 2009.


Updated 09.30.2022

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