Clare J. Olsen

Position Associate Professor
Phone 805.756.1412
Office 34-220B
Web Page

Areas of Expertise

Architectural Ceramics
Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Shell Structures

Beginning 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 recently co-authored with engineer, Sinead Mac Namara, a book published by Routledge 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 partnerships in both the academic and professional realms. Clare also runs her own practice, C.O.CO., where she investigates systems thinking on an installation scale.

Clare lends her talent at the undergraduate level in the second year design and practice sequence and in the digital media courses. 

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 lectures and 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:

Masters 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

Professional Memberships:

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture
National Conference on the Beginning Design Student
Building Technology Educators Society


Selected Publications and Recent Research:

  • Olsen, Clare and Sinead Mac Namara, Collaborations in Architecture and Engineering book, Routledge, 2014. 
  • Olsen, Clare, Questioning Fundamentals: Pedagogical Experimentation in Beginning Design Studio, paper presented at the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Houston, February 2015.
  • Olsen, Clare and winter 2015 second year design studio, Braced: A One Week Design Investigation, models exhibited at NCBDS, Houston, February 2015. 
  • Ponitz, Jeff and Clare Olsen, Jellyfish Phonebooth: Digitally Fabricated Ambient Environments, poster exhibited at NCBDS, Houston, February 2015.
  • Olsen Clare and Grant Cogan, El Louvers: Customizing Daylighting and Performance in Ceramic Louver Systems, poster selected for Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) 101, San Francisco, March 2013. 
  • Olsen Clare and Errol Willett, Collaborative Craft: An Interdisciplinary Ceramics and Architecture Studio, ACSA 101, San Francisco, March 2013. 
  • Cabrinha, M., C. Olsen, J. Ponitz, C. Trudell. Material Ecologies: Concrete, Climate and Craft, ACSA 101, San Francisco, March 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. 
  • S.C. Mac Namara, C.J. Olsen, Scott L. Shablak, Carolina B. Harris, Merging Engineering and Architectural Pedagogy - A Trans-disciplinary Opportunity?, 2010 ICEE, Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice, Poland, July 18-22, 2010. 

Selected Grants:

  • 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.

Selected Activities:

  • 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 11.01.17

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