Judith Chafee

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Judith Chafee
Judith Chafee.jpeg
Alma materBennington College
Yale University
AwardsFellowship to the American Academy in Rome
BuildingsRamada House

Judith Davidson Chafee (1932–1998) was an American architect known for her work on residential buildings in Arizona and for being a professor of architecture at the University of Arizona. She was a recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship to the American Academy in Rome during the middle of her career and was the first woman from Arizona to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.


Chafee was born in Chicago in 1932. Her mother, Christina Chafee, had studied archaeology and anthropology. Chafee's biological father died before she was born, but had maintained investments for his family. The family moved to Tucson, Arizona when Chafee was five years old, shortly after her mother remarried.[1]

Chafee attended a boarding school in Chicago in the late 1940s, earned a visual arts degree at Bennington College in 1954, and enrolled in the School of Architecture at Yale University under the deanship of Paul Rudolph. While a student at Yale, Chafee won a competition for the design of a hospital, however the award ceremony was held in a men's club and she had to go through the kitchen to receive the plaque.[2] Chafee graduated from Yale as the only woman in her class and went on to work for Eero Saarinen, Paul Rudolph, Edward Larrabee Barnes, and The Architects Collaborative (Walter Gropius).[1][3] At the age of 38 Chafee returned to her native Tucson, Arizona to start her own architectural practice.

Chafee worked out of her Tucson office for the remainder of her career, producing mostly single family residences. Her projects are highly regarded and she became the first woman in Arizona to be named an AIA Fellow.[4] Among other awards, Chafee was awarded the Academy of Rome fellowship to study architecture in Italy. She taught for many years at the University of Arizona, was a visiting professor at the University of Texas and University of Washington, St. Louis, and led a studio at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[5]

Major works[edit]

The Ramada House

Chafee's architectural work is predominantly located in Arizona. The Ramada House in Tucson is a modern residential building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[6] The structure has both private rooms and public areas, and features a large shade structure constructed of rounded lengths of wood and two-by-fours.[7] Other prominent designs include:[8]

  • Blackwell House (1979)
  • Hydeman House (1982)
  • Finkel House (1984)
  • Rieveschel House (1988)



  1. ^ a b Regan, Margaret (3 February 2000). "Master Builder". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  2. ^ Regan, Margaret. "Master Builder". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  3. ^ Sisson, Patrick (2017-08-10). "Judith Chafee: Dean of desert architecture". Curbed. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  4. ^ Sisson, Patrick (2017-08-10). "Judith Chafee: Dean of desert architecture". Curbed. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  5. ^ Regan, Margaret. "Master Builder". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  6. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". NPS.gov. National Register of Historic Places Listings. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  7. ^ Nequette, Anne M.; Jeffery, R. Brooks (2002). A guide to Tucson architecture. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0816520836.
  8. ^ Regan, Margaret. "Master Builder". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  9. ^ Harlan, Gabrielle (2004). Becoming the Self: Judith Chafee and the Ramada House. Master's Thesis: University of Virginia.