Mónica Ponce de León

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Mónica Ponce de León
Born 1965 (age 50–51)
Nationality Venezuelan American
Alma mater University of Miami
Harvard University
Occupation Architect
Awards Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award (2007)
Harleston Parker Medal (2002)
Progressive Architecture Award
Practice MPdL Studio (2011–present)
Office dA (1991–2010)
Buildings Macallen Building (2007)
Helios House (2007)
RISD Fleet Library (2006)

Mónica Ponce de León is a Venezuelan American architect, educator, and Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. A National Design Award winner, Ponce de León is widely recognized as a pioneer in the application of robotic technology to building fabrication and architecture education.[1] Her interdisciplinary practice, MPdL Studio, has offices in Ann Arbor, MI, New York and Boston, MA.

Ponce de León previously served as Dean of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan (2008–2015) and as Professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University (1996–2008). Prior to establishing her own practice, she was the founding partner with Nader Tehrani in the award-winning firm Office dA.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

The Helios House in Los Angeles, CA.

Ponce de León was raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and immigrated to Miami, Florida, with her family after graduating high school. She took English classes and worked in a millwork shop before enrolling at the University of Miami, earning her Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1989. In 1991, she received a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. After graduating from Harvard, she held teaching appointments at Harvard University, SCI-Arc, Rhode Island School of Design, and Northeastern University while establishing Office dA.


Prior to her appointment at Michigan, Ponce de León was Professor of Architecture, director of the digital lab, and acting architecture program director at Harvard. At Harvard she developed the first robotic fabrication lab in an architecture school in the United States. During her tenure at Harvard, she also held visiting positions at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and the Georgia Institute of Technology,[3] and has given over 60 lectures and symposia on her work, which has been published in over 200 publications worldwide. Alongside Tehrani, Ms. Ponce de León received both the Young Architects Award in 1997 and the Emerging Voices Award in 2003 from the Architectural League of New York. In 2002, she received an Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters [4] and in 2008 she was named a United States Artist fellow.[5] In 2007 Ponce de León received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture, the first Hispanic architect to receive this honor.[6]

Her work has received numerous awards, including 13 Progressive Architecture awards, the Harleston Parker Medal (2002), as well as citations from the American Institute of Architects, I.D. Magazine, and the Boston Society of Architects. In 2008, the Macallen Building was named one of the Top Ten Green Projects by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment.[7] After the disbanding of Office dA in 2010, Monica Ponce de León established her own practice, MPdL Studio with offices in New York, Boston and Ann Arbor.

In 2016, Ponce de León will serve as co-curator, alongside Log editor Cynthia Davidson, of the exhibition at the United States Pavilion for the 15th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice, Italy.[8] The exhibition, entitled "The Architectural Imagination" and to be organized and hosted by Taubman College, will engage specific sites in the city of Detroit, Michigan and feature projects from 12 teams of architects from across the United States.[9][10]


Her projects include: Fabricating Coincidences in New York, Helios House in Los Angeles, Macallen Building and the Interfaith Chapel in Boston, Dining Services at 200 West as well as Conrad Hilton in Lower Manhattan.

Fabricating Coincidences was an installation in the Museum of Modern Art that serves as an early example of the potential of digital fabrication in architecture. In his review of the exhibition for the New York Times, Herbert Mushamp writes: "'Congratulations. Grade: A. Humpty Dumpty has a very graceful fall. Propped against the brick wall that encloses the garden along its northern edge, the piece is made of perforated steel plate that has been folded, origami style, into a canopy of cascading metal. The project looks like a staircase, but climbing is not recommended. About halfway up, the horizontal folds start sloping precariously upwards. The piece does nifty visual tricks. Depending on the light, the metal plate can switch from opaque to a semi-transparent scrim. Viewed from straight ahead, the folds collapse into a single plane; as you move around, the forms expand into space, like an escalator for the eye. This may not be masterpiece material, but it's an inventive appetizer. These are architects to watch." [11]

Of her Dining Services project, Paul Goldberger writes, "spectacular cafeteria, with a swooping white plaster ceiling and columns, a modernist take on Gaudi that plays off deftly against Cobb’s geometric shell.” [12]

In 2015, Ponce de León announced her departure from Michigan to become the new Dean of Princeton University's School of Architecture.[13]

Further reading[edit]

  • Contemporary World Architects: Office dA, by Rodolphe el-Khoury, et al. (Rockport Publishers, 1999)
  • Surface Architecture, by David Leatherbarrow and Mohsen Mostafavi (MIT Press, 2005)
  • Zago Architecture and Office dA: Two Installation, by Eric Owen Moss, et al. (Actar, 2006)
  • Young Architects 7: Situating, by the Architectural League of New York (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006)
  • Fellowships in Architecture, by Janice Harvey (ed.) and Mónica Ponce de León (foreword) (Oro editions, 2009)
  • Monsterpieces: Once Upon a Time . . . of the 2000s!, by Aude-Line Dulliere and Clara Wong, (Oro editions, March 2010)
  • Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art and Design 2014, by Wes McGee (ed.) and Monica Ponce de Leon (ed.), (Springer, March 2014)

External links[edit]