James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) is a cross-disciplinary design firm working at the intersection of art, engineering and the built environment. Led by James Carpenter, the firm is recognized for its distinctive use of natural light, which serves as the foundation of its design philosophy.
JCDA brings a luminescent artistic sensibility to its designs, leveraging glass to mediate a dialogue between interior and exterior space, and to exploit the performative aspects of natural light. This approach is evident across its practice, including such major cultural projects as the Israel Museum’s expansion and campus renewal project in Jerusalem (2005-2011) and the recently opened Museum at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis Arch (2010-2018). Major private projects, including the Gucci Japan Flagship building in Tokyo (2003-2006) and the “Ice Falls” water feature in the Hearst Tower (2002-2006), also create a layered, dynamic experience of the built environment through the spatial articulation of glass and light.
The firm is also noted for its activations of public spaces, including recently completed designs for New York’s Fulton Center, the monumental “Sky Reflector-Net” (2004-2014), and the exterior envelope and lobby of Seven World Trade Center Tower (2001-2006) in New York. Projects such as the University of Chicago’s "Midway Crossings" (2009-2014), which included landscape and infrastructure linking the college’s north and south campuses, speak to JCDA’s ability to reintegrate and reanimate the built environment within the urban context.
JCDA applies a studio model to its creative practice, with the studio functioning as an interactive space where clients and collaborators can explore the materials and concepts of each project on an ongoing basis. The firm works closely with clients to determine a comprehensive design vision that reflects and enhances the unique attributes of a site, the individual experience of space, and the manifestation of natural light throughout the built environment. This concept is distilled into a comprehensive design that is refined in coordination with project partners, including architects, landscape architects, environmental designers, fabricators, and structural engineers. JCDA reviews all phases of planning and construction, in order to ensure that a unified design sensibility is maintained throughout the process.
Founded in 1979, JCDA is led by James Carpenter, with a creative team including Richard Kress, Joseph Welker, Rayme Kuniyuki, Katharine McClellan and Chris Pietsch. JCDA has been recognized with numerous awards, including the National Environmental Design Award from the Smithsonian Institution and the American Institute of Architects Honor Award. Mr. Carpenter received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004 and "The Daylight Award" from the Villum and Velux Foundations in 2010.