Part 31 of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month
Born in Anchorage, Mariane Cusato (b. 1974) studied architecture at the University of Notre Dame, finishing her degree in 1997 and soon thereafter going to work for the New York firm Fairfax and Sammons. She was part of the team that traveled to Mississippi in October, 2005 to address rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Cusato overcame the formal and functional shortcomings of typical FEMA trailers with the design of a 308 SF cottage based on vernacular traditions. Dignified, permanent, and hurricane-proof, the design won many awards, including the American Society of Interior Designers’ ASID Design for Humanity Award (2007) and prompted the Cooper-Hewitt to inaugurate a People’s Design Award to honor the achievement. Currently a professor at Notre Dame, she publishes on house design, writes for the HuffPo, and lectures widely on disaster recovery, community design, cultural and environmental sustainability, affordable housing and traditional architecture.
Cusato’s paradigm for practice is well-nigh unique in the field, continuing the tradition, now some 150 years old, of women carving new niches within a profession that has been unaccommodating to their participation–but hopefully does not remain so, considering the significant achievements chronicled in this one slim month, which represents a much greater potential for the field.