Architect conducts research on internationally acclaimed projects at Snøhetta
Adam Longenbach graduated from Penn State in 2011 with both Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees. He works alongside fellow alumnus, Matt McMahon, as a researcher at Snøhetta, an internationally renowned practice of architecture, landscape architecture, interior architecture, product design and graphic design.
Longenbach, who is originally from Montoursville, Pennsylvania, grew up interested in architecture. He sheepishly admitted that he loved to draw and trace floor plans as a kid.
“In high school I began to look at architecture more seriously as a potential profession. Like many young students in the United States, I first became interested in the work of the “Franks” – Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry – and my interests broadened from there,” he said.
Penn State was the only place he applied to because he knew Happy Valley was where he wanted to be. He liked that it was close to home but still far enough to maintain his independence. A family friend who had gone through the architecture program at Penn State was instrumental in encouraging Longenbach to pursue the same academic path.
While pursuing two degrees at Penn State, Longenbach was also part of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) and the Penn State Racquetball Club in his fifth and sixth year.
“I will always look back fondly on my time in studio,” he said. “One special thing about my freshman class is that we were the first to be educated in the Stuckeman Family Building.”
During his freshman year, Longenbach considered leaving the program to pursue other interests, but decided to push through for his sophomore year after his second-year fall studio professor, Loukas Kalisperis, encouraged him to persist.
Kalisperis is a professor of architecture and co-director of the Immersive Environments Lab at Penn State, and a professor at The Cyprus Institute.
“He was so passionate about architecture and its possibilities. It reignited my enthusiasm for drawing and building,” said Longenbach.
Longenbach would go on to receive the Department of Architecture’s Design Excellence Award in both his fourth and fifth year, as well as the Paul M. Kossman Senior Design Award in Architecture, a prize given to the top design thesis in each graduating class.
Another professor he credits his passion and success to is Professor Darla Lindberg. Lindberg was his third-year studio and topics of community design professor, as well as his advisor for both his undergraduate and graduate thesis. Longenbach also served as a research assistant to Lindberg’s research that is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“Anywhere Darla goes, she becomes the smartest person in the room; I figured ‘I better stick with this person,” said Logenbach. “She’s extremely generous with her time and knowledge, and she remains a role model for me.”
Lisa Iulo, Marcus Shaffer, Ute Poerschke, the late Jawaid Haider and David Celento were faculty in the Department of Architecture who helped him to grow his interests in architecture while at Penn State.
Longenbach visited New York City as a freshman and during his fifth year, where he had the opportunity to visit the High Line, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), The Museum of Modern Art and other famous landmarks. Through the architecture program, he also spent time abroad in Peru and Italy. These trips inspired him to want to pursue a career in the city.
After graduating from Penn State, Longenbach went on to work for Division1 Architects in Washington, D.C. as a designer. During that time, he was accepted to the master’s program at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a small art, architecture and engineering school in the East Village of Manhattan.
As a graduate student at Cooper Union, his coursework focused on research and the history and theory of architecture, though he remained interested in design and practice. After earning his degree, Longenbach worked as an intern for Olson Kundig Architects in Seattle on several residential and cultural projects.
He moved back to New York in 2014 to serve as a designer for Allied Works Architecture where he worked on a competition to expand the modern art wing of the MET. He also worked on a conceptional study in Honolulu as part of efforts to encourage then-President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to select Hawaii as the location for their presidential library.
Longenbach left Allied Works for a teaching position at Cooper Union, where he taught in the first-year undergraduate design studio in the spring of 2015 and 2016.
Not long after starting at Cooper Union, he saw Snøhetta had a job listing for a researcher.
“I saw this as an opportunity to walk the line between academia and practice; to conduct applied research for Snøhetta while also generating new knowledge about architecture in general,” Logenbach said. “They were also very amenable to me continuing to teach at Cooper [Union] while conducting research for their office. The two positions were mutually supportive.”
As a researcher at Snøhetta, Longenbach’s work takes many forms. Primarily, he leads the firm’s post-occupancy research initiative, evaluating the performance and impact of Snøhetta’s built work. The findings from his research support the firm’s public lectures, acquisitions, publications and exhibitions, and provide “lessons learned” that inform future design work.
“It is a very engaging and unusual position within a design office and within the field in general,” he said. “The work can be very rewarding.”
When the Obamas decided to locate the presidential library in Chicago, Snøhetta was selected as one of the final seven design firms to compete for the commission. Longenbach was intimately involved with the research and proposal writing during the span of planning for the historic project proposal.
He has now completed post occupancy studies on five completed projects, one of the most notable being the Bibliotheca Alexandrina – a revival of the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt, and the very first commission for Snøhetta.
In the fall of 2016, Longenbach traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, to interview various users, staff and leadership within the Bibliotheca to better understand the ongoing role and public function of the library within the city. In collaboration with Snøhetta’s Oslo office, he conducted similar research for the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Norway.
He has been at Snøhetta for nearly four years and is appreciative of the firm’s interdisciplinary work environment. He and McMahon worked together on a competition to reimagine a large public square in Los Angeles.
“We worked together on the first and second stages of the competition, which ultimately pulled skills from all areas of the firm,” said Longenbach.
He and McMahon travel back to Penn State occasionally to sit in on thesis reviews. The two frequently have discussions about the theoretical aspects of design.
“He’s a good friend of mine in and outside of work,” said Longenbach.
Looking forward, Longenbach will be moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to pursue his Ph.D. in Architecture at Harvard University, with a focus in history and theory of architecture, beginning in September.
Snøhetta maintains a relationship with Penn State by attending career and mentor days and giving guest lectures.
It is exciting but not surprising that two outstanding Stuckeman School alumni ended up in the same prestigious international design firm.