News

March 25, 2008

Green Living and Good Design

Architect Michele Dempsey ’94 will speak on sustainability at Council of Lafayette Women Conference

For Michele Dempsey ’94, it’s all about the places in-between.

“I love space,” says the architect and owner of DxDempsey in Scranton, Pa. Though the interplay of structure and space in buildings has fascinated her since childhood, it wasn’t until taking a history of architecture class from Bob Mattison, Metzgar Professor of Art, that she realized that “buildings spoke a language and I understood it.”

“For me, architecture is perfect because it marries the artistic with the analytical,” Dempsey says—with a nod to one other factor. Watching steel, glass, concrete, and wood come together in one of her designs is “a magical moment.” That element continues to inspire her, making her work “a constant joy.”

The path to owning her own firm began at home. “Because of my dad, I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she says, citing his uniform and supply business as a model.

From there, Lafayette proved the next step for the A.B. engineering major before she moved on to Penn for her master’s in architecture. After polishing her skills at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the architects behind billionaire Bill Gates’ home, and Beyer Blinder Belle, designers of the renovated Grand Central Station, she opened DxDempsey in 2003.

Finding support for her entrepreneurial vision wasn’t automatic. “There’s a reason not everyone does this,” she says of the difficulties of starting a firm from nothing. Unable to find a female mentor who owned her own firm without partners, she notes, “There weren’t a lot of trailblazers in that area.”

To help address that lack, Dempsey will speak at the April 4-5 Council of Lafayette Women conference. Her session, “Sustainable Communities Sustainable Environments Sustainable Lives,” will focus on building a more environmentally-friendly future, a subject that excites her. She will be joined by Sharon Jones, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Jacki Wilkins ’77, president of the Boston chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar and board member of altwheels.org; and Claudia D. Meulenberg ’02, associate director of operations, UN Foundation.

“I consider it imperative to educate others on the importance of green living and good design. It’s good for the planet, creates a more beautiful place for us all to live, and improves the bottom line by saving money,” Dempsey says.

To further promote a sustainable lifestyle, she hosts the weekly video program “Evergreen” on The570.com.

One project in her career has meant more than any other: “I had an opportunity to design a home for my parents. They love that house. It’s very special to them I saw how a house can transform someone emotionally and spiritually.”

Though architectural studies took her to Europe and Japan, Dempsey finds her hometown of Scranton and the life—and buildings—she’s designing there to be the most satisfying of all. With her wedding planned for October this year and continued growth in her business, she says, “I’m just at the beginning of what continues to be a wonderful journey.”

More on Dempsey:

  • She founded The Office Convention, a weekend in Scranton for fans of the NBC comedy, which was previewed and covered by media such as The New York Times and USA Today.
  • She has a breadth of experience that encompasses major government and academic buildings, space planning and office fit-out, planning projects, and private residences.
  • The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce gave her firm the Pride & Progress Award for Interior Renovation of Office Space in 2006.
  • She was chosen in 2004 as one of Northeast Business Journal ’s “Top 20 under 40” in Northeast Pennsylvania.
  • She was a speaker at the 2003 Pennsylvania Downtown Conference.
  • She founded If We Build It, They Will Come Back, in which teams of high school students take on design projects while being coached by architects.

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