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News > Advancing Architecture and Design > Katherine Dowdell, AIA Selected as 2022 John Frederick Harbeson Award Recipient

Katherine Dowdell, AIA Selected as 2022 John Frederick Harbeson Award Recipient

Kathy Dowdell has over 25 years of experience in architecture, interior design and historic preservation.

The John Frederick Harbeson Award is presented annually to a long-standing member of the architectural community and is intended to recognize their significant contributions to the architectural profession and its related disciplines over their lifetime. The recipient of this award will distinguish themselves throughout their career by their contributions to the architectural profession, the American Institute of Architects, the education of the architectural community, and their contributions to the Philadelphia community at large.

Katherine Dowdell, AIA, Kathy Dowdell has over 25 years of experience in architecture, interior design and historic preservation, giving her a strong understanding of planning, architecture and construction issues, particularly those encountered in older buildings.  She is the Founding Principal of Farragut Street Architects. Throughout her career, Ms. Dowdell has undertaken a broad range of project types including single and multi-family residential, retail, hotels, institutional buildings, and preservation and adaptive use projects of many types.  This experience gives her a unique understanding of the many issues – and surprises – that one may encounter when working on older buildings. Some notable projects:

705-707 S. 50th Street: Two classic West Philadelphia rowhouses, long ago converted to commercial use and adjacent to the bustling Dock Street Brew Pub in the former Firehouse at 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue, were purchased and redeveloped by the owner of the Firehouse.  Many of the original features were long gone or severely altered; the few remaining elements were saved and restored where possible, as in the charming side porch on 708 South 50th Street.  Interiors were updated and are now leased to a variety of community-based small businesses and non-profits.

1000 S. Saint Bernard Street: A rare industrial building in a Victorian-era residential neighborhood, 1000 S. Saint Bernard Street has been adapted to a residential mixed-use building. This building was vacant for a number of years; most recently, it housed a banqueting hall, but it was originally built in the 1920s as a warehouse.   Speculation is that the building was constructed soon after the adjacent stretch of Springfield Avenue was depressed to create an underpass under the existing adjacent rail line.  The building serves as a transition from the quiet residential block to the south to busy Springfield Avenue on the north, and its south wall serves as a retaining wall at the rear of the property.

The two-story structure is a classic brick factory-style building, approximately 8,000 s.f per floor.  Because of the change in grade described above, the long southern wall is below grade at the first floor, and windowless at the second floor, creating a challenging situation for reuse on both floors.  The owner was able to overcome these inherent limitations by creating long rectangular loft apartments, one per window, on the second floor, and creating a single large commercial space on the first floor. 

Cedar Park Renovation: This three-story Victorian twin in West Philadelphia had been neglected and vacant for a number of years. Purchased by a near neighbor, the house was completely renovated, inside and out, with an eye to preserving as many of the existing details as possible, while creating a comfortable and contemporary house.  Work included a reconfiguration of the first floor to expand the kitchen and add a powder room; new bathroom finishes and fixtures on the second and third floors; plaster and woodwork repair and replacement throughout; refinished and new floors; and exterior repair work, including a rebuilt front porch and a new deck at the back.  The house has been sold to the neighbor’s daughter, who is moving in with her young family.

Ms. Dowdell is being recognized for her steadfast, passionate, and enthusiastic championing for her fellow architects. Her activism, mentorship, and her finesse when advocating for a building or for fellow colleagues is extraordinary. She has been instrumental in the success of her students and fellow colleagues – all while also being a successful architect and professor.  She served for many years on the board of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, including three years as board chair, and she remains active as a member of their Advocacy Committee.  She is an active member of the building and property committees at the Wagner Free Institute, and the Woodlands in West Philadelphia; she also serves on the board of directors at the Wagner.  Ms. Dowdell has been an adjunct professor at Drexel University, and at Jefferson University.

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