Karen Fairbanks headshot

Karen Fairbanks

Faculty Director, Professor of Professional Practice in Architecture


Architecture Department, Urban Studies, Design Center


500N The Diana Center



Karen Fairbanks, Professional Practice in Architecture and Chair of the Department of Architecture, joined the faculty of Barnard in 1996 where she teaches design studios and courses on architecture and technology. As Department Chair, she oversaw the merger of the Barnard and Columbia Architecture programs and has developed the current department curriculum. In addition to her teaching duties for the Department of Architecture, she is affiliated with Barnard's Urban Studies Program.

Professor Fairbanks received the 2015 Educator Award in New York State’s American Institute of Architects (AIA) Annual Honor Awards. She has been a jury member for design awards around the country and advised on architectural education around the world. She currently chairs the American Library Association’s national committee on Buildings for College and University Libraries.

Professor Fairbanks is a partner in the independent architectural practice, Marble Fairbanks. The firm specializes in cultural and institutional work and the integration of digital technology into design and production. Notable projects include the Glen Oaks Branch Library in Queens, the Toni Stabile Student Center for the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and Tenrikyo Mission New York Center Church in Flushing. The firm has also worked with NYU, The New School, Princeton University, The New York Public Library, Lawrence University, The Cooper Union, Hunter College, and Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center. Marble Fairbanks was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to design Flatform, a speculative architectural wall system for the exhibit Home Delivery and drawings by Marble Fairbanks for the Nara Convention Hall Design Competition are in the permanent collection of MoMA. They were selected for the NYC Department of Design and Construction’s Design Excellence Program and have been recognized with numerous international design awards including multiple AIA Design Awards and American Architecture Awards, the Building of the Year by American-Architects, Emerging Architect Award, and a Progressive Architecture Award.

  • BS, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • MArch., Columbia University

  • Architectural design for cultural and institutional projects
  • Design of teaching/learning environments
  • Library Design

  • Marble Fairbanks: Bootstrapping (University of Michigan, 2005).
  • 1000 x Architecture of the Americas (Berlin, 2008).
  • The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture (Australia, 2001).

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