Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 57
Blumenfeld has designed a
range of projects, including
a recent competition entry
for Comcast headquarters
(rendering, opposite top);
a workplace for L'Oreal in
Berkeley Heights, New Jersey,
in 2009 with open cafes
(opposite, bottom left); the
New York Policy Academy
(opposite, bottom right)
in Queens, New York, in 2016;
and a highly branded atrium
space completed in 2009
for New York University's
Stern School of Business
(above) that brings natural
light to underground spaces
and creates a social center
for the school.
"Sert was inspiring and encouraging," she remembers. "I watched
how he worked with a team and got the best out of everyone. He also
had no qualms about working with women."
Upon graduating and after the experience with Sert,
Blumenfeld worked at several Boston-area firms. In 1984, she moved
to New York to work for Emilio Ambasz's firm, where Robert Krone, AIA,
interviewed and hired her. She married Krone in 1985, and they have
two sons, Max and Robert.
At Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) from 1985 to 1987, Blumenfeld
was only the second woman to be a senior designer at the firm
and "the first woman in any position, including secretaries, to come
back to work after being pregnant," she notes. She later skipped
around to a few firms because advancement possibilities within
a firm were rare. "There were no opportunities for a woman to become
a principal," she explains. "There were no women principals and very
few or no other senior designers at any firm." She landed at Butler
Rogers Baskett Architects, where she was the senior designer on
the Chelsea Piers renovation in New York in the early 1990s. When
another recession hit, her work became more focused on interiors.
In 1994, Swanke Hayden Connell Architects hired Blumenfeld
to design both architecture and interiors, and she remained with
the firm for nearly 12 years despite obstacles. "I was given several
architecture assignments as a senior designer, but [some] partners
refused to take me to meetings because I was a woman. Some
would not even sit with me to go over the work I was doing, [it was]
clearly not a tenable situation," she said.
Richard Carlson, Swanke Hayden Connell's principal in charge
of interior design at the time, was happy to work with Blumenfeld
on corporate interior projects. "There was a bit of a learning curve,"
Blumenfeld says, "but I loved the quick turnaround and dealing
with lighting, materials, and furniture." Her many New York projects with
the firm included the interiors of Sotheby's 500,000-square-foot
headquarters (2001); executive offices for IBM CEO Louis Gerstner
(1996); and offices for Reuters (2001).
Becoming global design director
Blumenfeld was drawn to Perkins+Will because of the firm's emphasis
on design excellence and genuine commitment to sustainability and
social responsibility. "That is a really important aspect of any organization
that I would want to be a part of," she explains. She instantly felt at
home when she joined Perkins+Will in 2005, and she has been at the firm
For five years, Blumenfeld was the first Perkins+Will global
design director for interiors, overseeing the firmwide interiors practice.
She also was a member of the firm's Design Leadership Council, led by
Ed Feiner, FAIA. "What started purely as project-based conversations
flourished into Joan assuming a key global role on the council," Feiner
says. "Her versatility to engage in almost every design discipline
puts her in a class by herself."
Her recent projects with Perkins+Will reflect an evolution
in her own design work and in the firm's interiors practice. This past
year, she oversaw the design of the Häfele showroom (page 116)
in New York, which is also a winner of a 2018 Interiors Award. The New
York office and showroom for the Austrian crystal manufacturer
Swarovski was designed in 2016 by Blumenfeld's team in collaboration
with Valerie Pasquiou Interiors & Design. "Because a product like
crystals are so sparkly, the challenge was to not have the showroom
be too sparkly, to let the product really speak," Blumenfeld says.