Martha Bohm examines the intersection of design with energy efficiency, healthy materials and ecological sensibility through research, teaching and critical practice.
An environmental policy analyst-turned-architect with a background in the physical sciences, Bohm brings to her teaching and research empirical rigor and a deep-seated conviction that architecture must step up to address the global climate crisis.
Bohm is passionate about teaching and says she gets a thrill every time something "clicks" for her students. Keen on the "nerdy" side of architecture, her goal is to inspire students about topics that may seem uninteresting on the surface. “My goal is to get them excited, give them the tools, and they’ll learn themselves.”
With an admiration for the school’s “scrappy” attitude and resourceful ethic, Bohm encourages her students to think creatively with less. “As a designer, to be given a pile of found objects and recycled materials, and then make something beautiful, is much harder and builds a different skill set. It’s like spinning straw into gold.” This learning-through-making approach often draws Bohm and her students deep into Buffalo with projects like a set of seed huts for community gardens across Western New York, and the GRoW Home, a solar-powered home that students designed and built, ultimately placing second in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. As co-director of the Sustainable Futures summer study abroad program in the rain forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica, she has helped students design and build projects inspired by local materials and community input.
Bohm’s initial interest in sustainability began in seventh grade, when she wrote a letter to her senator arguing for a recycling program for her community. She would go on to earn her bachelor’s degree in earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. She spent the first years of her career as a Ginsberg Research Fellow and policy analyst for the U.S. Green Building Council, where she authored the USGBC Research Committee’s National Green Building Research Agenda. Seeking hands-on engagement with the issue, Bohm entered the 3.5-year Master of Architecture at the University of Oregon, where she was director of the Ecological Design Center and co-founder of Design-Bridge, a community-oriented student design-build program.
Bohm currently teaches core design studios and environmental systems at the undergraduate level. As a member of the Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group, Bohm also directs research studios and graduate-level seminars.
- Martha Bohm
As climate changes progresses, Bohm continues to educate the population and create opportunities for action; she regularly partners her studios with local firms and involves the practitioner community in her research.
There's an urgency to the work, according to Bohm: “As a profession, we are sheltered because we’re in a country that is pretending there’s no climate change, and that everything is fine while the rest of the world is either underwater or changing the way they do things.”
While at work globally, Bohm sees Buffalo as a city of opportunity for issues of sustainability - and prime testing ground for young architects and designers eager to make a difference. "Buffalo has a lot of potential. To be living here right now, to be an architect here right now, especially a young architect, is pretty exciting.”