League Prize Winner Bio

Michelle JaJa Chang

The League Prize, an annual competition that asks young designers to respond to a given theme, has marked an important milestone in many architects’ careers. Winners showcase their work through a lecture series and exhibition.

Michelle JaJa Chang was a winner of the 2017 competition.

Michelle JaJa Chang formed her practice in 2014. Based in Houston, she is motivated by “the coincidences between shifts in architectural conventions and political and philosophical movements to understand how form can engage social, cultural, and physical contexts.” Through this formalist optic, Chang shifts the assumptions of prevailing representational modes to “engage architecture on new terms.”

With the design of House A, B, Chang studied computer rendering software to reveal how its algorithms prioritize efficiency over fidelity to create forms. The result is a cubic two-story home split into an elastic arrangement that oscillates between zones of compression and expansion. Using this speculative project as inspiration, she designed and built the installation A, B 1:2 at Rice University in 2016. Chang used uniformly grey materials to abolish any boundaries between domestic rooms, traditionally defined by materials and finishes, so as to extend the perspectival play created by the original exaggerated render. She amplified the sensation of extended space by contrasting areas of light and shade in the house’s interior. In Houston’s Lawndale Art Center, Chang designed and built Triptych, a 30-foot wall installation inside a similarly long gallery space. The installation comments on the unusual arrangement of the gallery’s three doorway entrances located on one corridor wall, an eccentricity resulting from rooms that were never finished or partitioned.

Chang has taught at Rice University, Northeastern University, and UC Berkeley. She created animations for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition, “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe.” Chang is a Rice University School of Architecture Wortham Fellow and completed a residency at The MacDowell Colony.

Michelle JaJa Chang received her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University and her Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.