Lara Davis is an architect and shell-builder, serving as a doctoral research assistant at the Department of Architecture. She holds an MArch from MIT, a BFA from the NYS College of Ceramics, School of Art & Design at Alfred University, and has pursued research at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart. She was the recipient of MIT's Marvin E. Goody Prize for her design-research thesis, "The 4-Dimensional Masonry Construction", which investigated limit states of unit hinging, modification and porosity in single-layer tile vaults. While at MIT, she served as project/ construction manager for the MIT Masonry Research Group and the MIT Digital Design Fabrication Group, participating as designer, engineer and builder in exhibitions at the MoMA, The MIT Museum, and The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.
She has worked extensively in the field as a mason, foreman and project manager in the development of non-structural masonry projects and minimum material compression structures, including for Ochsendorf, DeJong & Block. She supervised the construction of the first floor vaulting for the Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and most recently, built a freeform timbrel vault at the ETH Zurich. She has led workshops on timbrel vault construction in Addis Ababa and Deri Dawa (Ethiopia), Zurich (Switzerland), Cambridge (UK), Boston and New York (USA).
Her research focuses on methods of constructibility in earthen masonry vaulting, addressing the concerns of appropriate building technology, capacity-building and pedagogy of building craft in resource-constrained contexts.
Lara Davis is now co-director at the UNESCO Chair Earthen Architecture, Auroville Earth Institute in India.