Simon Martin-Vegue Winkelstein Moris (SMWM) was one of the largest women-owned, pioneering design firms when it began in San Francisco in 1985, eventually adding a second office in New York in 2001. In 2008, SMWM merged with the firm, Perkins + Will, but continued operations under its own moniker.
In 1985, architects Cathy Simon, Peter Winkelstein, Lamberto Moris, interior designer Phyllis Martin-Vegue, and Diane Filippi split from the San Francisco architecture firm Marquis Associates to form SMWM. The founding partners had worked together at Marquis Associates for over a decade and brought together a large portfolio of completed and in-process architectural and interior design projects. The partners' vision was to create a truly integrated and interdisciplinary practice with a focus on collaborative, contextual design with a social purpose.
The SMWM collection consists of manuscript materials (project files, marketing materials, correspondence, meeting notes, final reports, notebooks, etc.), drawings, photographs (including slides), and born digital items created by the design firm, SMWM. The collection is organized into six series: personal papers, professional records, faculty papers, office records, architecture project records, and planning and urban design project records. The materials are centered on the two main principal designers — Cathy Simon and Karen Alschuler — and the project records also contain the work of the other SMWM principals and associated designers and planners.
Cathy Simon, FAIA, was the president, director of design, and one of the five founding partners of SMWM. She is known for her new buildings, adaptive reuse and urban design projects, including the conversion of the San Francisco Ferry Building, the San Francisco Main Library, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1996, Simon was the first woman to be named CED’s Howard Friedman Distinguished Professor of Architecture in Practice. Simon received numerous awards for her design work, including becoming a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1986, the Firm Award from the AIA California Council in 1999, and multiple state and national awards for her work on the Ferry Building. In 2015 she was the William A. Bernoudy Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. In 2008, when SMWM joined Perkins + Will, Simon became a senior design principal and worked as such until her retirement in 2018. She maintains a small practice as Cathy Simon FAIA Architecture and Urbanism.
Karen Alschuler, FAICP, joined SMWM in 1992 to build an urban design and planning practice for the firm. Her projects addressed urgent issues for urban places, waterfronts, and transportation centers unique to their settings and welcoming to diverse populations. Her work includes a master plan for Boston’s Central Artery Corridor, and designs for the Southeast Federal Center and the Transbay Terminal Improvement Plan in San Francisco. As Director of Planning for SMWM, Alschuler oversaw all planning and urban design projects. She directed a wide variety of planning efforts, including: urban mixed-use developments; suburban master plans; design guidelines; economic development strategies; open space plans; transportation planning for highways, transit, airports and water shuttles; waterfront plans; campus plans; and numerous large scale environmental impact assessment and permitting programs. Alschuler invented the “planning game”: a well-known and respected tool for bringing community members and developers together to collaborate on the design process. When SMWM joined Perkins + Will in 2008, Alschuler became a Partner and a Global Discipline Leader for Urban Design at the firm. She is semi-retired and still works part time on special projects for Perkins + Will.