“mcdowellespinosa show an inventiveness about space and tectonics that roots their practice firmly in the real, even when it seems implausible.” — Matt Shaw, senior editor of The Architects Newspaper

mcdowellespinosa architects pllc. is an award winning, contemporary architecture practice located in Staunton, Virginia and Brooklyn, New York.  After collaborating as students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Seth McDowell and Rychiee Espinosa founded the practice in 2012. We began by transforming everyday materials, forms, programs, and sites into novel places and things.  This has continued to be our focus as we explore tactics for turning the common into the uncommon. As the effects of globalization yield an increasingly homogenous world, we believe architecture plays a critical role in celebrating diversity in the built environment by offering buildings that are specific to their site, users, culture and time.

We often work more like an artist atelier than a professional architectural office. We like to get our hands dirty. From self-built sheds made from reclaimed agrarian structures to objects made with chewing gum, our methodology is very tactile, very hands-on, and very DIY. We believe that this intimate relationship with materials and construction allows for a stronger sense of authenticity. It also allows us to confront constructability during design phases. We pair this gritty hands-on approach with a high-tech digital equivalent and create virtual models of every project using Building Information Modeling (BIM). Navigating between physical and digital studies enable us, our consultants, and our clients to fully see and evaluate design proposals prior to investing in the final built work. 

Together, McDowell and Espinosa have over 20 years of experience working for some of the best architects in the world. From design competitions to construction documents, they have managed projects of all scales from concept to completion. In addition to maintaining an architectural practice, McDowell and Espinosa are also both educators. 


mcdowellespinosa architects have been recognized nationally and internationally by the Architectural League of New York, the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Museum of Modern Art in NYC, Pamphlet Architecture, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects,  The Architects' Newspaper, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Rychiee Espinosa

Rychiee Espinosa is an educator and licensed architect in the State of New York. She has practiced architecture since 2004 in New York City, Los Angeles and Detroit within the offices of Steven Holl Architects, Bernard Tschumi Architects, MOrphosis Architects, and S3 Architecture. Espinosa is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture. She has previously taught at the Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

Espinosa received a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in 2009, a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from Lawrence Technological University in 2006, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a focus in Kinesiology and Psychology from Indiana University in 2001. At GSAPP, she was awarded the New York Society of Architects' Matthew del Gaudio Award for Excellence in Total Design and the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize. Prior to teaching, Espinosa was an Associate Architect at Steven Holl Architects as the Project Architect for the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in Houston, Texas and the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History's Visual Arts Building in Iowa City, Iowa.

Seth McDowell

Seth McDowell has practiced architecture in Charleston, SC, and New York, NY within the offices of WORK Architecture Company, Huff+Gooden Architects, Leroy Street Studio, and LOT-EK.  He is a co-founding partner of mcdowellespinosa architects.

McDowell is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia. He has also taught at Columbia University and Louisiana State University. He received a Master of Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and a Bachelor of Science in Design from Clemson University.  At Columbia, he was awarded the American Institute of Architects Certificate of Merit, the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize, and the Avery 6 Award for work that holds the most promise to advance the discipline of architecture.

McDowell’s writing has been published in STUDIO Architecture and Urbanism Magazine, Pataphysics Then & Now(forthcoming), New Architecture Assembly Magazine, ArchDaily, and presented at various national conferences. His letter for the book competition Dear Architecture was awarded honorable mention and is published in the book. He has served on the Scottsville, Virginia Architectural Review Board, and is an editor of the book Water Index: Design Strategies for Drought, Flooding and Contamination, an ACTAR / UVA publication released in 2017.

New York  ///  Virginia
NY: 646.389.9668
VA: 540.255.0357
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram