Sheila Kennedy received her Bachelor's Degree in history, philosophy and literature from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. Kennedy studied architecture at the Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris and received the Masters of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University where she won the SOM National Traveling Fellowship and was graduated with Distinction, the School's highest academic honor. In 1990, she founded Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA MATx) in partnership with Juan Frano Violich. As an Associate Professor at Harvard's GSD, Kennedy was Director of the M Arch II Program from 1991-1995 and is Professor of the Practice of Architecture at MIT.
As a founding Principal of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd. (KVA), Sheila Kennedy has established a new model for an interdisciplinary design practice that explores architecture, digital technology and emerging public needs. Designated as one of Fast Company's Masters of Design, Kennedy is described as an “insightful and original thinker who is designing new ways of working, learning, leading and innovating”. In 2000, Kennedy established MATx, a pioneering materials research unit at KVA which engages applied creative production across the fields of design, electronics, and architecture and material science. MATx works collaboratively with business leaders, manufacturers, cultural institutions and public agencies to create designs building components and architecture that advances the widespread implementation of sustainable digital materials. MATx has developed designs and technology applications for Dupont, Siemens, Osram, Herman Miller, Saint-Gobain, The North Face, the City of Porto in Portugal, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States Department of Energy. The MATx Portable Light Project, a non-profit global initiative that enables people in the developing world to create and own portable energy harvesting solar textile kits has been recognized with a 2009 US Congressional Award, a 2009 Energy Globe Award and a 2008 Tech Museum Laureate Award for technology that benefits humanity.
Kennedy's work has been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the International Rotterdam Biennale, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA), and the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) “Design & the Elastic Mind” exhibition on breakthrough designs for new technologies. Kennedy has served as an advisor to the United States Department of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences' Government-Industry Partnerships, and the Vision 2020 National Technology Roadmap. She is the author of multiple patents for the integration of digital technologies into architecture, building materials and textiles. Kennedy's research and work in architecture have been recognized by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Academy of Sciences.
Kennedy's writings and work have been published in Material Misuse (S. Kennedy; Architectural Association of London), Material Ultra Material (Harvard University, 2002), Extreme Textiles, (M.McQuaid; Princeton, 2005), Open House: Designs for Intelligent Living, (Vitra Design Museum, 2006), Design for the Other 90% (C. Smith; 2007), and Digital Culture in Architecture, (A. Picon; Birkhauser, 2010) Kennedy lectures widely and her work has been featured in journals of architecture, design culture, anthropology and optoelectronics, as well as National Public Radio, CBS News, CNN Principal Voices, BBC World News, Wired, Science News, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week and The New York Times.