Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, UNC Charlotte (1988)
Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture, University of Arizona (1992)
Hometown: Old Tappan, NJ
In Melissa Farling’s third year at UNC Charlotte, architecture professor Eric Sauda challenged his students to combine architecture with another passion. Melissa’s other passion was psychology, and she wanted to study a restrictive environment to see what relationship there might be between design and behavior. She began to look at prisons and the following year, in Ken Lambla’s studio, continued that work in the most restrictive of environments, death row. Those two studio experiences profoundly shaped Melissa’s career.
“It was my introduction to understanding the impacts of architecture on the individual,” she says. “I have never looked back. I have continued to pursue research regarding the impacts of the built environment, and I use that information to inform design on all different building types.”
Much of the work of Melissa’s 28-year career has been focused on large-scale public projects, applying research to designs for correctional facilities (including low to maximum-security adult and juvenile facilities), courthouses, K-12 and higher education facilities, and behavioral health hospitals.
Melissa served as co-chair of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice (AAJ) Research Committee from 2006 to 2016, during which time she co-organized and co-led the first series of criminal justice neuroscience-architecture workshops. In 2014 she was named to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows.
“I use my education at UNC Charlotte as a benchmark professionally and personally,” Melissa says. “UNC Charlotte offers one of the few programs in the United States that you can enter in your first year. Not only does this give you more opportunities, but it allows for students to immediately learn to work with and from each other and make lifelong relationships. The instructors are amazing. It was a very intimate and powerful experience.”
Melissa was the 2017 Distinguished Alumna in the School of Architecture.