02/05/21 In memoriam: Katharine H. Coleman


Katharine “Kim” Hill Coleman, architect and educator, passed away February 1, 2021 at her home in Los Angeles, California after a heroic battle with cancer. As a practicing architect, she is notable for the several houses she developed, designed, built and lived in as co-founder of Cigolle X Coleman Architects. During that time, she also dedicated herself to teaching design at the USC School of Architecture where she leaves a legacy through the hundreds of students she taught over her 36 years there.

Born in New York City to Sheldon and Katharine Coleman in 1955, Kim was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut and attended Greenwich Academy. The daughter of travel agents, she traveled from New York to England on the SS United States, where she enjoyed charming the captain and crew at the age of 5.

As a child, she loved spending her summers at Camp Onaway on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire and stayed in touch with several of the girls she met there throughout her life. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College in 1977 and next enjoyed two fun years living in a group house with friends in Washington, D.C. It was during that time that her true calling to architecture emerged. She took a job working for a general contractor doing renovations of older houses in the Capitol area and learned the construction trade hands-on. She managed subcontractors, building inspectors, and filled in with a nail belt on her hips when necessary. She received her M.Arch degree from the University of Virginia in 1982, which is where she met her husband Mark Cigolle. During her time in Charlottesville, she also purchased a rundown duplex and applied her newly gained experience to its remodeling.

After graduation, Kim and Mark moved to Los Angeles and co-founded Cigolle X Coleman Architects. In 1983, they married at Kim’s grandmother’s home in Greenwich and she began teaching design at the USC School of Architecture. Beloved by students and faculty alike, she was the School’s first female design faculty member to be awarded tenure. She was promoted to full professor in 2006 and served as Chair of Undergraduate Programs (2008-2010) and Global Programs Director (2010-2014), leading programs in Barcelona, Rome, Milan and Como.

Alongside her teaching, Cigolle X Coleman Architects designed and built several award-winning projects in the Los Angeles area. Beginning with a renovation in Crestwood Hills in 1986, they developed their unique develop/design/build/live approach to architecture with the seven houses they designed and built for themselves in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Venice. In addition to residential work, the firm also completed Wildwood School in Culver City and the USC Faculty Center in Exposition Park.

Kim brought a spirit of adventure to everything she loved, from frequent family road trips, ski vacations, and extended cross-country tours. Her generosity and sense of humor endeared her to everyone she met, and her positivity carried her through the difficult times.  

While Kim accomplished great professional success, she believed that her most important achievement in life was raising her children and providing a loving home. She is survived by Mark, her son Reid Cigolle, daughter Zina Cigolle and brother Ozzy Coleman. She is also survived by aunts, uncles and many cousins who all loved her dearly. Kim will be remembered by the many friends she accumulated at each stage of her life, as well as the students she guided over 36 years of teaching at USC.

In lieu of flowers, her family would appreciate donations in her name to the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation in Santa Monica. Information for a celebration of Kim’s life via Zoom will be forthcoming.


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