BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Everyone in Bloomington is familiar with architect Christine Matheu’s work, though many may not realize it. Showers Plaza, Buskirk-Chumley Theater, WonderLab science museum, the Curry Building, and Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center are some of the buildings designed or renovated with Matheu’s guidance.
“I’m basically a self-proclaimed modernist, but it really depends on what the context is,” explains Matheu. “I love working on historic buildings. But I believe that an architect’s signature runs through whatever she does.”
Prior to moving here, the New Jersey native, who earned a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, practiced with the top Philadelphia firm of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown. Then, as now, she specialized in museum and educational facility design, and her clients included cultural institutions in Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and Rome.
Love brought Matheu to Bloomington. In 1988, she married William Cohen, a history professor at Indiana University, and for almost two years she commuted between Philadelphia and Bloomington. In 1990, just after she and Cohen bought a distinctive midcentury modern home near Bryan Park, Matheu moved here.
Shortly thereafter, Matheu worked as a project manager for the Bloomington-based Odle McGuire & Shook Corporation, where one of her projects was the renovation of the historic Showers Plaza. In 1992, in the midst of the Showers design phase, Matheu and Cohen’s daughter, Laurel, was born.
In 1997, Matheu started her own firm and her first commissions were the challenging Buskirk-Chumley renovation and the original design for WonderLab.
Matheu’s firm is currently renovating the Monroe County Public Library. “It’s an exciting project,” she says. “My associate, Kristopher Floyd, and I are working with a great team to create a new teen center and digital creativity center, as well as renovating the auditorium, bookstore, and other areas of the building.”
Matheu also designs private residences. “In new construction, people usually want a first floor master bedroom and bath and open living space. Most are also very keen on natural light, energy efficiency, and using green materials,” Matheu says. “But people vary tremendously, so I can’t assume anything.”
This past June, her own home, which Matheu renovated in 2006 and 2007, was featured on Indiana Landmarks’ Mid-Century Home Tour.