From LM’S Architectural Design Class to Rhode Island School of Design: Matt Barley '97

MATT BARLEY ‘97 showed creative talent from a young age. When his mother recognized his gifts, she encouraged them across a wide range of mediums, from sculpture to traditional German Fraktur painting. During his time at Lancaster Mennonite, he had his first exposure to what would become his calling. “During Aden Stoltzfus’ architectural design
class,” he recounted, “I realized that when I dream designs in my mind and sketch those designs on paper with lines and dimensions, those dreams can be manifested in the real world. After that, I wanted to take every class he taught.”

Matt went on to earn a master’s degree in Interior Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and set out to express his creativity through architectural and interior design. Working with RLPS Architects, he helps his clients construct buildings that reflect their institution’s values and vision for the future. His favorite projects include building a library for Ngambo Secondary School in Kenya, and converting a mid-century elementary school near Philadelphia into a senior living community.

However, his creative spark shines the most through his furniture. “In furniture design,” he explains, “there is an opportunity to take bigger risks because there’s less time, money and materials at stake.” While many of his pieces are more traditionally constructed, he loves experimenting with new materials, forms, and concepts. His most radical designs are a set of chairs, one constructed as if unfolded from a wooden cube, and another whose seat is suspended by fabric strips. To aspiring artists, the greatest advice he has is “Do it. If you can help people with your gifts, you will never have a shortage of work to do.”