Riff Studio

A newly formed collaborative brings together designers Zena Mariam Mengesha, Rekha Auguste-Nelson, Farnoosh Rafaie, and Isabel Strauss.

Farnoosh Rafaie is a lecturer at the USC School of Architecture and a practicing designer at the irreverent architecture-based practice Design, Bitches. A native Californian, she retains an innate interest in exploring an architecture of unique and peculiar congeries of everyday suburbia as well as the distinction between remarkable to unremarkable ways of living. Her contributing work has been published in Detail Magazine, OBL/QUE, Pasajes Arquitectura y Critica, and Platform at the Harvard GSD. She received her bachelor's in architecture from California Polytechnic State University and her master’s from Harvard Graduate School of Design with distinction.
Zena Mengesha earned her master of architecture at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and her BA at Harvard University in visual and environmental studies. She currently works at Selldorf Architects in New York City. In the past, Zena has worked in architecture and design at a variety of scales including set design, fine art, residential ground-up and renovation projects, masterplanning, and mixed-use new construction. Her research interests include housing and the future of mass migration due to climate change.
Rekha Auguste-Nelson received a master’s degree in architecture with distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2018. She was the recipient of the Alpha Rho Chi Medal. Trained in furniture-making at the North Bennet Street School, Auguste-Nelson served as head technical assistant of the GSD fabrication lab from 2016 to 2018. She received a bachelor of arts in history with honors from Harvard College in 2013. Auguste-Nelson has worked for design-build practices Marmol Radziner and Stack + Co. She is currently a superintendent at Consigli Construction Co., Inc.
Isabel Strauss recently completed her master’s in architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She received her AB from Harvard College with a concentration in the history of art and architecture. She has a professional background in museum collection management and scenic design. She has worked for Johnston Marklee, Michael Maltzan Architecture, SOM New York, Todd Rosenthal Scenic Design, the Goodman Theater, and the Whitney Museum. Strauss worked to establish the African American Design Nexus with the Frances Loeb Library in 2017 and contributed to research for the Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery Project from 2020 to 2021.