Architecture of Disbelief Symposium

Preston H. Thomas Memorial Lecture Series, 2008

The Department of Architecture will present its prestigious Preston H. Thomas Memorial lecture series as a symposium titled Architecture of Disbelief organized by graduate programs coordinators Mark Morris and Jim Williamson. This three-day event will involve the participation of several renowned architects and critics. The symposium focuses on speculative work in the most radical sense: designs that require a willing suspension of disbelief, projects with a theoretical and representational agenda that exceed straightforward manifestation as buildings. The symposium will introduce participants to a canon of speculative work and look to its ongoing development.

Symposium speakers will be presenting their own work alongside related theoretically-charged precedents. This is not meant to be strictly academic, these architects will be revealing something personal, a set of unrealized projects that reveal their conceptual and visual preoccupations. Critics will focus on a set of precedents they value as a constellation of conceptual positions. This focus is part of a larger agenda within our programs to reexamine the links between theory and contemporary practice.

Thursday, October 30

Keynote address by Neil Spiller
Visionary Architecture
Sage Chapel

  • Neil Spiller, vice dean and professor of architecture and digital theory at London’s Bartlett School, is noted author of Visionary Architecture, Maverick Deviations, Lost Architectures, and editor of Cyber Reader. His work is characterized as techno- or cyber-Gothic. 

Friday, October 31

Lebbeus Woods
Against Design
Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall

  • Lebbeus Woods, cofounder of the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture, is a professor at Cooper Union. His designs for provocative, politically charged, edgy urban interventions have inspired scenes in films such as Twelve Monkeys and Alien 3.

Saturday, November 1

Jeffrey Kipnis, Neri Oxman, Ben Langlands, Nikki Bell, Evan Douglis, Karl Chu, Dagmar Richter, Neil Spiller, and Lebbeus Woods
Architecture of Disbelief
Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Jeffrey Kipnis is well known for his collaborations with Peter Eisenman and the late philosopher Jacques Derrida. He has organized groundbreaking exhibitions including Perfect Acts of Architecture and Mood River and directed the film A Constructive Madness about Frank Gehry.
  • Evan Douglis is chairperson of undergraduate architecture at Pratt and principal of Evan Douglis Studio dealing with self-generative systems, membrane technology, and emerging techniques in fabrication. Douglis’s projects are aggressively interdisciplinary and multi-media. He has exhibited at the ARCHILAB International Conference and received the 2006 ACADIA Award for Emerging Digital Practice.
  • Dagmar Richter is a professor in the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design. She has established her own practice, DR_D Studio, in Los Angeles and Berlin. Richter applies several themes of the symposium at an urban scale. Her two monographs are XYZ: The Architecture of Dagmar Richter and Armed Surfaces: Architecture and Urbanism 5.
  • Karl Chu teaches at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. He is codirector of the Genetic Architecture Program and the director of the Metaphysics of Architecture and Computation at ESARQ, Universitat Internacional de Cataluyna, Barcelona. He has pursued a radical agenda involving principles of Monadology which involves the convergence of computation and genetics.
  • Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell are two artists recently nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize. Their work deals with architecture, often taking the form of plans, models, and reliefs and was featured in Charles Saatchi’s Sensation exhibition. They were appointed official British war artists for the invasion of Afghanistan and subsequently created the critically acclaimed interactive computer animation, The House of Osama bin Laden.
  • Neri Oxman is a young architect and researcher associated with the Smart Cities Group at the Media Lab and the MIT Design Lab where she is a Presidential Fellow. Differentiated material organizations and performative environments represent the core of her work which involves computation and fabrication using new parametric software she has helped develop. Her work merges the organic and digital in unexpected and innovative ways. Oxman’s projects have been exhibited at both the Venice and Beijing biennale shows.
The Preston H. Thomas Memorial Lecture Series is funded through a gift from Ruth and Leonard B. Thomas in memory of their son, Preston.