Caroline O'Donnell: Crises of Objects

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steel structure with 2 passersby with background of old city buildings

photographer / Brent Solomon


This lecture will trace the origins of O'Donnell's practice through two Italian precedents grounding the work of Colin Rowe: the analysis of Sant Agnese in Piazza Navona in Collage City and the analysis of Palladian villas in Mathematics of the Ideal Villa. Building on Rowe's interpretation, O'Donnell finds not ideals but tactics and clues to unideal geometries in dialog with nature, and uses these strategies generatively in her own work, including the PS1/MoMA Young Architects Program pavilion Party Wall and several other pavilions in collaboration with CODA and OMG as well as housing and institutional buildings.


Caroline O'Donnell is the Edgar A. Tafel Professor of Architecture and Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. Her research and teaching areas are in ecological and contextual design and theory.

She is a licensed architect and sole principal of CODA, winner of MoMA/PS1's Young Architects Program in 2013 with the project Party Wall. Recent built projects include an inclusive addition to the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts and Valentine Student Housing in Ithaca, New York. 

O'Donnell also leads the Ecological Action Lab, which experiments with nose-to-tail practices, novel materials, and the reimagining of the function of objects. Recent projects include Friendship WC, a water and plastic bottle chandelier for the 2022 Tallinn Biennial, and Primitive Hut and Evitim, two pavilions at Art Omi, New York, in collaboration with OMG (O'Donnell Miller Group), using biodegradable, living, and leftover materials. 

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