USA Architecture & Design Panel for 2010

Karen Fiss (Chair)

Associate Professor of Visual Studies and Design, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA

Gordon Kipping

Principal, G TECTS, New York, NY

John A. Stuart

Professor, Department of Architecture, College of Architecture + The Arts, Florida International University, Miami, FL

J. Meejin Yoon

Founder, MY Studio, Associate Professor of Architecture and Design, MIT, and USA Target Fellow, Boston, MA

Statement by Karen Fiss

Amidst the ever-accelerating flow of people, goods, money, and images that defines our global condition, it has become increasingly difficult to understand architecture and design outside the political complexities and disjunctive imaginary landscapes such mobility produces. The blurring of boundaries between the communication of information and the production of space, and between the analog and digital realms, can be disorienting at times, but their destabilization also presents opportunities. 

The designers being honored this year as USA Fellows in Architecture and Design address in diverse ways the complex and multivalent character of our contemporary environment. Their practices take into account the vibrancy and utility of various hybrid forms of cultural expression that have emerged from new spaces of contestation, exploration, and productive uncertainty. This hybridity is manifest in their work in both formal and social terms, as they explore the creative territory between and among design disciplines that have been traditionally conceived as separate, independent areas of inquiry. By questioning what it means to live and  work in a world where borders and identities are constantly negotiated, their respective practices also call attention to the social and political impact design can have on everyday life. Buildings, networks, environments, and other design artifacts have the potential to take an active role in conceiving new paradigms for social and public space. In this respect, they share with relational art practices the notion  that the commons can function as a creative medium  in its own right, alongside or in combination with other more traditional modes of formmaking.

Taken collectively, the creative practices of this year’s USA Fellows point to several of the key issues facing our society today. Some of their projects interrogate notions of citizenship, addressing concerns  around immigration, surveillance, and access to information; others engage the larger infrastructural issues behind sustainable design, questioning  what constitutes successful resource governance,  green construction, reuse, and waste management  on a local and global scale.

From a methodological perspective, the work of these USA Fellows is both practical and speculative, immersed in the exigencies of the present but with  an eye toward the future. The myriad approaches they take in pursuing their craft—from bottom-up, participatory processes that engage specific communities, to merging design and performance,  to creating viewer experiences that blend fiction and non-fiction—encourage audiences to actively participate in shaping the physical and cultural environment around them. These practitioners recognize that design can both communicate and  serve as an agent of change. By experimenting with  new aesthetic forms and modes of address, they inspire us to join in the quest for social, political,  and environmental justice.