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V. Mitch McEwen: Uses of the Normal: The Normal as Power

W.M. Keck Lecture Hall
October 16, 2019 at 7:00pm
McEwen headshot

V. Mitch McEwen joined the Princeton School of Architecture faculty in fall 2017 from the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning. She is founding director of Black Box, a research group at Princeton’s Embodied Computation Lab, and co-founder of A(n) Office, an architecture collaborative of studios in Detroit and New York. McEwen's design work has been awarded grants from the Graham Foundation, Knight Foundation, and New York State Council on the Arts. Her work has been commissioned by the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the Istanbul Design Biennial. Projects in Detroit include a combined residence and flower incubator for an engineer at 3M, a strategy for 100 houses selected by the City of Detroit to densify the neighborhood of Fitzgerald, and an award-winning repurposing of a balloon-frame house titled House Opera. Her work in urban design and architecture began at Bernard Tschumi Architects and the New York City Department of City Planning, as well as founding the Brooklyn-based SUPERFRONT. McEwen earned her M.Arch. at Columbia and B.A. at Harvard.

If architecture isn't normal then what does it normalize and how? The gap between normalcy and the event opens a philosophical question that architecture finds itself sort of saturated with. Alfred North Whitehead made the argument 50 years ago that Western philosophy had completely misunderstood reality, from Plato through Kant, by focusing on how we know objects, rather than the real of events. While this might seem far removed from architecture, geometry is steeped in this issue. If the error of philosophy consists of locating reality in objects and the prehension of objects, rather than in events, then how does the event become measured or geometric? What this might obscure is the movement between, the reduction of what might be normal to stasis, even in the midst of a process that moves. Can movement be normal? Are bodies ever normal?

Themes of the work to be shown include Imagination Maintenance, Reparations Speculation, Profound Modernity, and Speculating While Black.

Backstage interior of HO
House Opera, designed by A(n) Office