Michael Bell is an architect and a tenured Professor of Architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Bell is the founding chair of the Columbia Conference on Architecture, Engineering and Materials; a GSAPP research initiative on materials and architecture organized in association with Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart. Bell is Director of the Master of Architecture program Core Design Studios and coordinated the school’s housing design studios between 2000 and 2011.
Bell’s architectural design has been commissioned/exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Venice Biennale, The Yale School of Architecture, The University Art Museum, Berkeley, and at Arci-Lab, France. Bell has received four Progressive Architecture Awards, and work is also included in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His Gefter-Press House (the Binocular House) is included in Kenneth Frampton’s American Masterwork Houses of the 20th and 21st Century.
Books by Michael Bell include Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering; Post-Ductility: Metals in Architecture and Engineering; Solid States: Concrete in Transition; Engineered Transparency: The Technical, Visual, and Spatial Effects of Glass; 16 Houses: Designing the Public’s Private House; Michael Bell: Space Replaces Us / Essays and Projects on the City; and Slow Space.
Bell has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and Rice University, and held visiting professorships at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the University of Michigan where he was the Saarinen Professor of Architecture.
Michael Bell specializes in housing and urban planning where housing is a key component. Bell was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to examine and propose a future for the United States suburbs in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. With his partner, Eunjeong Seong, the work was developed and presented at the MoMA in 2011 and 2012. In 2001 Bell led a team of architects who provided research, planning, and design for 1800 units of housing on a 100-acre parcel of oceanfront land owned by the New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development (NYHPD). The project was commissioned by the Architectural League of New York and the NYHPD as a research proposal to guide city planning. Bell also founded 16 Houses, a housing research and design program in Houston, for the Fifth Ward Redevelopment Corporation.
Bell collaborates with Eunjeong Seong in practice as Bell / Seong.
During the past two decades the effects of increased urbanization and the seeming inevitability of a deeply urban world have often instigated a sense that architecture is an ancillary or derivative of the urban. And while this is a realistic point of view and operational standing that engages the profession in a reality of our time it also leaves in abeyance a history of architecture as a material project—or at least sidelines that concern to a primary focus on how building act in the urban context. Of course it’s not a new condition to see architecture and the urban as linked, but today it seems that architects imagine the urban as a form of financial flow; as an inevitable streaming of money that sets agendas and that we can no longer imagine resisting but instead engaging. The urban in this realm is narrowed to a form of deregulated monies; development is the new ground. “Material Duration: Monetary Time” refers to research carried out at Columbia University. The Columbia Conference on Architecture, Engineering and Material is a four-part conference and book series that attempts to place material at the center of architectural practice and at the center of the urban world again—to see material not as a last focus for design but as a renewed instigator of what architecture can be and how it in turn can alter what we expect of the urban (of the social). To do this we have looked to material science in ways that moves the discourse away from the known equations of statics (and static materials) and apart from the performance based aspects of the parametric (and it efficiency goals) and instead tried to see how material is a zone of calculation itself, and how new issues of material alter what we imagine as possible in engineering and design. Having completed our fourth book in the series this lecture will bring together a body of work that we hoped would allow architecture to see its role as still immediately material (and within the province of practice) despite the flow of monies that enable and often preclude our goals.
This lecture is open to the general public.
The Spring 2014 Public Lecture Series are co-sponsored by “Ronald Lu & Partners (HK) Ltd.” & “Woo, Chow, Wong & Partners (HK) Ltd.” visiting lectureship in architecture.