Adam Kalkin, Architect
The architect, author and artist, Adam Kalkin, will deliver the thirty-seventh annual Southworth Lecture at Colby College on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 7:30 p.m. in room one of the Olin Building. Mr. Kalkin graduated from Vassar College and studied architecture at Washington University and the Architectural Association in London. He has recently been engaged in the design of a series of houses reusing steel shipping containers. Kalkin claims that “I’m not into the container per se. It’s what I can do with it emotionally; transforming a commodity into poetry.” He describes the container as “a purpose-built object. When you recontextualize it and put it in a residential context, use it for architecture proper, you both destroy the original context and create a new context. This is a form of upcycling, taking modest or disused materials and using them for a higher purpose. You get a beautiful dialogue between old and new and between one set of ideas and another.”
Kalkin’s so-called Quik House is a kit using five recycled (or, in his terms, “upcycled”) shipping containers, which, are factory retrofitted and, for $99,000, can be purchased and assembled as a complete house. He has recently been experimenting with a disaster-relief housing prototype, whose “objective is to create an inexpensive, quick and environmentally sustainable architectural system that could be used by millions of inadequately housed people around the world.” Mr. Kalkin has also used containers to develop a series of recreation centers for underprivileged children in Russia.
Mr. Kalkin designed a summer house in Brooklin, Maine, overlooking Blue Hill Bay, which, although using containers, reads as though arranged in a more conventional manner. Professor K. Michael Hays, of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, says that Kalkin “takes everyday life and accelerates the gnarly parts. His houses allow you to restructure the hierarchies of everyday life.” Even as they react against many modernist strictures, some of Kalkin’s projects are clearly related to modernist precedents, including LeCorbusier’s and Gropius’s schemes for prefabricated housing. Perhaps not surprisingly, given Kalkin’s dictum that “All space is edged by mortality,” others of his works border on performance art.
Mr. Kalkin’s work has been widely published and he has participated in many exhibitions in this country and abroad, including Art Basel/Miami, Princeton University School of Architecture, Gallery 91 in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, and Galerie Marc Jancou in Zurich.
Mr. Kalkin’s lecture is open to the public without charge.