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Robert Adams

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Robert Adams is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; the Stamps School of Art and Design; and, Chair of the University of Michigan Initiative on Disability Studies. Adams received a Master of Architecture degree, graduating with distinction, from SCI-Arc [Southern California Institute of Architecture] in Los Angeles [1994]; and, a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Fine Arts from Saint John’s University [1989].

His research on design and disability culture has been published internationally, including his most recent article, “Chromosapiens: Reconsidering Architecture and Infrastructure within Disability Culture” featured in AT: Architecture Technique [China]; “Making a Scene: A Vivid Genealogy of the Asclepius Machine”, in Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy: 04 Currency; and, “We Are Chromo sapiens: Cánjí rén > Cánjí Cheng Shì > Canji Jiànzhú”, a book chapter in New Social Imperatives in China: Architecture & The City [Actar, forthcoming 2016]. Adams assigned the term Chromo sapiens to describe a post-human condition in the Anthropocene that dissolves the binary structure of the terms abled and disabled; and, offers a more suggestive description against the homogenizing and sanitized term universal design.

Adams’ design work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows, including: “Ruralopolitan Maneuvers: Beijing’s Urban and Rural Villages”, with his collaborators, Robert Mangurian and Mary-Ann Ray for China In Flux: Mapping The Middle Zone [Shanghai]; “The Asclepius Machine” at University of California – Berkeley; “Reyner Banham Loves Beijing” for the 3rd Architectural Biennial Beijing, and venues in China, Europe and the United Sates. Upcoming exhibitions include the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale with StudioWorks/B.A.S.E.beijing; and, the 2017 Bi-City Shenzhen/Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture.

Adams’ current design interests focus on the intersection of architecture, civic infrastructure, and disability culture within a bio-psycho-socio-techo conceptual model where bodies, wearable technologies, and augmented environments coalesce. The work is aimed at sharpening architectural strategies to draw out and reconsider the efficacy of disability through advanced geometry, immersive perceptual configurations, and responsive networks. By embedding a concept of disability within design methodologically, architecture can increase its capacity for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive social body composed of radical alterity that engenders more heterogeneous forms and practices that support simultaneity without the collapse of difference. His design project, The Asclepius Machine: Genetic Diversity and Extreme Urban Euphoria, a complex wheelchair accessible ramp, received an honorable mention in the Seoul International Design Competition in 2010. Robert’s design consultancy includes cooperation with social justice advocates, architects, artists, physicians, scholars, scientists, and others working through a design agenda that suggests disability is a distinct and unique form of cultural production. He is rapidly expanding discourse in this space.

In 2005 Adams co-founded B.A.S.E.beijing with his colleagues, Robert Mangurian and Mary-Ann Ray. His recent efforts at B.A.S.E. include directing and producing a documentary film, Disability and Dragons: Health Infrastructure and Architecture in Urban-Rural China [2017]; and an interdisciplinary research project, Teledermic Health Architecture, a wearable technology that measures key biometric parameters, delivers pharmaceuticals, and incorporates aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Through his teaching in architecture programs at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles and Switzerland, Otis College of Art and Design [Los Angeles], University of Minnesota, and currently at University of Michigan, he is focused on how architecture interacts within a broad-spectrum material-cultural paradigm in which artifacts, constructed apparatuses, and architectural spaces are used to interrogate the social, political, and sentient forms of institutional formation. Robert teaches in the thesis program, graduate design studios, and a university wide course in disability studies. He is also part of the core teaching team in the M.Sc. Design Research - Design Health program at Taubman College.

Current and recent projects in Adams’ design studio include: 3rd Century Screens a 5-channel video projection environment for screen-dance; Cassandra, an operetta that debuted in Brooklyn in 2015; and, a type two sensory specific vessel to decompress high-stress, high-performance actors towards more recursive and reflective modes of mission critical thinking. Adams’ design studio is based in Ann Arbor in a former archery range, 1960’s style, mid-American strip mall next to the Secretary of State.