In Alexandra Lange’s talk “Agitating Architecture” at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, she said, “I want to think about how best I can use my talents to make the world a better designed place.” Lange’s talent for writing about architecture certainly does make the world friendlier to good design: she helps readers become more design-literate, seeing and thinking about the design environment around them in new ways. Lange is participating in the Modern Art & Life session of Foundations and Futures, chaired by Michelangelo Sabatino.
Lange is an architectural critic for Curbed, where she contributes a monthly “Critical Eye” column on myriad topics in architecture, landscape, and design. She has been a featured writer at Design Observer and an opinion columnist at Dezeen. Her writing has appeared in national publications including Architect, Domus, Metropolis, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. Lange has authored or contributed to six books on architecture and design, covering topics ranging from Eero Saarinen to the new urban terrain of Silicon Valley. Her book Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities shares her expertise and experience writing about these complex topics in an incisive yet accessible way. Lange graduated with a bachelor of arts in architecture and literature from Yale University in 1994 and earned a Ph.D. in architectural history from New York University in 2005. Lange has taught at the School of Visual Arts and New York University. In the 2013-2014 academic year, she was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
When asked about the qualities of good architecture, Lange said that a building “should work for users, it should be beautiful, and it should be easy and intuitive.” The schools, churches, civic, and private buildings that set Columbus exhibit all these qualities, while retaining a sense of their humble Midwestern context. Even the most innovative structures here are not simply about creating new, cutting edge forms, but are designed for the over-arching purpose of making Columbus a better place to live. The design vision of Columbus contrasts with the current trends in Silicon Valley architecture that Lange explores in her book, The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism. Lange said, “I think good design can incite agency within users, it can cause individuals to contribute to the larger community.”
Lange’s talk at “Foundations and Futures” is titled Shape of Schools: Reading, Writing, and Rooflines at the Columbus Schools. Public schools are central to the architectural legacy of Columbus. They were the first beneficiaries of what would become the Cummins Foundation Architecture Program, which brought in architects who designed thoughtful, distinctive modern school buildings. Harry Weese’s 1957 Lillian Schmitt Elementary, John Carl Warnecke’s 1960 Mabel McDowell School, and Gunnar Birkerts’ 1967 Lincoln Elementary School are just a few of the many beautiful yet functional schools in the city. During the Modern Art & Life session, Lange will explore what these schools and civic-minded design schemes did for Columbus—and how this architecture made Columbus, if not the world, a better designed place.