Architecture is in need of new forms and methods with which to respond to changes in the world and make it relevant to a broad spectrum of cultural discourse. In Mitnick’s work as an architect and a writer, he has begun to pursue different lines of creative and critical inquiry that, because they are not easily located within standard academic or professional classifications, stand to introduce new ways of seeing and thinking about the discipline. By bringing together different literary formats, writing styles, photography and drawing, this work explores the intersection of divergent approaches and sensibilities inclusive of, though not limited to, architecture.
Towards this goal, Mitnick is writing a book about Rainy Sea Island, a fictitious body of land located between contested geographical borders. The story revolves around the experience of a narrator who, when visiting his childhood home on the island for the first time in many years, is confronted not only by discrepancies between the way he remembers the island and the way he discovers it to be, but also the realization that the island itself has had a long history of being used as a “machine for forgetting” by the different institutions that have occupied it. As he struggles to make sense of the strange but familiar setting, he begins to recognize the degree to which the elusive form of the island’s architecture has shaped not only his sense of the past, but his very manner of observing the world at large.
The talk will include a general introduction to the use of fiction writing and architectural criticism, as well as an in-progress overview of the book, and a selection of readings. By incorporating such writing styles and book formats as those used by writers such as W.G. Sebald, John Berger, Walter Benjamin, and Fernando Pessoa, along with a series of diagrams, plan drawings, and photographs that explicate the narrator’s abstract ruminations in spatial terms, Mitnick explores useful intersections between literary narratives of space, and the spatial narratives conveyed by physical forms.
Keith Mitnick is a co-founder of the collaborative design practice Mitnick-Roddier with Mireille Roddier. Their built work has received numerous awards, including the Young Architects Forum award from the Architectural League of New York and the Design Vanguard Award from Architectural record Magazine. They have constructed installations in France and the United States at the Chaumont-Sur-Loire International Garden Festival, the Montpellier Festival of Architecture and the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture + Urbanism, as well as several buildings and structures at various locations and museums in the United States. Mitnick and Roddier are both Associate Professors at the Taubman College of Architecture. Mitnick published his first book, Artificial Light with Princeton Architectural Press in 2008. He was a fellow at the Institute for the Humanities in 2009-2010.