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Guide to the Joseph Marcella student work, 1968-1971, 2004

Collection Overview

Kellen Design Archives
Marcella, Joseph
Joseph Marcella student work, 1968-1971, 2004, (Bulk, 1968-1970)
5.8 linear ft: 1 box, 7 folders
The collection consists of student work and related records created or received by Joseph Marcella while studying in the Design Correlations Department (now Product Design) of Parsons School of Design between 1968 and 1970. In addition to project files for portable structures, underwater and outerspace habitations, and a one-piece plastic chair, the collection includes photographs, posters, and textual materials documenting the first Earth Day observances at Parsons.

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Biographical note

Joseph J. Marcella graduated with honors from Parsons School of Design’s Design Correlations Department (formerly Industrial Design and now known as Product Design) in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He studied with department chair William Katavalos, and, while still in school, designed and created a prototype of a one-piece, foam-injected plastic chair that is ubiquitous today.

In addition to his coursework, in 1970 Marcella was instrumental in organizing Parsons' participation in the first Earth Day. With funding provided by the Parsons Student Council, Marcella and fellow Design Correlations student Michael Rosenthal recruited internationally-known speakers to campus and convinced the school administration to cancel classes so that students could participate in teach-ins and a macrobiotic meal.

After his studies at Parsons, Marcella attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where he focused his creativity on photography. Since his years of formal education, Marcella has worked in construction, historical restoration, and farming. He currently resides in Westchester, New York.


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Scope and Contents of Collection

The collection includes design drawings and sketches, photographs, screen prints, school assignments in the form of hand-outs and lecture notes, and a notebook Joseph Marcella created while attending Parsons School of Design. A theme running throughout Marcella's student work is his interest in exploring options for shelter in inhospitable environments, and a reduction in ecological harm through thoughtful design.

The General folder includes a copy of Marcella's admissions essay for CalArts, in which he provides information about his educational background and interests. The essay is useful for understanding the types of records associated with the projects in the collection, as he describes the exercises and methodologies used to investigate each design problem, such as SCAN ("Speculative Calculative Assimilation Network") drawings and wordplay associations ("Synection Sessions").

Project documentation in the collection includes an inhabitation for the Apollo space station, a "four-legged, one-piece fiberglass shell" stackable chair, an inflatable underwater habitat, and a portable recreational shelter consisting of reflective panels, which Marcella deemed a "M.E.S.S." (Modular Environmental Structural System).

M.E.S.S. documentation includes photographs of small-scale models and a full-size fiberglass prototype in various states of construction, templates for the model, and a press kit for an industry-sponsored design conference to which Marcella was invited. The press kit features a designer's statement in which Marcella notes that one of his aims is to reduce visual pollution and humankind's overall impact upon the environment.

Earth Day materials consist of photographs (black and white prints and color slides), press releases, and screen printed posters advertising teach-ins by Daniel Gildesgame, Stewart Brand, Immanuel Velikovsky, and D. W. (Dery) Bennett, and planning documents, including a letter from Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Documentation also includes a floor-by-floor layout of Parsons' facilities on East 54th Street. The school re-located to 66 Fifth Avenue in 1972, shortly after Marcella's graduation.


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Organization and Arrangement

Arrangement is alphabetical by format.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives May 5, 2011

66 5th Ave./
lobby level/
New York, NY, 10011

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the Kellen Design Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Existence and Location of Copies note

The Kellen Design Archives holds photographic documentation of a wire prototype of Marcella's FRP chair. Original model, measuring 7" high x 5 1/2" wide x 3 3/4 " deep, returned to donor. Images may be furnished to researchers upon request.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Corporate Name(s)

  • Parsons School of Design. Design Correlations Department.


  • Drawings.
  • Lecture notes.
  • Notebooks.
  • Photographs.
  • Posters.
  • Press kits.
  • Renderings.
  • Sketchbooks.
  • Sketches.
  • Slides (photographs).
  • Student projects.

Personal Name(s)

  • Katavolos, William


  • Air-supported structures.
  • Chair design.
  • Earth Day.
  • Industrial design -- Study and teaching -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Modular construction.
  • Product design -- Study and teaching -- New York (State) -- New York.

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Collection Inventory

Title Box Folder
General  1 1
Title Box Folder
Apollo Saturn Station drawings [reproductions], 1968-1969  1 6
k_OSx-4 7
Earth Day, 1970 
General  1 2
Clippings  k_OSx-4 8
Photographs  1 3
Posters  k_OSx-4 9
Title Box Folder
FRP Chair, 1968-1971, 2004  1 4
k_OSx-4 10
Title Box Folder
Inflatable Underwater Habitat System, 1969  1 5-6
k_OSx-4 11
M.E.S.S., 1969-1970 
Armco Student Design Program  1 7
Title Box Folder
General  1 8
k_OSx-4 12
Photographs  1 9
Title Map-case Folder
Roll drawing, circa 1968-1969  F 2 5

Created with felt-tip pens, this series of sketches made on a long roll of paper was known as a SCAN, or Speculative Calculative Assimilation Network drawing. This type of exercise was frequently used at Parsons in the late 1960s. The top left corner of the roll reads, "Six Basic Blocks & Directions."

Title Box Folder
Sketchbook 1, undated  1 10
Sketchbook 2, 1968-1969  1 11-12
Slides, 1970  1 13

Color slides depicting Marcella's student projects, particularly M.E.S.S., as well as Earth Day activities at Parsons School of Design in its former East 54th Street facility.

Student notebook, 1968-1969  1 14-15

Collection guide Last Updated: 08/30/2012

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