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Guide to the Michael Kalil oral history project, 2011

Collection Overview

Repository

Kellen Design Archives

Collection Identifier

PC.07.01.05

Creator - Interviewee

Gardner, Jean, (Jean M.)

Creator - Interviewee

Ginsberg, Karyn Issa

Creator - Interviewer

Larson, Jennifer

Creator

New School (New York, N.Y.). New School Archives and Special Collections.

Creator

New School (New York, N.Y.). New School Archives and Special Collections.

Creator - Interviewee

Spiegel, Marty, 1948-

Title

Michael Kalil oral history project

Extent

0.1 gb: 13 digital audio files; 05:36:06 [check that] duration; 4 PDF transcripts

Language of Materials note

All recordings and associated transcripts are in English.

Summary

The Michael Kalil Oral History Project consists of recorded sound interviews with colleagues, collaborators, and friends of interior designer Michael Kalil (1943-1991). Jean Gardner, Karyn Issa Ginsberg, and Marty Speigel discuss Kalil's education, career, and ideas with project archivist Jennifer Larson. Kalil's work—incorporating varied and diverse principles of architecture and philosophy—was considered by many to be revolutionary in the 1970s and 1980s. Recordings are all in English.

Preferred Citation note

Audio interview with [interviewee name] by Jennifer Larson, [date], Michael Kalil oral history project, PC.07.01.05, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

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Biographical Note

Participant biographies

Jean Gardner
Jean Gardner is an activist, writer, teacher, and consultant on sustainable design issues. She began teaching in the Department of Interior Design at Parsons in 1968 and has taught at the school over almost all of the intervening years. In 2016, she is an associate professor of social-ecological history and design in Parsons' School of Constructed Environments. Gardner is author of Urban Wilderness: Nature In New York City (1988) and co-author, with Brian McGrath, of Cinemetrics: Architectural Drawing Today (2007). She received an AIA Committee on the Environment Award for her teaching and a special citation from the New York City Chapter of the AIA for her work as an urban ecologist, author, and educator in both the architectural field and in the public realm. Gardner was part of a team led by David Rockwell to commemorate 9/11. The group exhibited their project, "The Hall of Risk," a participatory center for conflict resolution, at the 2002 Venice Biennale. Gardner's current research focuses on design pedagogy and its relationship to the creation of present ecological problems, such as climate change. She has served on the jury of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, as well as organizing a conference on Water and Hydro-Fracking with the Baum Forum.
Karen Issa Ginsberg
Karyn Issa Ginsberg was born and raised in Montreal Quebec and received a BS in Education from the University of Vermont. After teaching in Montreal for several years, she returned to school and graduated from Lesley College with a Masters in the Expressive Therapies. Ginsberg is grateful to have become designer Michael Kalil’s first studio assistant. She worked closely with Kalil from 1979-1983, assisting on all aspects of residential design projects. Their friendship continued until Kalil’s death in 1991. In 1992, Marty Speigel, Jean Gardner and Ginsberg created The Michael Kalil Endowment for Smart Design. The endowment awards grants to students and architects whose work corresponds to Kalil’s principles and philosophies. For a number of years Ginsberg was on the selection committee to select recipients of the Kalil award. Ginsberg’s career in design continued with personal residential projects. She later developed an interest in photography, and her focus as of this writing is in the synchronicity of landscape and architecture. Her work is held in a number of private collections. In addition to her photography, Ginsberg has recently developed an interest in ceramics. Along with her involvement with the Kalil Endowment, Ginsberg is involved in several other philanthropic organizations.
Jennifer Larson
Jennifer (Jen) Larson is an archivist who worked as an archivist for the Kellen Design Archives of the New School Archives and Special Collections. Larson received a BFA in fine and applied arts from the Cooper Union in 1991 prior to studying design and cultural history at the Bard Graduate Center and library and information science at the Pratt Institute. Since 2003, Larson has worked in the fields of archival and collections managment with several cultural institutions in New York City, including the New-York Historical Society, the New York Transit Museum, and the Center for Book Arts. Formerly a visual resources manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2016, Larson began work as an archivist at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
Marty Spiegel
Born in Chicago in 1948, Marty Spiegel traveled throughout the U.S., South America, and Europe as a child. He studied Forestry, Education and Design at Marlboro College in 1966, and during the Vietnam War was granted Conscientious Objector status, performing alternate service from 1969-72 as a teacher for Project Learn's Parkway program in Philadelphia. In 1973, Spiegel moved to New York City to study Environmental Design at Parsons. He earned his BFA in 1976. At Parsons, Spiegel formed a web of friendships, connections and partnerships that would sustain his creative and professional life for more than a decade after he graduated. Parsons professor Jean McClintock connected him with projects around New York City, including Betsy Barlow's Central Park Conservancy and a traffic-flow project with Fred Kent, who later founded Project for Public Spaces. In 1980, after four years at Solar-En Corporation designing and installing solar energy systems, he joined his former Parsons instructor, Archie Kaplan, at Environment Planning, Inc. From 1984-1986, Spiegel ran a consulting business and worked on a wide variety of projects, including the design of a N.A.S.A. space station with Michael Kalil, who he'd first met through his Parsons network. From 1986-93, Spiegel and fellow-Parsons graduate Joey Horton were partners in a design firm. In 1993, Spiegel moved to Seattle and opened a hardware business that he has been running since then, while sustaining an engagement with community planning and maintaining an abiding interest in design education and practice.

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Scope and Content of Collection

This oral history project was conducted to serve as a corollary to the Michael Kalil papers in the New School Archives. The interviewees were friends and associates of designer Michael Kalil. While organizing and describing the papers of Michael Kalil, which the interviewees donated to the New School Archives in 2010, project archivist Jennifer Larson compiled lists of questions and topics of possible interest to researchers that are not fully explicated by documentation in the collection. Larson began processing the Kalil papers in September of 2010 and conducted all interviews between March and June of 2011 on the campus of Parsons The New School for Design.

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Organization and Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Kellen Design Archives - August 24, 2016

66 5th Ave./
lobby level
New York, NY, 10011
212.229.5942
archivist@newschool.edu

Preferred Citation note

Audio interview with [interviewee name] by Jennifer Larson, [date], Michael Kalil oral history project, PC.07.01.05, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish or post in any public form all or part of any recording or transcription from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The New School Archives commissioned the interviews, which were made using the Archives' equipment.

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Related Materials

The Michael Kalil oral history project grew out of the processing of the Michael Kalil papers (KA.0119.01) in the New School Archives. Many of the questions covered in the interviews directly pertain to the papers, which are open and available for research consultation.

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Keywords for Searching Related Subjects

Genre(s)

  • Interviews.
  • Oral histories (document genres).
  • Transcripts.

Personal Name(s)

  • Kalil, Michael

Subject(s)

  • Architecture.
  • Furniture design -- Study and teaching -- New York (State) -- New York -- 20th century.
  • Industrial design -- Study and teaching -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Interior architecture.

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Other Finding Aids note

For item-level description and sound files from the Michael Kalil oral history project, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/PC070105.

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Collection Inventory

Audio interview with Marty Spiegel 2011 Mar 31   911 mb3 Broadcast Wave files; 01:29:05 duration; includes PDF transcript.

Audio interview with Marty Spiegel  

Interviewed by archivist Jennifer Larson at Gimbel Library at Parsons School of Design. Spiegel speaks about his educational experiences in New York, Vermont, and Philadelphia. He discusses his time as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, and subsequent studies within Parsons’ environmental design program, founded in 1973. During this time, Spiegel worked with Central Park Conservancy, Project for Public Spaces, and several community gardens in the Bronx. Upon graduation in 1976, Spiegel went to work for his father-in-law’s company, which specialized in developing and designing passive solar houses. He eventually began his own interior design firm, Spiegel-Horton Designs, with fellow Parsons alumnus, Joey Horton, who graduated in 1973. In the 1990s, Spiegel relocated to Seattle where he now lives and works.

Spiegel discusses his work with Michael Kalil in Seattle and New York, which includes their design project for NASA — an experimental space station habitat — and Boeing, as well as the founding of the Michael Kalil Endowment. Features on Kalil’s design work, in Interiors,  Omni, and  Metropolis magazines, are discussed, as well as a 1991  New York Times article about Kalil’s work at the building where he lived on 76th Street, shortly before his death. Spiegel compares Kalil to Buckminster Fuller.

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Audio interview with Jean Gardner, Marty Spiegel and Karyn Issa Ginsberg 2011 Apr 5   1.31 gb5 Broadcast Wave files; 01:53:38 duration; includes PDF transcript.

Audio interview with Jean Gardner, Marty Spiegel and Karyn Issa Ginsberg  

Archivist Jennifer Larson interviews a group of Michael Kalil's friends and colleagues at 66 West 12th Street on the New School's campus. Jean Gardner, Karyn Issa Ginsberg, and Marty Spiegel discuss Kalil’s childhood and Lebanese heritage, as well as his time at a Coptic Christian seminary. Kalil’s education, at the Pratt Institute and elsewhere, is also discussed.

The three detail Kalil’s clients, residential and commercial, as well as Kalil’s employers prior to starting his own design studio on 76th Street. A discussion of particularly influential texts and persons constitutes a good part of this interview; among these include Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space,  The Art of Space, Mies van der Rohe, Carlo Scarpa, and Louis Kahn. Many personal anecdotes about Kalil and his business are related by the group to the interviewer.

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Audio interview with Karyn Issa Ginsberg 2011 May 19   801.9 mb3 Broadcast Wave files; 01:09:34 duration; includes PDF transcript.

Audio interview with Karyn Issa Ginsberg  

Interviewed by archivist Jennifer Larson at Gimbel Library at Parsons School of Design. Karyn Issa Ginsburg discusses her upbringing in Montreal, Quebec. She describes her work with experiential and non-traditional methods of education, including her graduate degree in art history, as well as her eventual “apprenticeship,” collaboration, and partnership with Michael Kalil, based out of his studio on 76th Street.

Kalil’s work with the Open Atelier of Architecture and Design is described, as well as his designs of space station interiors developed for NASA, his residency at Skowhegan, and work flow at the studio. Also discussed are design studios and clients with which Kalil frequently interacted, including V’Soske, designers of architectural rugs, and Armstrong Industries. Ginsburg elaborates on architects and designers who influenced Kalil, including Louis Kahn, Antoni Gaudi, and Buckminster Fuller. Several New York Times articles on Kalil are mentioned.

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Audio interview with Jean Gardner 2011 Jun 21   973.3 mb2 Broadcast Wave files; 00:54:29 duration; includes PDF transcript.

Audio interview with Jean Gardner  

Interviewed by archivist Jennifer Larson at Gimbel Library at Parsons School of Design. Jean McClintock Gardner describes her upbringing in the Midwest, and her education in New York City at Columbia University. She discusses Michael Kalil’s interest in experiential and non-traditional methods of education, the influence of architects Ward Bennett and James Lovelock, as well as his work with the Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, New York.

Gardner mentions Angelo and Charlotte Abbate. Also mentioned are Kalil collaborators architects Keith Critchlow and Michael Kriegh, and historian Robert Lawlor. Kalil’s designs of space station interiors, developed for NASA, are discussed, as well as his interest in sacred geometry, quantum architecture, and the Gaia hypothesis, which theorizes that organisms interact with inorganic matter to manifest a self-regulating environment.

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Collection Guide Last Updated: 02/28/2017

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