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Alibi Studio principal Catie Newell to share her full-scale installation work in Nov. 19 lecture at Iowa State

November 05, 2014

Catie Newell, founder of *Alibi Studio, inside her "Salvaged Landscape" installation in Detroit. Photo by Brian Kelly.
Newell's "Unlit" was displayed at the 2012 Venice Biennale. Photo courtesy of *Alibi Studio.


AMES, Iowa — Catie Newell, the founding principal of *Alibi Studio in Detroit and the 2013-2014 Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, will present a guest lecture Nov. 19 at the Iowa State University College of Design.

Newell's presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, in Kocimski Auditorium, room 101 Design. Her talk is free and open to the public.

In "Surface Tension," Newell will share her full-scale installations that manipulate the materials and volumes of domestic and commercial spaces—a house severely damaged by fire, a funeral home slated for demolition, a law office in a downtown historic district—into "unfamiliar and obscure inhabitable textures and atmospheres."

For "Second Story," Newell and her team altered factory-standard acrylic rods through heating, tapering and pulling to create an installation that manipulated and distorted the existing volumes of the second story of Spencer’s Funeral Home in Flint, Mich.

"Inherently transparent, the material both captures and permits the passing of light, visually distorting its presence and the view beyond, through refraction and reflection, altering both the context and the perception of its physical boundaries, and heightening the role of the building in the neighborhood," Newell said.

"As cities are strained, once familiar settings become anomalies or strangers to their original intentions; the city's raw material acquires unfamiliar attributes, occupations and associations that set the stage for questionable legal, cultural and environmental interpretations," she said. "This situation brings both opportunity and urgency."

Newell received a Bachelor of Science in architecture with highest honors from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, in 2003, and a Master of Architecture with honors from Rice University, Houston, Texas, in 2006. In 2006 she won the SOM Prize for Architecture, Design and Urban Design with her project "Weather Permitting."

From 2006 to 2009, Newell was a project designer with Office dA in Boston. She joined the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, as the Willard A. Oberdick Fellow in 2009 and is now an assistant professor of architecture in the university's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. She founded *Alibi Studio in 2010. Her work and research capture spaces and material effects, focusing on the development of new atmospheres through the exploration of textures, volumes and the effects of light or lack thereof. The work often reconfigures existing domestic spaces.

Newell's creative practice has been widely recognized for exploring design construction and materiality in relationship to location and geography, and cultural contingencies. Newell won the 2011 ArtPrize Best Use of Urban Space Juried Award for "Salvaged Landscape" and the 2011 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers for "It's Different." She exhibited "Unlit" as part of the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the 2012 Venice Biennale.

Newell's lecture is part of "Spatial Geographies: Surface Practices," the Fall 2014 ISU Architecture Advisory Council Lecture Series. The Iowa State University Department of Architecture is celebrating its centennial in 2014.

Catie Newell, *Alibi Studio, (248) 330-1410,
James Spiller, Architecture Lectures Committee, (515) 294-3543,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,