Interview with Michael Kubo

Michael Kubo joined me from Colorado Springs to discuss all things late—late modern architecture, late capitalism, late career choices, and latent desires that spring from the out-of-time sensations generated and perpetuated by the pandemic. Liston to our conversation here. We talk about Michael’s unusual career path, switching between architecture practice and publication as a path to academia; his backyard mandala, nestled between works by Barnett Newman and Michael Heizer; and the “toxic miasma of the endless metastasis of the city” that he confronts in his life and work in Houston, Texas. Michael is an incredibly focused and kinetic colleague. Hearing how he has confronted the notion of productivity during the pandemic, trying to create a work-life balance that includes self-care, buoyed my spirits. You can see an image of his “un-labyrinth,” a geometric form inscribed on the ground produced by a backyard walking practice, above. 

Michael Kubo is Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for Architectural History and Theory at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston. He was previously the Wyeth Fellow at the Center For Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C and associate curator for OfficeUS, the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. His recent co-authored publications include Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance (2019), Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015), and OfficeUS Atlas (2015). He holds a Ph.D. in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.Arch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is currently preparing a book on The Architects Collaborative and the authorship of the architectural corporation after 1945. 

Michael Kubo, 2020
Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo, Heroic:
Concrete Architecture and the New Boston
(New York: The Monacelli Press, 2015)

Figures mentioned in this conversation:

  • The Architects Collaborative (TAC)
  • King Faisal II (Iraq), ruler from 1939-1958
  • USAID, the foreign aid and development arm of the US government
  • Helen Searing, Professor Emerita of Art at Smith College
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), a seminal text by architect Robert Venturi that helped launch the post-modern movement
  • Actar publishers, prodigious publisher of architects’ and architecture schools’ monographs
  • OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), a firm led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, headquartered in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Architects in Rem’s orbit: Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Kazuyo Sejima  
  • OfficeUS, pavilion representing the United States at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale
  • Foreign Office Architects (FOA)
  • Charles Jencks, architecture historian known for his writing on post-modernism
  • Lars Lerup, architect and author of After the City (2017), regarding our suburban future
  • The Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas
Eva French i Gilabert, Ana Miljački, Ashley Schafer, and Michael Kubo, eds., OfficeUS Atlas (Repository), (Lars Müller Publishers, 2015)
pages from OfficeUS Atlas (Repository)