I work on European design, architecture, and art from 1750 through the present, with an emphasis on German design and domestic architecture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I’m interested in the various ways we interact with objects – and how they interact with us – both historically and in contemporary life. This means that I’m concerned with our perception of and approaches to material things today and in the past, but also that I look closely at how the physical nature and working properties of specific materials have influenced how objects take form during the process of design, and, in turn, how intentionally designed forms have played active roles in the construction of history and theory. I understand domestic objects as communicators or “agents” during a modern period when Europe was experiencing unprecedented political, cultural, and social upheaval. My book, Living Things: Richard Riemerschmid and the Modern Object (under review with Yale University Press), examines how Munich artist Richard Riemerschmid’s early twentieth-century designs for housewares, interiors, and clothing force us to rethink what it means to be “modern.” My research and teaching have been supported by the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Central European History Society, the Wolfsonian Museum, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corning Museum of Glass.

I’m currently pursuing a second book project, “Frozen Light,” that explores a variety of design engagements with the material of glass during the modern period: from mimetic applications of glass, including the fabrication of glass eyes and multicolored glass marine invertebrates in the nineteenth century; to visionary architectural projects executed (and more often not executed) in glass during the first decades of the twentieth century; to the appropriation and manipulation of transparent modern architecture and design by twentieth-century political regimes; to deployments of transparent materials (including glass, plastics, and silicone) in fashion design; and, finally, the relevance of glass and other translucent and transparent materials in historical and contemporary fiction – specifically, the complex and productive relations among (science) fiction and speculative design. “Frozen Light” probes the meanings of glass’s capacity not just to allow but also to deny transparency, and how this duality complicates this ancient material’s interventions in the culture and politics of modernity.

Selected Recent Publications

“Living Things: Richard Riemerschmid and the Modern Object” (Yale University Press, London: under review)

“Poets of Wood: Dürer, Goethe, and Modern German Design,” in Design and Heritage, Rebecca Houze and Grace Lees-Maffei, eds. [Routledge, Key Issues in Cultural Heritage series, 2020]

“Enemy of Secrets: The Invisible Force of Interwar Glass,” Journal of Design History [forthcoming 2020]

“Experience, Poverty, Transparency: The Myths of Modern Glass,” in Apparition: The (Im)materiality of the Modern Surface, YeSeung Lee and Benedict Carpenter, eds. [Bloomsbury Press, September 2020]

“The Emperor’s New Glass: Transparency as Substance and Symbol in Interwar Design,” in New Challenges to Conventions: Innovative Visual and Material Work in the Weimar Republic Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Maria Makela, eds. [Bloomsbury Press, 2019]

“Bauhaus Made Miniature: Material Politics in German Design, 1919-1939,” Journal of Modern Craft [forthcoming, 2019]

“Delight in Sachlichkeit: Object as Subject in German Design, Architecture, and Art,” German Quarterly 92:2 (Spring 2019): 256-259.

“A Renovated Renaissance: Richard Riemerschmid’s Modern Interiors for the Thieme House in Munich.” Interiors 5:1 (2014): 5-36.

“Otherworldly Worldliness: Romantic Fantasy and Biedermeier Desire in Schinkel’s Berlin.” Centropa 10:2 (May 2010): 80-105.

“A Ghost in the Machine Age: The Westerwald Stoneware Industry and German Design Reform.” The Journal of Modern Craft 2:3 (November 2009): 251-277.

“The Velvet Touch: Fashion, Furniture, and the Fabric of the Interior.” Fashion Theory 13:1 (March 2009): 51-82.

Anthologized in Interior Design and Architecture: Critical and Primary Sources, vol. 2, edited by Mark Taylor, 138-157. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

Selected Courses

501 Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture II

923 Against Nature: Domesticating Modernism in Nineteenth-Century Europe

926 Bauhaus, Before, and Beyond: German Design from Gründerzeit to Ulm School

931 News from Nowhere: Design and Utopia

938 “Ornament and Crime”: Decoration and Its Discourses from Late Antiquity to Today

942 Tales of Seduction: Architecture and Design in Fiction

953 Seize the Stem! Art Nouveau in Europe

966 The Green Hat: Fashion in Word and Image