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Stephen Burks will present a lecture at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, in Ken and Linda Sue Shollmier Hall, Room 250 of Vol Walker Hall, on the U of A campus, as part of the fall lecture series in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

Burks is the principal at Stephen Burks Man Made in Brooklyn, New York. He is the 2015 recipient of the National Design Award in Product Design from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 

In his lecture, “Shelter in Place,” Burks will discuss how design is a cultural production and does not exist in a vacuum, as politics, society and the built environment impact all facets of life. Though industrial design has typically emerged in response to commercial briefs set by a client or a brand, Burks says that designers must respond with imaginative and sometimes radical ideas.

When the global pandemic erupted in March 2020, followed by the movement for Black Lives Matter that same summer, Stephen Burks Man Made began to consider what role design can play in response to these converging social crises. What started as a question evolved into the project “Shelter in Place,” an exhibition featuring a series of speculative prototypes and a radical design manifesto for the 21st century.

The design studio considered how design can address racial inequality, spirituality or the encroaching presence of media in daily life. By using design as an investigatory tool for thinking through ideas, “Shelter in Place,” explores how designers guide social innovation and extend the boundaries of the discipline into new and uncharted territory.

Burks is one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation. He believes in a pluralistic vision of design that is inclusive of all cultural perspectives and backgrounds.

Born in Chicago, Burks studied architecture and then product design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and did graduate work in architecture at Columbia University. His design practice collaborates with artisans around the globe to create high-end furniture, lighting, interiors, exhibitions and products that communicate the innovative influence the human hand can exert on the creation of industrial objects while extending craft traditions into the future and driving local economic development.

Stephen Burks Man Made has been commissioned by many of the world’s leading design-driven brands to develop collections for Cappellini, Dedon, MASS Design Group, Missoni and Roche Bobois. His solo exhibition, “Shelter in Place,” opens on Nov. 19 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, after being on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

Burks is the only African American to win the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design and the only industrial designer to be awarded the prestigious Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

This is the Weyerhaeuser Giving Fund Lecture in Wood Innovation. Burks also serves as a guest design consultant in a studio this semester, working with Jake Tucci, assistant interior architecture and design professor.

The school is pursuing continuing education credits for this lecture through the American Institute of Architects.

This lecture is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. 

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