MoMA's Emilio Ambasz Institute Selects Director

John Hill
15. June 2021
Photo: Jon Roemer

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has announced that Carson Chan is the first director of the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment, which was created last year.

Named for architect Emilio Ambasz, "the Messiah of Green Architecture," the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment was unveiled in November with the goal of "making the interaction between architecture and ecology visible and accessible to [MoMA] visitors and the wider public while highlighting the urgent need for an ecological recalibration." Being at MoMA, the Ambasz Institute would involve exhibitions but also "research opportunities and a variety of programs including public lectures, conferences and symposia, many of them online."

The person MoMA found to lead the Ambasz Institute is Carson Chan, a curator, writer, and educator who has taught at the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania; curated numerous exhibitions, including the Biennial of the Americas in Denver; written on art, architecture, and contemporary culture in numerous publications; and is pursuing a doctoral degree at Princeton University on "the development of the architecture of public aquariums during the rise of environmentalism in postwar USA," per a press release from MoMA. He is a founding editor of the online resource Current: Collective for Architecture History and Environment that is "focused on the intersection of architecture, environment, and justice."

Chan's experience and interests are strongly aligned with the mission of the newly created institute. To be located within MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design, the Ambasz Institute "will specifically study creative approaches to design at all scales of the built environment—buildings, cities, landscapes, and objects—in order to work toward an ecologically sustainable future and environmental justice."

In addition to his appointment as the first director of the Ambasz Institute, Chan will serve as a curator in MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design, where he will "lead initiatives focused on ecology and sustainability in collaboration with all six of the museum’s curatorial departments." Tasks singled out by the MoMA press release include developing exhibitions and digital and onsite programs "that address the interconnectedness of architecture and ecology," as well as creating "a strategy for the collection that focuses on works dealing with sustainability." A "major exhibition focused on the emergence of ecological thinking in architecture," to be curated by Chan, is slated for 2023.

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