Penelope Dean is a scholar who studies contemporary architectural culture with an emphasis on the exchanges between architecture and the allied design fields (interior, industrial, graphic, environmental, and strategic design) in their respective contexts (academia, government, media, enterprise). Her research interests include: the intersection of design institutions with business culture; the socio-spatial correlations between objects and bodies in the domestic environment; intellectual histories of “the future”; and the parallels between architectural culture’s recent fragmentation (its practices, theories, histories, and discourses) and the splintering of culture, society, and politics at large. Through these wide-ranging interests, she combines the argumentation of a generalist with the attentiveness of a specialist.
Dean’s essays, op-eds, and reviews cut across architectural history, theory, and criticism, combining a formal analysis of buildings, drawings, photographs, renderings, exhibitions, and/or objects with disciplinary genealogy. She has written for leading international journals including Architectural Design, Flat Out, Harvard Design Magazine, Hunch, the Journal of Architectural Education, Log, NESS (forthcoming), Praxis, and See/Saw, and contributed to edited volumes such as International Design Organizations: Histories, Legacies, Value (forthcoming); Shaping the American Interior; As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History; The Building; and The Routledge Companion to Design Studies.
In addition to her writings, Dean’s editorial projects emphasize the need to design alternative formats for the development of fresh and imaginative architectural writing. She is founding editor of Flat Out, an independent print magazine that enacts multiple genres of architectural criticism through fifteen recurring, fictitious characters. She served as guest editor for Hunch; society editor for Content; and editorial consultant for KM3 and Crib Sheets. Her projects have been supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, she was Visiting Scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture at Montreal, and she is currently Scholar-in-Residence at Chicago’s Newberry Library. Dean previously practiced as an architect at the Dutch office MVRDV.