Portrait of Professor Alex Coles Professor Alex Coles

a.j.coles@hud.ac.uk | 01484 471442


As professor of Transdisciplinary Studies, Alex Coles is drawn to the emergent interface between art, design and architecture, explored in his multiple-volume project titled The Transdisciplinary Studio. Volume 1 of the series was released in Spring 2012 by Sternberg Press, Berlin, and focused on Olafur Eliasson, Jorge Pardo, Konstantin Grcic and Åbäke. Volume 2 is currently at the research stage.

In 2013 Coles founded a new series of books - "EP." This is the first critically underpinned series of publications that fluidly move between art, design, and architecture. Also developed with Sternberg Press, the series creates a discursive platform between popular magazines (“single play”) and academic journals (“long play”) by introducing the notion of the “extended play” into publishing: with thematically edited pocket books as median. Volume 1 of EP on ‘The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976’ was published in 2013 and received strong reviews in the mainstream press (New York Times, Times Literary Supplement), specialist arts press (Domus, Icon) and academic journals (Journal of Design History, Design and Culture). See Esteem. EP Volume 2 on ‘Design Fiction’ is to be published in Autumn 2015, and EP Volume 3 on ‘Post-Craft’, in 2016.

As the leader of the G research group, Coles is currently working with other group members on a Graphics Reader for publication in 2018, and an ongoing series of conferences on the subject of design, site and place with Tate Modern and La Vaca Independiente, Mexico City.

Research and Scholarship

Coles’ investigation into the dynamic relationship between disciplines in the arts commenced with the book DesignArt published by the Tate in 2005 in Europe (and Abrams in the US). Following the publication of the book, and the author’s coining of the term “designart” (first used in his article “Art Décor,” Art Monthly, February, 2002), both Design Miami (Florida) and the DesignArt (London) fairs were founded, and the international auction house Phillips (London/New York) also began a series of designart themed sales. The author is widely acknowledged as spearheading this new domain of interdisciplinary study. As a follow up, Coles edited a critical anthology on the subject, Design and Art, for MIT Press/Whitechapel in 2007. Both books triggered a series of exhibitions and conferences on the subject. The catalogues and published proceedings from these exhibitions and conferences all heavily cite the author and have led to designart becoming a growing area of practice and academic research (see Esteem). The EP series also further explores these issues.

Invitations to contribute essays to exhibition catalogues related to the theme of designart have also been triggered by both books, including essays for Olafur Eliasson (Thames and Hudson, 2016) the Pompidou Centre (2012), JRP Ringier, Zurich (2012), Galerie kreo, Paris (2011), International Design Museum, Munich (2010), K21, Dusseldorf (2009), and VITRA, Veil am Rhein (2007). Invitations to speak at seminars and conferences at leading international institutions have followed too, including: Jan Van Eyck Academy (2013/2014), Art Basel (2012), the ICA, London (2012/2013/2015), Konstfack, Stockholm (2010), the Royal College of Art, London (2010/2011), The Saatchi Gallery, London (2011), Tate Modern, London (2005/2007/2013), The V&A, London (2010), The Ikon, Birmingham (2010), The Serpentine Gallery, London (2009), and The Courtauld Institute, London (2006/2007).

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Coles, A (2016) ‘Interview: Umberto Eco’. In: Design Fiction. Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press. . ISBN 978-3956790485

Coles, A (2016) Design Fiction . EP. Berlin, Germany: Sternberg Press. ISBN 9783956790485

Coles, A (2016) The art/architecture ping-pong: Olafur Eliasson . London, UK: Thames and Hudson.

Coles, A (2016) ‘Interview with Ryan Gander’. In: Talking Art. London, UK: Ridinghouse. .

Coles, A (2016) ‘Interview with Andrea Zittel’. In: Talking Art. London, UK: Ridinghouse. .

Coles, A (2016) ‘Interview with Michelangelo Pistoletto’. In: Talking Art. London, UK: Ridinghouse. .

Coles, A (2016) ‘Interview with Jorge Pardo’. In: Talking Art. London, UK: Ridinghouse. .


Coles, A., Doze, P., Krzentowski, D. and Rubini, C. (2014) The Complete Designers' Lights II . Zurich, Switzerland: JRP Ringier/Galerie kreo. ISBN 978-3-03764-356-3

Coles, A (2014) ‘Introduction.’. In: Robert Stadler: Invasive Shifting Absurd Exercise. Paris, France: Editions de La Martinière. . ISBN 9782732461007

Coles, A. and Gfader, V. (2014) ‘EP: Styling Knowledge’. In: Pedestrian Subjectivities, MA General Theory Forum, April 27, 2014, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London


Coles, A (2013) ‘The Italian Avant Garde 1968–76’. In: Pier Vittorio Aureli, Alex Coles, Catharine Rossi & Verina Gfader, The Italian Avant Garde 1968–76, 12th December 2013, London, Architectural Association, School of Architecture

Coles, A (2013) ‘Tecoh’. In: Tecoh, 18 October 2013, Tate Modern, London

Coles, A (2013) ‘EP: A Less Speculative Seminar’. In: EP: A Less Speculative Seminar, 2-4 July 2013, Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, Netherlands

Coles, A (2013) ‘Disciplinary Connectivity and the Studio’. In: The Productive Lawrence Alloway, 21 June 2013, Tate Britain

Coles, A (2013) ‘EP: A Speculative Seminar’. In: EP: A Speculative Seminar, 21-22 May 2013, Jan Van Eyck Akademie

Coles, A. and Rossi, C. (2013) EP 1: The Radical Italian Avant-Garde 1968-1976 . EP. Berlin: Sternberg Press. ISBN 9783943365498

Coles, A. and Rossi, C. (2013) The Radical Italian Avant-Garde, 1968-1976 . Berlin: Sternberg Press. ISBN 9783943365498

Coles, A (2013) ‘The Independent Group: A Transdisciplinary Approach’. In: Parallel of Art & Life: A Conference on the Independent Group, 25 - 26 April 2013, ICA/University of Middlesex, London

Coles, A (2013) ‘On the Studio’. In: 'On the Studio': Writer's Talk by Alex Coles, 23 April 2013, Spike Island, Bristol

Coles, A (2013) ‘Michelangelo Pistoletto: The Minus ManArt Monthly (365), pp. 1-4. ISSN 0142-6702

Coles, A. and Rossi, C. (2013) ‘Interview: Prof. Alex Coles and Dr. Catharine Rossi on EPCorridor 8 .

Coles, A. and Rossi, C. (2013) ‘Culture Now: The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976: Carlo Caldini, Martino Gamper in Conversation with Catharine Rossi and Alex Coles’. In: Culture Now: The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976, 31 May 2013, ICA, London

Coles, A (2013) ‘Art HousesICON Magazine (119), pp. 108-115.

Coles, A (2013) ‘Display as Mechanism and the Mechanisms of DisplayLucy Williams: Pavilion , pp. 7-10.


Coles, A (2012) ‘Beyond DesignArt and into the Transdisciplinary Studio’. In: Art and/or Design, 5 December 2012, Weissenhof Institute, Stuttgart

Coles, A (2012) ‘What I Write About When I Write About the Studio’. In: The Future Studio, 16 November 2012, De Hallen Haarlem, Grote Markt 16, The Netherlands

Coles, A (2012) ‘A pilot for a series that may never happenRadar , 1 (3), pp. 11-15. ISSN 2049-4327

Coles, A (2012) ‘Culture Now : Alex Coles in conversation with Ryan Gander, Abake and Michael Marriott’. In: Culture Now Talks, 13th July 2012, Institute of Contemporary Arts

Coles, A (2012) ‘The transdisciplinary studio : Art Salon : Art Basel : in conversation with Konstantin Grcic and Martin Boyce’. In: Art Basel Conversations, 17th June 2012, Art Basel

Coles, A (2012) The Transdisciplinary Studio . Berlin: Sternberg Press. ISBN 9781934105962

Coles, A (2012) ‘The parallax view : interview with Jorge Pardo’. In: David Adjaye: Authoring: Re-placing Art and Architecture. : Lars Muller. . ISBN 9783037782828

Coles, A (2012) ‘Two Examples of User Interface Furniture Design’. In: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec: Bivouac. Paris: Centre Pompidou-Metz. . ISBN 9782359830163


Coles, A (2011) ‘Happenstance : Ryan Gander interviewed by Alex ColesArt Monthly , pp. 1-5. ISSN 0142-6702

Coles, A (2011) ‘Light as medium’. In: Complete Designers Lights 1950-1980. : JRP Ringier. pp. 360-365. ISBN 9783037641996

Coles, A (2011) ‘Fascination with lacquer’. In: Konstantin Grcic - champion. : Couleurs Contemporaines. pp. 13-18. ISBN 9782915837872

Coles, A (2011) ‘A-Z Andrea Zittel interviewed by Alex ColesArt Monthly (343), pp. 1-4. ISSN 0142-6702

Coles, A (2011) ‘American spirit - exhibition catalogue essay’. In: Jorge Pardo. : Richter Verlag. . ISBN 9783941263031


Coles, A (2010) ‘The parallax view : Jorge Pardo interviewed by Alex ColesArt Monthly (339). ISSN 0142-6702

Coles, A (2010) ‘It's Hard to Find a Good Theory of Furniture’. In: A Good Chair is a Good Chair. : Ikon Gallery. pp. 97-113. ISBN 9781904864653

Coles, A (2010) ‘Stepping in time/over time with Martin Creed’. In: Down Over Up. : Fruitmarket Gallery. pp. 66-89. ISBN 9780947912895

Coles, A (2010) ‘DesignartArt Monthly (334), p. 7. ISSN 0142-6702

Coles, A (2010) ‘Jorge Pardo’. In: Critical forum, March 2010, Royal College of Art

Coles, A (2010) ‘Design = Art?’. In: Design = Art?, Thursday 28 October 2010, Ikon, Lecture Theatre, School of Art, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design


Coles, A (2009) ‘Design Real seminar’. In: Design Real Seminars, 12th December 2009, Serpentine Gallery London

Coles, A (2009) ‘Simplicity, purity and openness : interview with Dieter RamsFinancial times .

Coles, A (2009) ‘Review - Martin Creed : work no 1020, Lilian Baylis Studio, LondonFinancial times .

Coles, A (2009) ‘The DesignArt Phenomenon’. In: Telling tales symposium, 16th October 2009, Victoria and Albert Museum London

Coles, A (2009) ‘Review - An alternative fashion week experience : Andrea ZittelFinancial times .


Coles, A (2008) ‘DesignArt : the kernal of product design’. In: Project VITRA. : Birkhäuser. . ISBN 9783764385934

Coles, A () ‘Yucatan’. In: Transforming Place: Site and Locality in Contemporary Art, 18th October 2013, Tate Modern, London

Coles, A. and Gander, G. () ‘Interview: The artists have the keys: Two Willow Road’. In: The Artists have the keys: Exhibition Catalogue. Hampstead, UK: The National Trust. .




Lees-Maffei G, ‘The Italian Avant-Garde’, The Design Journal, Bloomsbury, Vol. 17, Issue 3, pp. 473-478.

Merjian, Ara H, , ‘Book Review’, Journal of Design History, Oxford, Vol. 27, Issue 2, March, 2014, pp.195-196.

Foot, John. 'Review of EP: Volume 1,' Times Literary Supplement (21 June 2013), 27.

Gamper, M “Best in the Group: Critics and Designers Pick the Highlights of 2013”, Financial Times (30 March 2013): http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ae23efce-96c7-11e2-a77c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2PlY9IEXE

Parnell, Steve. 'The Italian Avant-Garde,' Icon 122: Future 50 (August 2013), 85.

Rawsthorn, A 'Political Unrest of '68 Still Reverberates', The New York Times / The International Herald Tribune (26 May 2013): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/arts/27iht-design27.html?pagewanted=all



Coles A, Rossi C (organisers), ‘Post-Craft’, conference, ICA, London, May 6

Research Degree Supervision

Enterprise Activities


£15k, The Wilderness Project, Gloucestershire

£10k EP Volume 2, Creative Industries Fund, Netherlands

£10k, La Vaca Independiente, Mexico City, to fund the conference ‘Transforming Place: Site and Locality in Contemporary Art’, Tate Modern, October 18

$50,000, La Vaca Independiente, Mexico City, for a three-year research project into hacienda buildings by Jorge Pardo, Yucatan jungle, Mexico. This lead to a monograph, Jorge Pardo: Tecoh, released by neugerriemschneider and Sternberg Press in 2013.

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