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Portrait of Professor Alex Coles Professor Alex Coles | 01484 47


Alex Coles is Professor of Transdisciplinary Studies. Rather than a specialist in an already established discipline, Coles is drawn to the emergent interface between art, design and architecture. His most recent research is a 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. Research for the case studies was conducted by spending up to three months in each studio throughout 2008-2011 using a participant-observant method derived from ethnography - a form of embedded research characteristic of transdisciplinary studies. Coles is currently researching The Transdisciplinary Studio Vol. 2 due for release in 2014.

Coles has founded a new series of books called "EP" - the first critically underpinned series of publications that fluidly move between art, design, and architecture. 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. The first volume is devoted to the activities of the Italian avant-garde between 1968 and 1976. While emphasizing the multiple correspondences between collectives and groups like Arte Povera, Archizoom, Superstudio, and figures such as Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968–1976 also highlights previously overlooked spaces, works, and performances generated by Zoo, Gruppo 9999, and Cavart. Newly commissioned interviews and essays by historians and curators shed light on the era, while contemporary practitioners discuss its complex legacy. Contributors include: Carlo Caldini, Alison J. Clarke, Experimental Jetset, Verina Gfader, Martino Gamper, Joseph Grima, Alessandro Mendini, Antonio Negri, Paola Nicolin, Michaelangelo Pistoletto, Catharine Rossi, Vera Sacchetti, Libby Sellers, Studio Formafantasma, and Ettore Vitale.

Research & Scholarship

Coles’ public commitment to the relationship between disciplines in the arts commenced with his book DesignArt published by the Tate in 2005 in Europe (and by 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 de Pury (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/impact below).

Invitations to contribute essays to exhibition catalogues related to the theme of designart have also been triggered by both books, including essays for the Pompidou, Metz (2012), JRP Ringier, Zurich (2012), Galerie kreo, Paris (2011), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham/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: Art Basel (2012), the ICA, London (2012), Konstfack, Stockholm (2010), the Royal College of Art, London (2010/2011), The Saatchi Gallery, London (2011), Tate Modern, London (2005/2007), 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. 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 (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 (2013) ‘Art HousesICON Magazine (119), pp. 108-115.

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) ‘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 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 (2012) The Transdisciplinary Studio . Berlin: Sternberg Press . ISBN 9781934105962


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




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):

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):

Transdisciplinary Studio

Thatcher, J “The Studio and the Trandisciplinary Studio”, Art Monthly, no. 365, April (review of 'The Transdisciplinary Studio') p. 34-35.

DesignArt and Design and Art

2009 - Dr. David Raizman (Professor, Department of Visual Studies, Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Drexel University, USA), Design and Culture: Journal of the Design Studies Forum, Berg Publishing, Vol. 1, No. 1, March (review of Design and Art).

2008 - Norman Weinstein, Architectural Record, December (review of Design and Art).

Lisa Marshall, “Where Art Meets Design,” Fillip, No. 7, Projectile Publishing Society, Vancouver (review of Design and Art).

2007 - John Stones, Icon (review of Design and Art).

designboom, book report (online review of Design and Art):

2006 - Dr. Paul O’Neil (Research Fellow, Commissioning Contemporary Art, Situations, University of the West of England, Bristol), Art Monthly, March (review of DesignArt).

Julian Freeman, The Artbook, May (review of DesignArt).

2005 - Deborah Burnstone, “Friends of Eddie Russia,” eye, no. 57, Autumn (review of DesignArt). Also available online:

Rick Poynor, “Art’s Little Brother,” Icon, no. 23, May (review of DesignArt). Also available online:

Bridget Pierpont, Contemporary, no. 75 (review of DesignArt).

Published Citations


Dr. Paul Rodgers (Professor of Design Thinking, School of Design, Northumbria University) and Alex Milton (Director of Research, School of Textiles and Design, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh) (eds.) Product Design (Portfolio), Laurence King, London, p. 44. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Burkhard Meltzer (Senior Researcher, Zurich University of the Arts) and Heike Munder (Director of the Migros Museum, Zurich) et al (eds.) It’s Not a Garden Table: Art and Design in the Expanded Field, JRP Ringier, Zurich, pp. 94, 102. References are to DesignArt.

Dr. Alexis L. Boylan (Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Tennessee) Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall, Duke University Press, p. 256. Reference is to Design and Art.

Dr. Nina Murayama, “Furniture and Artwork as Paradoxical Counterparts in the Work of Donald Judd,” Design Issues, Vol. 27, No. 3, MIT Press. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Dr. Grace McQuilten (Honorary Fellow, School of Culture and Communications, University of Melbourne, Australia), Art in Consumer Culture Ashgate, pp. 3, 16, 34. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.


Dr. Michael Smyth (Reader, School of Computing, Napier University, Edinburgh) and Paul Rodgers (Professor of Design Thinking, School of Design, Northumbria University) (eds.) Digital Blur: Creative Practice at the Boundaries of Architecture, Design and Art, Libri Publishing, p. 4. Reference is to DesignArt.

B. Willems and K. Wuytens “DoDesign: a Tool for Creativity-based Innovation,” Conference of Design Creativity, Kobe, Japan, 29 Nov-2 Dec. Available online at: References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Dr. Javier Gimeno Martínez (Assistant Professor, VU University, Amsterdam) and Jasmijn Verlinden, “From Museum of Decorative Arts to Design Museum: The Case of the Design Museum Gent,” Design and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 3, Berg. Reference is to Design and Art.

Andy Hamilton “Abstraction and Depiction: Paintings as Pictures and as Mere Design,” Sulla Rappresentazione Pittorica G. Tomasi (ed.) Centro Internazionale Studi di Estetica, Palermo, p. 8, 9, 10, 11. References are to DesignArt.


Rick Poynor (Visiting Professor, Royal College of Art), “Design Thinking or Critical Design?” Now is the Time: Art and Theory in the 21st Century, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, p. 119. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Dr. Emily King (Design editor, frieze magazine), “Design Real,” Konstantin Grcic: Design Real, Serpentine Gallery (exhib cat.), p. 28. Reference is to DesignArt.

Elisabeth Fritz, “The White Cube is Just Another Form of Showroom,” Twilight Zone: Art Hits Design, Edek Bartz et al (eds.), Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Austria, pp. 11, 12. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Troels Degn Johansson, ”Art-in-Design: Facilitating Design and Design Research by Means of Art,” proceedings from the conference Art of Research, University of Art and Design/TaiK, Helsinki, pp. 24-25, November 2009. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.


Rick Poynor (Visiting Professor, Royal College of Art), “Design Art and the Art of Design,” AC/DC: Contemporary Art/Contemporary Design, Geneva University of Art and Design/JRP Ringier, Zurich, pp. 34-35. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Dr. Toni Ross (University of New South Wales, Australia), “Material Thinking: The Aesthetic Philosophy of Jacques Rancière and the Design Art of Andrea Zittel,” Studies in Material Thinking, Vol. 1, No. 2, AUT University, Australia. Reference is to DesignArt.


Dr. Toni Ross (University of New South Wales, Australia), “Linkages Between Aesthetic Autonomy and Discipline Hybridity in the Art of Andrea Zittel,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 8:1, pp. 110-115. Reference is to DesignArt.

Tara Winters, “Using Concepts of Authorship in Graphic Design to Facilitate Deep, Transformative, Learning,” Visual Design Scholarship: Research Journal of the Australian Graphic Design Association, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 25. Reference is to Design and Art.

Katherine Moline, “DesignArt & New Craft: Who’s Zooming Who?” Craft Australia, March 29, Australia Council for the Arts. Reference is to DesignArt.

K.  Moline, “Authorship, Entrepreneurialism and Experimental Design,” Visual: Design: Scholarship Research Journal of the Australian Graphic Design Association, Vol. 2, No. 2, p. 58. Reference is to DesignArt.

Dr. Jane Rendell (Professor of Research, Bartlett, University of London), “The Expanded Field,” Art and Architecture: A Place Between, I.B. Tauris, p. 201. Reference is to DesignArt.


Dr. Glenn Adamson (Deputy Head of Research, V&A, London), “Response to Rick Poynor’s ‘Where are the Design Critics?’” Design Observer blog 25.09.2005. Reference is to DesignArt. 

Citations in Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Theses

2011- Dr. Damon Taylor (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Delft, Netherlands), “The History of DesignArt.” References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

2010 - Dr. Damon Taylor, The Interplay Between Art and Design in Consumer Culture and the Development of DesignArt, University College, Falmouth. References are to DesignArt.

2009 - Dr. Nina Murayama, “Donald Judd’s Furniture: From Do-It-Yourself to the Art of Lifestyle,” The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY). References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

2008 - Dr. John James Marshall, “An Exploration of Hybrid Art and Design Practice Using Computer-Based Design and Fabrication Tools,” Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, pp. 76, 85, 93-95, 297. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

2007 - Dr. Grace McQuilten, “Mis-design: Art in a Consumer Landscape,” School of Culture and Communications, University of Melbourne, Australia, pp. 6, 21, 47. References are to DesignArt and Design and Art.

Research Degree Supervision

  • Design art and transdisciplinary studies in art.
  • Art and design writing and criticism. 

Enterprise Activities


As co-principle investigator, Coles was awarded $50,000 by La Vaca Independiente, Mexico City, for a three-year research project into a series of hacienda buildings being developed by the artist Jorge Pardo in the Yucatan jungle, Mexico. This has lead to a forthcoming monograph, Tecoh, to be released by neugerriemschneider and Sternberg Press in the autumn of 2012. From this also came a long-term project for which Coles is the co-principle investigator, receiving a grant of $250.000 from the La Vaca Independiente, Mexico City, for five years to pilot a new low-residency course to be hosted in Pardo’s hacienda buildings in the Yucatan jungle.

Last updated Thursday 6 March 2014
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