Architect Marlon Blackwell lectures on ‘unholy unions’ in design


Practicing architect and professor at the University of Arkansas, Marlon Blackwell presented a lecture about abstraction in a landscape of unholy unions as part of the Oscar S. Ekdahl Distinguished Lecture series in the College of Architecture and Design on Wednesday.

“I am working from a very simple conviction that architecture is larger than the subject of architecture,” said Blackwell. “What we try to do is look at the world with a wide-angle microscopic lens, in which we generate ideas and actions from our engagement with the everyday.”

During the lecture, Blackwell spoke about several of his projects, which are mostly in or near Arkansas and are often based on the contradictions of place. His work includes the Crystal Bridges Museum Store, the Shelby Farms Park restaurant and the expansion of the University of Arkansas’ Community Design Center

Another project Blackwell designed was a pediatric clinic that Blackwell said utilized features of the agricultural landscape and the suburban landscape together to create what he calls an “unholy union.”

“It, almost in a subtle way, begins to critique the rest of what’s around and begins to say well, here’s another way to look at it,” Blackwell said.

Tim de Noble, dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, who taught with Blackwell for 14 years, said Blackwell has honed his skills as an architect by being receptive to his students, sometimes pulling examples from his own work to discuss with them.

“One of the really great ways you enhance your students’ education and your faculty’s knowledge is to bring in superb practitioners like Marlon Blackwell to present their work,” de Noble said.

Jason Jirele, graduate student in architecture, said the Ekdal series provides students with diverse perspectives and inspires students soon entering the profession. He said hearing from architects working in different cities with varying budgets is valuable insight for students.

“It’s just good to hear these different viewpoints of how to create good architecture in such different settings,” Jirele said.