• Inside the Matrix: The Radical Designs of Ken Isaacs
    Susan Snodgrass
    Half Letter Press, 2019
    Susan Snodgrass

Ken Isaacs, 8’ Microhouses, ca. 1972. Courtesy of the Estate of Ken Isaacs.

Inside the Matrix: The Radical Designs of Ken Isaacs surveys the highly individual practice of American architect and designer Ken Isaacs (1927–2016), whose populist, DIY designs of the late 1950–70s challenged conventional architectural concepts in housing as well as mainstream definitions of modernism. Author Susan Snodgrass explores Isaacs’s idea of the “matrix,” or “total environment,” a three-dimensional grid system that formed the central concept and building component of all of his work, including his Living Structures, Microhouses, and Alpha Chambers. These three main bodies of work are the subject of this review, which offers an in-depth view of Isaacs’s innovative design practice while connecting it to other lineages of alternative architecture. Inside the Matrix responds to a growing interest in Isaacs’s progressive, environmental designs that despite their continued impact on contemporary architecture have remained relatively underexplored.

Susan Snodgrass is a Chicago-based critic and editor. Much of her writing is devoted to alternative models of critical practice and artmaking, whether exploring new genres of public art or contemporary art in former Eastern Europe. She is a 2018 recipient of a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her blog, In/Site: Reflections on the Art of Place, which explores art, architecture, and urbanism. She has written for both print and online publications for over thirty years, most notably for Art in America where she was a corresponding editor, and ARTMargins Online, devoted to contemporary on the global margins, for which she is coeditor. She has contributed articles to numerous other periodicals, including most recently Textile: Cloth and Culture and THE SEEN. Her current curatorial projects focus on the architecture of Ken Isaacs.