Kazys Varnelis is a synthesist, identifying as an historian, maker of architecture, and artist.
Varnelis holds a PhD in the History of Architecture and Urban Development from Cornell University. He is Director of the Network Architecture Lab and co-founder of AUDC, entities that are both think tanks and practices, conducting research, producing publications, and exhibitions. With AUDC he has published Blue Monday: Absurd Realities and Natural Histories (2007) and exhibited at High Desert Test Sites and other venues. With the Network Architecture Lab, he has edited the Infrastructural City. Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles and Networked Publics (both in 2008) and exhibited at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania as well as the New Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Born in Chicago in 1967, he is the son of noted Lithuanian geometric abstractionist en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KazysVarnelis(artist text: Kazys Varnelis) [1917-2010] and grandson of Kazys Varnelis, the Samogitian folk artist [1867-1945]. In 2017 he curated and design "Optics and Structure," a major retrospective of the paintings and sculptures his father did in Chicago at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius. Moving to the Berkshires, he encountered Fluxus, meeting George Maciunas and getting to know the movement through his mother's close friend, Fluxus collector Jean Brown. In high school he turned his attention to computation, producing software for the Commodore VIC-20. After studying social sciences and economics at Simon's Rock College, he received his Ph.D. in the History of Architecture and Urban Development from Cornell University in 1994, where he completed his dissertation on the role of the spectacle in the production of form and persona in the architecture of the 1970s. Along the way, he attended the graduate architecture prior at Columbia University and, feeling he had achieved what he came for, dropped out after the first weekend. In the era before computers in the studio, architecture was still too slow a medium for ideas.
From 1996 to 2003 he taught at the Southern California Institute of Architecture where he was coordinator of the program in the History and Theory of Architecture and Cities. In 2004 he became a founding member of the faculty of the School of Architecture at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where he also served as coordinator for History-Theory of Architecture until 2008. He continues to teach there. From 2006 to 2015 he ran the Network Architecture Lab and taught at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. He has also taught in the Environmental Design program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, the Public Art Studies program at the University of Southern California, the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2004, he was awarded a year-long appointment as senior researcher at the Annenberg Center for Communications at the University of Southern California where he examined the impact of telecommunications and digital technology on urbanism and architecture and directed "Networked Publics" a team of thirteen scholars looking at how new and maturing networking technologies are reconfiguring the ways by which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us. The result was the book Networked Publics.
He has lectured internationally at schools such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, UCLA, TU-Delft, the IUAV and at venues such as the Frieze Art Fair in London, Transmediale in Berlin, the Digital Life Design Conference in Munich, the Architectural League of New York, the Van Alen Institute, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Open Society Fund, Taliesin-West, and the Philip Johnson Glass House. Varnelis has published in journals such as A+U, Praxis, Log, Perspecta, Volume, Cabinet and has served on the boards of numerous scholarly journals such as Thresholds, the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of Architecture and Urbanism and Kultūros Barai. He was media review editor for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. As former President of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, he received the Educator of the Year Award from the Los Angeles Institute of the American Institute of Architects. He served on the national board of DOCOMOMO-US from 2004 to 2012.
He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, a short walk from the Crystal Land.