Skip to main content

Joseph Marcella student work

Identifier: KA-0123


The collection consists of student work and records created or received by Joseph Marcella while studying in the Design Correlations Department (now Product Design) of Parsons School of Design from 1968 to 1970. In addition to project files for portable structures, underwater and outer space habitations, and a one-piece plastic chair, the collection includes materials documenting the first Earth Day observances at Parsons.


  • 1968-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1968-1970



0.4 Cubic Feet (1 box, 7 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents of Collection

The collection includes design drawings and sketches, photographs, screen prints, school assignments in the form of hand-outs and lecture notes, and a notebook Joseph Marcella created while attending Parsons School of Design. A theme running throughout Marcella's student work is his interest in exploring options for shelter in inhospitable environments, and a reduction in ecological harm through thoughtful design.

The General folder includes a copy of Marcella's admissions essay for CalArts, in which he provides information about his educational background and interests. The essay is useful for understanding the types of records associated with the projects in the collection, as he describes the exercises and methodologies used to investigate each design problem, such as SCAN ("Speculative Calculative Assimilation Network") drawings and wordplay associations ("Synection Sessions").

Project documentation in the collection includes an inhabitation for the Apollo space station, a "four-legged, one-piece fiberglass shell" stackable chair, an inflatable underwater habitat, and a portable recreational shelter consisting of reflective panels, which Marcella deemed a "M.E.S.S." (Modular Environmental Structural System).

M.E.S.S. documentation includes photographs of small-scale models and a full-size fiberglass prototype in various states of construction, templates for the model, and a press kit for an industry-sponsored design conference to which Marcella was invited. The press kit features a designer's statement in which Marcella notes that one of his aims is to reduce visual pollution and humankind's overall impact upon the environment.

Earth Day materials consist of photographs (black and white prints and color slides), press releases, and screen printed posters advertising teach-ins by Daniel Gildesgame, Stewart Brand, Immanuel Velikovsky, and D. W. (Dery) Bennett, and planning documents, including a letter from Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Documentation also includes a floor-by-floor layout of Parsons' facilities on East 54th Street. The school re-located to 66 Fifth Avenue in 1972, shortly after Marcella's graduation.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

Joseph J. Marcella graduated with honors from Parsons School of Design’s Design Correlations Department (formerly Industrial Design and now known as Product Design) in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He studied with department chair William Katavalos, and, while still in school, designed and created a prototype of a one-piece, foam-injected plastic chair that is ubiquitous today.

In addition to his coursework, in 1970 Marcella was instrumental in organizing Parsons' participation in the first Earth Day. With funding provided by the Parsons Student Council, Marcella and fellow Design Correlations student Michael Rosenthal recruited internationally-known speakers to campus and convinced the school administration to cancel classes so that students could participate in teach-ins and a macrobiotic meal.

After his studies at Parsons, Marcella attended the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where he focused his creativity on photography. Since his years of formal education, Marcella has worked in construction, historical restoration, and farming. He currently resides in Westchester, New York.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged primarily alphabetically according to format.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Joseph Marcella, 2011.

Existence and Location of Copies

The New School Archives holds photographic documentation of a wire prototype of Marcella's FRP chair. Original model, measuring 7" high x 5 1/2" wide x 3 3/4 " deep, returned to donor. Images may be furnished to researchers upon request.

Guide to the Joseph Marcella student work
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
May 5, 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description