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Michael Kalil oral history project

Identifier: PC-07-01-05


The Michael Kalil Oral History Project consists of audio interviews with colleagues, collaborators, and friends of interior designer Michael Kalil (1943-1991). Jean Gardner, Karyn Issa Ginsberg, and Marty Speigel discuss Kalil's education, career, and ideas with project archivist Jennifer Larson. Kalil's work—incorporating diverse principles of architecture and philosophy—was considered by many to be revolutionary in the 1970s and 1980s.


  • 2011



0.1 Gigabytes (13 digital audio files; 05:326:46 duration; 4 PDF transcripts )

Scope and Content of Collection

This oral history project was conducted to serve as a corollary to the Michael Kalil papers in the New School Archives. The interviewees were friends and associates of designer Michael Kalil. While organizing and describing the papers of Michael Kalil, which the interviewees donated to the New School Archives in 2010, project archivist Jennifer Larson compiled lists of questions and topics of possible interest to researchers that are not fully explicated by documentation in the collection. Larson began processing the Kalil papers in September of 2010 and conducted all interviews between March and June of 2011 on the campus of Parsons The New School for Design.

Language of Materials

All recordings and associated transcripts are in English.

Access Restrictions

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

Use Restrictions

To publish or post in any public form all or part of any recording or transcription from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical Note

Participant biographies

Jean Gardner
Jean Gardner is an activist, writer, teacher, and consultant on sustainable design issues. She began teaching in the Department of Interior Design at Parsons in 1968 and has taught at the school over almost all of the intervening years. In 2016, she is an associate professor of social-ecological history and design in Parsons' School of Constructed Environments. Gardner is author of Urban Wilderness: Nature In New York City (1988) and co-author, with Brian McGrath, of Cinemetrics: Architectural Drawing Today (2007). She received an AIA Committee on the Environment Award for her teaching and a special citation from the New York City Chapter of the AIA for her work as an urban ecologist, author, and educator in both the architectural field and in the public realm. Gardner was part of a team led by David Rockwell to commemorate 9/11. The group exhibited their project, "The Hall of Risk," a participatory center for conflict resolution, at the 2002 Venice Biennale. Gardner's current research focuses on design pedagogy and its relationship to the creation of present ecological problems, such as climate change. She has served on the jury of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, as well as organizing a conference on Water and Hydro-Fracking with the Baum Forum.
Karen Issa Ginsberg
Karyn Issa Ginsberg was born and raised in Montreal Quebec and received a BS in Education from the University of Vermont. After teaching in Montreal for several years, she returned to school and graduated from Lesley College with a Masters in the Expressive Therapies. Ginsberg is grateful to have become designer Michael Kalil’s first studio assistant. She worked closely with Kalil from 1979-1983, assisting on all aspects of residential design projects. Their friendship continued until Kalil’s death in 1991. In 1992, Marty Speigel, Jean Gardner and Ginsberg created The Michael Kalil Endowment for Smart Design. The endowment awards grants to students and architects whose work corresponds to Kalil’s principles and philosophies. For a number of years Ginsberg was on the selection committee to select recipients of the Kalil award. Ginsberg’s career in design continued with personal residential projects. She later developed an interest in photography, and her focus as of this writing is in the synchronicity of landscape and architecture. Her work is held in a number of private collections. In addition to her photography, Ginsberg has recently developed an interest in ceramics. Along with her involvement with the Kalil Endowment, Ginsberg is involved in several other philanthropic organizations.
Jennifer Larson
Jennifer (Jen) Larson is an archivist who worked as an archivist for the Kellen Design Archives of the New School Archives and Special Collections. Larson received a BFA in fine and applied arts from the Cooper Union in 1991 prior to studying design and cultural history at the Bard Graduate Center and library and information science at the Pratt Institute. Since 2003, Larson has worked in the fields of archival and collections managment with several cultural institutions in New York City, including the New-York Historical Society, the New York Transit Museum, and the Center for Book Arts. Formerly a visual resources manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2016, Larson began work as an archivist at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
Marty Spiegel
Born in Chicago in 1948, Marty Spiegel traveled throughout the U.S., South America, and Europe as a child. He studied Forestry, Education and Design at Marlboro College in 1966, and during the Vietnam War was granted Conscientious Objector status, performing alternate service from 1969-72 as a teacher for Project Learn's Parkway program in Philadelphia. In 1973, Spiegel moved to New York City to study Environmental Design at Parsons. He earned his BFA in 1976.At Parsons, Spiegel formed a web of friendships, connections and partnerships that would sustain his creative and professional life for more than a decade after he graduated. Parsons professor Jean McClintock connected him with projects around New York City, including Betsy Barlow's Central Park Conservancy and a traffic-flow project with Fred Kent, who later founded Project for Public Spaces. In 1980, after four years at Solar-En Corporation designing and installing solar energy systems, he joined his former Parsons instructor, Archie Kaplan, at Environment Planning, Inc. From 1984-1986, Spiegel ran a consulting business and worked on a wide variety of projects, including the design of a N.A.S.A. space station with Michael Kalil, who he'd first met through his Parsons network.From 1986-93, Spiegel and fellow-Parsons graduate Joey Horton were partners in a design firm.In 1993, Spiegel moved to Seattle and opened a hardware business that he has been running since then, while sustaining an engagement with community planning and maintaining an abiding interest in design education and practice.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The New School Archives commissioned the interviews, which were made using the Archives' equipment.

Existence and Location of Copies

Original WAV recordings have been converted to MP3 files for patron access. The New School Archives and Special Collections also commissioned transcripts for each interview and offers them as PDF files for research use.

Related Materials

The Michael Kalil oral history project grew out of the processing of the Michael Kalil papers (KA.0119.01) in the New School Archives. Many of the questions covered in the interviews directly pertain to the papers, which are open and available for research consultation.

Guide to the Michael Kalil oral history project
Jennifer Larson and New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
August 24, 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description