Karl Hakken

Karl Hakken

Chicago, IL, US



If architecture is really the practice of generalism, I ought to be its poster boy. Currently, I teach the history of Architecture and Anthropology at Harrington College of Design, and Sculpture at SAIC. I lead seminars and advise theses on topics that belong to the loose conglomeration of interests that Richard Bucannan and Victor Margolin have termed design studies. I have also taught Computer Science and Digital Media, Medicine, Finance, and a few other things. I round these academic pursuits out with a vigorous creative practice that uses ethnographic methods of discovery coupled with creative (and frequently technology enhanced) methods of expression.

My visual arts practice engages the equipment of insider and outsider practices, especially the relationship between individual lives and the arbitrariness of statistical and medical worldviews. I combine ethnographic investigatory methods and architectural techniques of discovery to make work that is sculptural in presentation but transdisciplinary in subject.

My early professional practice focused on the programming of  visual database technology. I developed what I still believe is the first visual database to replace a slide library. Subsequent technology work focused on similar new media translation and cataloging projects, ranging from study guides and enrollment systems to surgical training environments and full-blown online universities.

I have been sporadically engaged by the whitewashing of classical civilization – which I think of as the visual dimension of the enlightenment. I engaged the idea as a humanities graduate student both with the usual research and write strategy, but also by supporting some open source software projects trying to build visualizations of some of the great monuments of antiquity – in full color. Most recently, I have been making “reproductions” of classical sculpture (primarily in aluminum).

My interest in Sustainability theory engages logics by which technological and material strata inform cultural practices. What initially captured my anthropological attention was a paradoxical belief – that technology can fix the problems that technology makes. As I began deeper investigation, other rungs of analysis – especially the aesthetic, cultural, and the ethical – revealed themselves as clear substantive issues for designers. Unlike many sustainable architecture practices which focus on either technoscientific models of intervention (avoiding considering the consequences of a techno-fetishist ethic) or political methods (avoiding the materialist problems), I attempt to work in the middle ranges between the two.


Harrington College of Design, Faculty

Faculty of Critical Studies. Courses in the History of Architecture (upper division and grad), Anthropology, Urban Sociology, Communication and Technology Studies, Philosophy, Sustainability Studies.

Dec 2006 - current

The University of Chicago, Research Assistant

The only way to get a real eduction in theory is to start by fetching coffee for someone really important and work your way up to writing their manuscripts.

Aug 2002 - Aug 2006

Cultural Practices, Principal

Aug 2002 - Jun 2006

The University of Chicago, Faculty Technology Manager

Jan 2004 - Dec 2004

UNext, Learning Architect

like an information architect, but specialized in learning.

Jul 2000 - Mar 2003

The University of Chicago, Information Architect

Oct 1998 - Jul 2000

Intermuseum Conservation Association, Conservation Assistant

Aug 1996 - Sep 1998


Jun 2006 - May 2009

Archeworks, Socially Responsible Design

Aug 2005 - May 2006

The University of Chicago, Masters, Humanities, Anthropology, Sociology

Aug 1998 - May 2004

Oberlin College, Bachelors, Archeology, Visual Arts

Aug 1993 - May 1996

Areas of Specialization 

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