Norman Kelley

The Architectural League Prize 2014
Norman Kelley
Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman


Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman founded the Brooklyn- and Chicago-based design collaborative Norman Kelley in 2012. Through their work Kelley and Norman seek to “vulgarize, satirize, and reposition (lofty) material to elevate the ordinary.” Recent projects include Wrong Chairs, in which they “purposefully disrupt the notion of ‘correctness’” with stylized abstractions of the iconic Windsor Chair, and Shape Shape Evolution, an interior playhouse for the Early Learning Play Foundation in Chicago.

Norman Kelley is one of the winners of the 2014 Architectural League Prize, one of North America’s most prestigious awards for young architects and designers. The prize, established in 1981, recognizes exemplary and provocative work by young practitioners and provides a public forum — through lectures, an exhibition, and a catalogue — for the exchange of their ideas.

In the interview above, Norman and Kelley describe their practice as applying a new layer of interpretation to provide a more subtle reading of the familiar, influenced by magic shows and the paraprosdokian, a figure of speech commonly used in satire. With a literal interpretation of the theme of Overlay, Norman and Kelley draw on the gallery wall a 1960s photograph of Marcel Breuer in front of a window at the Whitney Museum — overlaying one gallery experience with another. Toying with the illusion that the “window” is casting light on their Wrong Chairs, they create a game to bring the audience in and inspire “close looking.”


Thomas Kelley and Carrie Norman, Norman Kelley, League Prize 2014, complete lecture video | Recorded June 26, 2014 

In their League Prize lecture, Norman and Kelley describe their aspiration to “elevate the ordinary,” alternating between the conventional and the hysterical. The two present six recent projects: Rubin’s Barrel, a tequila barrel converted into a sculpture with a visual game; N.A.W.T. Balloons, an entry for the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative competition using floating sculpture for clean energy generation; Shape Shape Evolution; Wrong Chairs; wall drawings at the American Academy in Rome that create optical illusion; and the Overlay exhibition.

Click the image to launch a slideshow of work by Norman Kelley.

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Thomas Kelley received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture with Honors from the University of Virginia and a Master in Architecture from Princeton University. He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the James R. Lamantia, Jr. Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. Carrie Norman also received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture with Honors from the University of Virginia and a Master in Architecture from Princeton University. She is presently a design associate with SHoP Architects.

The Architectural League Prize, established in 1981, recognizes exemplary and provocative work by young practitioners and provides a public forum for the exchange of their ideas.

Visit the 2014 League Prize feature for more information about this year’s winners, the theme of Overlay, and photos of the exhibition installation. See the complete list of past winners here.

Wrong Chairs Exhibition | photo courtesy of Norman Kelley

Detail, Rod-Back Side Chair | photo courtesy of Volume Gallery

Detail, Step-Down Armchair | photo courtesy of Volume Gallery

Mixed Media Plan, Wrong Chairs | courtesy of Norman Kelley

Shape Shape Evolution, Playhouse for the Early Learning Foundation | photo courtesy of Norman Kelley

Rubin’s Barrel | photo courtesy of Norman Kelley

Lincoln Log Cabin, Exploded Elevation | photo courtesy of Norman Kelley

Mixed Media Elevation, NAWT (Normal-Axis Wind Turbine) Balloons | Courtesy of Norman Kelley

The Allegorist, A Palace in Axonometric View with a Local Vanishing Point | courtesy of Norman Kelley