Samuel Maddox, MDes ULE 2019

Summer 2018

Organization: Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY

Sponsor: Harvard Club of New York Fellowship


“A summer internship with the Cooper Hewitt offer has offered many great opportunities—from helping shape upcoming exhibitions, to touring artists’ studios, to the weekly music and cocktails in the Carnegie Mansion’s garden. However, one of the opportunities I’d most looked forward to but had yet to seize was the chance to interview a design professional of my choosing. Well, last week, after pursuing several options, the cards finally fell into place, and I got the chance to sit down with actLAB’s James Carse, an architect, planner, professor, and GSD alum. We met several weeks ago when he and the team from actLAB came to lead an architectural design workshop on pneumatic structures for our high school campers. As a hopeful design-educator-to-be, I couldn’t resist joining in.

James was kind enough to meet me for coffee after I expressed interest in his work with actLAB as a principle as well as his teaching experience at Tulane and Columbia. Over coffee in a historic side-chapel-turned-restaurant near the museum, James and I discussed the socially-responsible work he and Aya Maceda, founder and co-principal of actLAB, actively pursue and facilitate through their practice. Their approach, distinct from others’ I have spoken with, is not one dedicated to pro bono work or dependent on a nonprofit status. Instead, James and the team deftly identify opportunities for clients to very easily give just a little back—spatially or programmatically—to the community, often in a mutually beneficial way. The insights James graciously shared with me, both in regard to this work and his pathway into academia and education, have continued to resonate with me ever since we met as I think of what my future might look like after graduating from the GSD in the spring.”