Associate Professor of Architecture
Director : Master of Science in Design and Health
Taubman College : University of Michigan
2000 Bonisteel Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2069 USA
Director : University of Michigan Initiative on Disability Studies
Associate Professor of Art & Design : Stamps School of Art and Design : University of Michigan
Faculty Associate : Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies : University of Michigan
Studio: Taubman College Liberty Research Annex
305 West Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 USA
Co-Founder and Faculty : B.A.S.E.
Beijing Architecture Studio Enterprise
241-6 Cao Chang Di, Cui Ge Zhuang, Chaoyang District
Beijing, P.R. CHINA
USA Mobile +1 734 709 3874
China Mobile +86 137-1773-3973
WECHAT robertapoa : SKYPE robertapoa
Robert Adams is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Professor Adams is a designer who makes things that seek to transform how we engage the physical world. His work has primarily taken the form of installations and exhibits in which artifacts, constructed apparatuses, and architectural spaces are used to reveal and interrogate the social, political and experiential aspects of the public realm.
His contributions start with issues of construction highlighting those things that are “made” tell stories and reveal relationships between systems, civic infrastructure, and urbanization. China has been a venue for those interests as he explored the effects of rapid urbanization and material culture at the intersection of urban infrastructure, institutional formation and disability concerns.
In recent years, Robert has built a powerful commentary on disability as a design consideration and is a leader in getting the field of architecture to think differently, to learn from difference, and to transcend from just implementing compliance-based, minimum standards to something much more creative and inclusive. Professor Adams’ work in both of his focus areas has been recognized in the form of numerous grants, exhibitions, articles and design publications. In all of his research, he has used critical concepts and innovative design approaches to examine social bias in the built environment.
With degrees from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota and the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles, California, Adams came to Taubman College in 2003 and was recruited from professional practice. He has previously taught at Southern California Institute of Architecture, the Otis College of Art and Design, and the University of Minnesota.
Professionally Adams has worked for Studio Works, and on the Getty Center with Richard Meier and Partners both in Los Angeles. In 1996 Dawn Gilpin, who also teaches at Taubman College, and Adams founded their design practice in Los Angeles. Adams+Gilpin have worked on a range of projects and creative endeavors, the most recent of which includes collaborative work with the actor Helga Davis and designer Celeste Adams on an opera called Cassandra that will debut in New York in 2014. Currently, Adams+Gilpin are based out of a mid-American strip mall between Anytime Fitness, Kmart and the Secretary of State in Ann Arbor, MI.
A primary objective of my research on disability culture is to develop civil infrastructures and adaptive architectures to advance more detectable and responsive environments. My research focuses specifically on the cooperation between individuals with physical impairments and the constructed environment, which is composed of technological, operational, and social complexities. Currently, a profound disconnect exists between advancements in environmental accessibility and in assistive technologies for people with physical disabilities. My research is positioned in this gap, and is developing new terms of exchange between the two. The work resides between two technological scales—environmental and human—to address the limitations and extents of each and ultimately promote more responsive, sentient civic spaces.
My practice is a compendium of experiments in material culture. Material culture, an informal term that the social sciences have claimed, describes relationships among artifacts, materials, objects, and their corresponding social dependencies. Within a material culture framework tailored to architecture, my research focuses on compositional dynamics; that is, the complex ways actors and forms interact. These terms embody fundamental attributes of architecture such as program, site, structure, assembly, perception, and the instruments used to translate concepts into things. Drawing on Bruno Latour’s actor network theory and Giorgio Agamben’s work on the apparatus, I understand architecture as a malleable, time-based substance that mitigates diverse cultural practices. Should the vitality and frequency of these practices flatten or be obliterated; architecture’s durability will be compromised. Given this, the intellectual drive behind my practice examines the efficacy of architecture as a material practice in a cultural context along two parallel trajectories: China’s high-speed urbanization and the civic amplitude of disability culture.
Adams' scholarship takes the form of exhibitions and publications.
2018 “Disability Aesthetics After Tobin Siebers.”  in Cynthia Wu. Editor. Art/Sex/Identity: The Work of Tobin Siebers and Disability Studies.
[Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press]. Forthcoming 2018.
2017 “We Are Chromo sapiens: Cánjí rén > Cánjí Cheng Shì > Cánjí Jiànzhú - Disabled Person, Disabled City, Disabled Architecture.”
 in H. Koon Wee. Editor. The Social Imperative: Architecture and the City in China. [Barcelona: Actar Publishers, AA Asia].
2016 “Non-Identical Twins and Spatial Splinters.”  in Tong Ming. Editor. Contemporary Chinese Urban Design Reader.
[Shanghai: China Architecture & Building Press]: 180-188.
The Asclepius Machine. Wurster Hall Gallery, University of California—Berkeley. Berkeley, CA. Invited solo exhibition of work. 2011.
“The Asclepius Machine: A Dossier of Spatial Pathographies,” in Alberto Perez-Gomez, Anne Cormier, and Annie Pedret, eds. Where do you stand? Associate of Collegiate Schools of Architecture 99th Annual Meeting. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 2011.
“Non-Identical Twins and Spatial Splinters,”  in Jianfei Zhu, ed., Chen Li, trans. Time + Architecture. Western Scholars on China: Architecture and Urbanism in China as a Critical Problem in a Global Debate, Vol. 4., [Shanghai]: 40-47. 2010.