Ife Vanable

Visiting Professor II

Ife Vanable is a designer, theorist, and historian trained as an architect. Ife holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a post-professional Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University, where she was awarded the History and Theory Prize. Ife has also studied at the Architectural Association in London and the University College of Lands and Architectural Studies (now Ardhi University) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After over ten years working as a designer in New York based architecture firms, including Raphael Viñoly Architects, Ife returned to academia in 2016 as a PhD candidate in architectural history and theory at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Ife’s scholarly work explores questions at the intersection of architectural design, law, and public policy—including zoning, city planning, land use agreements, eminent domain, tax abatement, deficit subsidy, guaranteed returns, among other strategies—enacted by local municipalities for the private development of low-moderate income housing. Ife’s focus is publicly funded and incentivized, though privately developed and managed high-rise residential towers erected in New York, particularly in the 1970s, under the 1955 Limited Profit Housing Companies Law, known as Mitchell-Lama. Ife’s work seeks to unearth complex and seemingly banal relationships between the design of multi-family housing, municipal government machinations for its development, conceptions of racial difference, geography, design, finance, program, and family composition. Ife is especially interested in black bodies and dwelling in tall buildings (as an analysis of type)—including varied sanctioned, unauthorized, ingenious, pleasurable, and particularly quotidian forms of occupancy—the performance of domesticity and respectability, and the politics and aesthetics of the making of home. Ife is also founder and leader of I VAN ABLE, a New York based design workshop and think tank. Through writing, works of art, architecture, design, and narrative, I VAN ABLE produces theoretical, speculative, and physical interventions that put forth uncommon and seemingly incompatible scenarios of use, programmatic organization and occupation that defy prevailing notions of type, taste and form. This work has been supported by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and recognized by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Ife’s writing has been published in Avery Review and she is co-editor of the forthcoming volume Black Production and the Space of the University to be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City.

View Ife Vanable's full CV here.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.