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John Rhett Russo is a designer, educator and a maker of objects. He currently serves as the Undergraduate Chair in Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Rhett Russo’s design practice explores ambiguous processes of material formations from grains, slabs, sheets, slips, semi-plastic mediums and other matter with cryptic behaviors. Things that appear cryptic, cannot be faithfully represented, repeated or reproduced. Learning how these processes participate in design and fabrication of objects is part of gaining access to new territories for architecture that are often dormant, or inaccessible to normalized productions. By developing architectural assemblies informed by the specific properties of ceramics and traits encrypted through technology, Rhett explores ways that the peculiar nature of objects initiate new workflows and realities.

Russo’s design work ranges in scale from architecture, design, furniture, drawing and sculpture. His research with ceramics has been supported through grants from The New York State Council for the Arts, the Renssalaer Brown’s Traveling Fellowship and the European Ceramic Workcenter (EKWC), where he has participated in several residences experimenting with various aspects of the ceramic process, most notably with the Heap Tiles that are made from granular porcelain that is sintered. This work was presented at the Gyeonggi Ceramics Biennale, the Beijing Architecture Biennial and the Idea Exchange at the University of Waterloo. The press molded designs for the T-Stool have been exhibited internationally at various exhibitions that include, Object Rotterdam, The Cluj International Ceramics Biennale and the San Francisco Museum of Arts and Crafts. Rhett’s most recent pursuit at the EKWC is focused on integrating light, sound and sensing technology into a series of objects titled Dunejars.

Rhett Russo is the recipient of numerous design awards including: The Young Architect’s Award from the Architectural League of New York, and the Van Alen Institute Dinkeloo Fellowship at The American Academy in Rome where he studied the works of Giovanni Michelucci and Pier Luigi Nervi. Russo’s writings on design and architecture have been published in various publications including: AD Workflow (Wiley), XXL-XS New Directions in Ecological Design (Actar D), The Estranged Object (Graham Foundation), Via: Dirt (MIT Press), Meander: Variegating Architecture (Bentley), Matter: Material Processes in Architectural Production (Routledge), and 306090: Models (Princeton Architectural Press).

Rhett Russo received his Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M University and a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation where he was awarded the Mckim Award for Excellence in Design and he was a recipient of the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Fellowship in Architecture.

Rhett Russo’s professional experience has included working and collaborating on many high profile international competitions and urban design projects, such as the Museum of Modern Art competition, with Bernard Tschumi Architects, the redesign for the World Trade Center with RUR Architecture PC & United Architects, the Taekwondo Park with Weiss Manfredi Architects, as well as numerous public buildings, residences and interiors as a project manager in the office of Hanrahan & Meyers Architects and Deborah Reiser (RUR Architecture). Rhett was a Director and a Design Partner in a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary practice Specific Objects Inc. from 1998-2017.