Salon | Paola Antonelli, “Hybrid: The Space in Between”

We are living in a time of unprecedented—and often gleeful—contaminations. Disciplinary boundaries are fluid, schools and workspheres are transdisciplinary, and cross-sector collaborations are commonplace. On a macro level, organizational hybridity has connected what were formerly silos of knowledge and expertise, creating inclusive and innovative ecosystems.

On a micro level, disciplinary misfits are allowed to straddle multiple fields to capitalize on their unique ways of synthesizing knowledge. Neologisms have been coined with abandon to describe these “T-shaped” or “horizontal” individuals—the so-called “slash generation.” What distinguishes this contemporary legion of hybrids from polymaths, generalists, passionate amateurs, and career jugglers is their ability to embrace the liminal space between professions and disciplines.

This salon will explore the sensibilities, motives, and conditions that drive individuals and companies to hybridity in states of being, working, producing, and thinking.

We will ask: What is a culture of hybridity, exactly? What drives individuals to eschew neat compartmentalization to embrace disciplinary affinity? When is that approach welcome and appropriate—and where is the line between horizontal and shallow?

In other words, does hybridity come at the expense of expertise? Does it come from an urgent desire to try it all? Or—as implied by the all too frequent conflation of hybrids with the millennial spirit—does it imply a hedging of bets in the face of new forms of work with uncertain demands?

The evening will commence with a brief introduction by Paola Antonelli, followed by presentations by—here in alphabetical order:
Elijah Anderson, William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology, Yale University
Eric de Broche des Combes, architect and graphic designer, lecturer in landscape architecture
Alexa Clay, researcher, author of The Misfit Economy
Jane Fulton Suri, partner and chief creative officer, IDEO

With these hybrid champions and hybridity experts, we will ponder whether an ambiguous stance can be a deliberate critique of existing social practices. We will consider how a mixed and ambivalent approach might be beneficial to deal with urgent developments, not only in the world of designing and making but also in relation to social unrest, economic imbalance, climate change, and geopolitical ruptures.

This event continues the series of salons that have been organized by Paola Antonelli as a key part of the MoMA R&D initiative, exploring the function, potential, and responsibility of museums as public actors. More information about these past events can be found here. In an analogous spirit, the salon at Harvard GSD aims at positioning the academic institution—like the museum—as a social innovator agitating for meaningful developments across disciplines and cultures.

Conceived and convened by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture of Design and Director of R&D at MoMA, in collaboration with Paula Petkova, Research Assistant at MoMA R&D and Shantel Blakely, Public Programs Manager at Harvard GSD.

Supported by the Rouse Visiting Artist Fund.

Image credit: works by artist Liu Xue

For accessibility accommodations, please contact the events office in advance at [email protected] or (617) 496-2414.


Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].