Micheal McCabe is an architecture graduate creating furniture, installations and public art work. For his thesis, Micheal explored the relationship between queer identity, nightclubs and politics of homonormativity. We meet Micheal in his workroom to discuss sustainability in the built environment and queer identities in architecture.
Story photographed by Greta Van Der Star.
How would you describe your design style?
Something I say to my students is "make sure you are having fun designing", for me that is about being playful and doing things that aren't very architecturally traditional. For me this always gets expressed in a deep fascination with building but through a distorted language that has a childish sense of technicality, think Mecano made large or wobbly cut out coloured card turned into a reclaimed rimu inlayed piece of formwork ply.
How does your identity feature in your work?
Up until my thesis my identity in so far as relating to me as a queer person of colour hadn't really featured at all. Although some of my late teen angst probably spilled into my early university work if I'm honest. My thesis was concerned with queer spaces in architecture working in and around the nightclub as the vehicle which I channeled my practice through. When I placed my identity and self within this body of work it was a constant challenge of how I consider my identity and in a lot of ways the research was a continual privilege check. I had become more aware of the safety of the academic institution I occupied, of me being cis, of me being a model minority. It became more about understanding the divergence and complicated specificity of queer bodies placed at greater risk within architecture and how this research could support or facilitate future research.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Going through an architectural education I think you become aware with how exhaustive practices that engage with the built environment are. Sustainability is really something that can change that. It provides a framework to shift the way we consider how and what we make. One that connects us to the ways we can replenish our environment, precarious communities, and our workplaces. It is also about how I sustain myself by taking care of my health, my relationships and leaving enough time to enjoy life.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge in designing sustainably?
The biggest challenge is taking the time to remind yourself to be sustainable and in that moment to acknowledge the complexity of sustainability as an intersectional practice that encompasses the social, the economic, and the environmental. That being said it can sometimes feel like something so vast but it is a framework that has to be continually practiced and sustained across time.
How do you express kindness everyday?
By taking the time to be generous with people and engage them on their interests, their problems, and passions.
What was the last kind thing someone did/said to you?
My dad's partner just gave me her old sewing machine. It’s this beautiful small compact one that has these delicate claps that when you press the sides these metals flaps unfold revealing small compartments that store the peddle, machine brush, bobbins and sewing feet. It’s an amazing design object, but more so, I'd been borrowing one every now and again but now it is another tool I can use to make.
How would you give the world kindness?
For me, I think it is about an everyday practice of empathy and a continued generosity to the people around you, and to be more understanding of their own specific lived experiences. More immediately, I think that starts with the people around me; to call my mum more, to speed up my morning shower, to listen to friends. In my practice, it’s about creating work that is conscious of the ways it can impact socially, environmentally, and culturally.
Who or what inspires you?
When people uplift and support their communities.
What is the ultimate goal you want to achieve in your work?
For my work, to bring joy to the people I'm lucky enough to create work for.