After 25 years as a successful architect in three countries, Carol Mancke can still point to the MIT experience that steered her toward the visual arts. She was inspired by the creativity of a Center for Advanced Visual Arts stunt that involved handing out hundreds of hand-shaped popsicles, made by filling latex gloves with juice, at a football game.
MIT gave her the courage to explore multiple fields, says Mancke, who majored in urban studies and planning. Over her career she has taught at five universities, participated in 13 art exhibitions, and worked on nearly 40 building designs, including a terminal at Japan’s Sendai International Airport.
“I felt there was a basic attitude there that the students were intelligent, creative, and could be trusted,” she says.
On campus, Mancke enjoyed participating in the swim team and performing with an improvisational dance troupe, but she spent much of her time taking studio courses in architecture design. “Especially within an environment like MIT, which can be very science-oriented, the fact that there was this other thing going on, a quite wacky thing, was always interesting to me,” she says.
After MIT, she studied urban landscape design as a visiting graduate student at Osaka Prefecture University in the late 1970s and earned a master’s in architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984. A registered architect in the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom, she has worked for firms in San Francisco, Tokyo, and London. Since 2004, she has taught at Kingston University, London, and maintained her own art and architecture practice, Machina Loci.
In 2010, Mancke held her first solo exhibition, at the A.P.T. Gallery in London. It included “Safe and Healthy Art,” an installation exploring regulations and risk—concepts she has encountered throughout her architectural career. She hoped her art would provoke reflection on how people try to protect themselves and how the insurance industry profits from fear of risk. The installation encourages viewers to interact with objects—for example, by lifting a heavy weight. “That’s part of the artwork—that it is a risk to [the participant] and a risk to me,” she says.
What’s next? She is now living in Australia, where her husband took a new job, and she is an artist in residence at the University of Western Australia.