Barbara Flanagan is a designer and author trained as an architect.
She tweaks the ordinary, overlooked parts of life, making nothing into something whenever she can. That’s why she is busy covering lots of territory, in several fields, both inside and out of her expertise.
Flanagan likes ideas. New ideas applied to age-old concerns or old ideas rebuilt for new issues. Small ideas that surprise or big ideas that inspire. She has been called "way ahead of the curve" often and way too late to profit from prescience. Nevertheless, many of her ideas--new, old, small, big--appear in the form of products, interiors, books, articles, lectures, teaching and consulting.
For a decade, her product designs for the MoMA Store and for MoMA Wholesale--the product development division of the Museum of Modern Art, NY--have been animating desktops and tabletops all over the world. Also, her company, Flanagan LLC, has designed, manufactured, and wholesaled consumer products that combine utility with sculptural ingenuity. Her materials range from aluminum and stainless steel, to optical glass, rubber, and recyclable synthetic turf.
In her books, Flanagan champions resourcefulness. Flanagan’s Smart Home (Workman) recommends 98 bare necessities for just-fine living: household objects she field-tested and rated for environmental, social and aesthetic virtues. The Houseboat Book (Rizzoli), the most comprehensive tome on the water-top architecture of North America, shows inventive lives housed in compact, tight-knit neighborhoods afloat (and ready for rising seas).
In her design/build work, Flanagan she has re-constructed a Cape Cod as a high-tech, barrier-free bachelorette pad equipped for “aging in place,” transformed a kitchen into a hangar for a beloved sea kayak, turned a rainhead shower into a chandelier, and invented new uses for countless materials, fixtures and fittings.
For years, Flanagan was a contributor to The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Elle Décor, and many other national publications, while she was a contributing editor to Metropolis and I.D. Magazine. In essays and journalism, she covered architecture along with industrial, urban and landscape design. Currently, Flanagan writes about the lessons of living in the dynamic, volatile ecosystem of California.
Under different titles, Flanagan aims to do projects not done before. As a consultant, for example, she’s advised a real estate magnate, seeking a market edge, to make his upscale Arizona trailer parks into horticultural utopias. As a visiting architecture professor, she devised “Flotilla Night” to glamorize an old riverside canal; for a civic procession, her students built illuminated vessels they self-powered through the water. As an upstart, she created/moderated ”In Your Face,” a public event, in NYC, where outspoken architects (Rem Koolhaas, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and more) grappled with 9-11. As an inventor, Flanagan has prototyped a dirt-cheap backyard vermicomposter ready for licensing.
Flanagan has a Masters in Architecture from Yale University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. She studied sculpture at the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
In 2010, Flanagan moved to downtown Santa Barbara to live in the urban outdoors. There, she runs an outdoor/indoor studio, exhibits her art, grows most of her food, cultivates a xeriscape, and commutes to the sea, via Vespa or bike, to swim wetsuited with her pals, the Ocean Ducks.
Le Corbusier would approve.