Irene Cheng is an architectural historian, critic, and designer. Her research focuses on the intersections of architecture, cultural history, politics, and the history of science. Her current book project, entitled “The Shape of Utopia: The Architecture of Radical Reform in Nineteenth-Century America,” explores the geometry of architectural projects affiliated with anarchist, socialist, abolitionist, free love, spiritualist, and other radical antebellum movements. The project has received generous fellowship support from the Whiting Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. She is also a co-director of the Race + Modern Architecture Project (R+MAP), an interdisciplinary research group that is exploring the influence of racial discourses on architecture from the Enlightenment to the recent past.
Cheng is also a practicing designer and founding principal of Cheng+Snyder, a multidisciplinary design firm that seeks to instigate critical debates about politics, architecture, and the city. Cheng + Snyder’s project Museum of the Phantom City was included in the United States pavilion at the 2012 Venice Biennale. The firm’s work has been published in Metropolis, Architectural Record, The Architect’s Newspaper, The New York Times, and in numerous books and blogs. Their work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Van Alen Institute, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Ulm School of Design.
Prior to founding her own firm, Cheng worked for Bernard Tschumi Architects, where she led several publication and design competition projects.
Cheng writes frequently on issues related to architecture and culture. Her articles have appeared in Frieze, Cabinet, 32BNY, Surface, and A magazine, and she is coeditor with Bernard Tschumi of The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century (The Monacelli Press, 2004).
With David Gissen, Cheng is the a founding co-director of the Experimental History Project, an initiatitve of CCA's MAAD-History Theory Experiments (HTX) program. The Experimental History Project is a platform for exhibitions, research, and events exploring experimental practices of architectural, urban, and landscape history.
Cheng previously taught studio and history / theory courses at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning. She holds a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard and an M.Arch and Ph.D from Columbia University.