Ife Salema Vanable is an architect, theorist, and historian who holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a post-professional Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University, where she was awarded the History and Theory Prize. Ife has also studied at the Architectural Association in London and the University College of Lands and Architectural Studies (now Ardhi University) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. After over ten years working as a designer in New York-based architecture firms, including Raphael Viñoly Architects, Ife returned to academia in 2016 and is a PhD candidate in architectural history and theory at Columbia GSAPP.
Ife’s scholarly work explores questions at the intersection of architectural design, law, and public policy—including zoning, city planning, land use agreements, eminent domain, tax abatement, deficit subsidy, guaranteed returns, among other strategies—enacted by local municipalities for the private development of low-moderate income housing. Ife’s focus is publicly funded and incentivized, though privately developed and managed high-rise residential towers erected in New York, particularly in the 1970s, under the 1955 Limited Profit Housing Companies Law, known as Mitchell-Lama. This work seeks to unearth complex and seemingly banal relationships between the design of multi-family housing, municipal government machinations for its development, conceptions of racial difference, geography, design, finance, program, and family composition. In this context Ife studies modes of black subjectivity and dwelling in tall buildings (as an analysis of type)—including varied sanctioned, unauthorized, ingenious, pleasurable, sensuous, and particularly quotidian forms of occupancy—the performance of domesticity and respectability, and the politics, aesthetics, and materiality of the making of home.
Ife is also founder and leader of i/van/able, a New York-based architectural workshop and think tank. Through writing, works of art, architecture, design, and narrative, i/van/able produces theoretical, speculative, and physical interventions that put forth uncommon and seemingly incompatible scenarios of use, programmatic organization and occupation that defy prevailing notions of type, taste, and form. This work has been supported by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and recognized by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Ife’s writing has been published in Avery Review, and she is co-editor of the forthcoming volume Black Production and the Space of the University to be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City.