Are We Normal?

Galata Greek Primary School
Diana Cristobal, Jessica Ngan, Bart-Jan Polman


“In 1936, the German architect Ernst Neufert published a handbook called Bauentwurfslehre, an exhaustive collection of annotated drawings that gave measurements for spaces… Three decades later, the American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss published… The Measure of Man, providing dimensions of the human body… These handbooks act simultaneously as manual and encyclopedia, documenting the world and providing instructions on the design of objects and environments… In none of these cases is the depiction of the body neutral. What is revealed is a varied and multi-formed figure swayed by notions of the ideal, the efficient, the average, the athletic, or the impaired, which themselves change over time and across languages and cultural contexts… By trying to define the body according to norms, these books implicitly demonstrate that the normal does not exist.” –DC, JN, BJP


Are We Normal? is a study of the normalization of the human figure throughout the numerous international editions of Ernst Neufert’s Bauentwurfslehre and Henry Dreyfuss’ The Measure of Man — two canonic books in design offices worldwide, ghostwriting the spaces around us in the name of a hypothetical normal body. Are We Normal? is one of the six curatorial interventions developed by the Curatorial Team with a joint team of students from Columbia and Princeton Universities in 2016.