Page 1

D

ISAAC CORDAL

SPACE INVADER

The Cement Eclipses

8-bit action

AAKASH NIHALANI

URBAN LEGEND

A playful exploration of

The forgotten film plant

color and shape

of Taipei City

ISSUE 1 DECEMBER 2012

$6.95 U S $8.95 CA N

N AI

Mixing classic beauties with a modern and edgy twist

1 ELL


2 ELL


3 ELL


4 ELL


5 ELL


FROM THE EDITOR RODRIGUEZ B Y: S A N T I AG O

  Growing up in New York City was exciting in a lot of ways. Of course, everything happens there. I never had to worry about a band I liked not coming to my city on tour. I didn’t have to book a hotel a year in advance to see the ball drop on New Years Eve. Art is always traveling through the local museums and, as the child of an artist, I even got to attend several gallery openings. But the most exciting thing to me about New York was the art scene happening outside of the galleries, on the streets. I didn’t have to buy a ticket to see the work of famous artists, I could just take a walk to Starbucks. Of course, some people didn’t quite recognize the paintings on the dumpsters and alley walls as art. Some of the most beautiful pieces I saw were painted over, washed off, or destroyed within the week they were created. Nonetheless, I loved the stuff. Discovering a new piece of street art was like stumbling upon a treasure chest. It was exciting. I even started going out for the sole purpose of scouting and photographing graffiti. As I got more and more into photography (and graffiti) I also started exploring abandoned places. At first, it was just to look for spray-paintings, but I quickly realized that abandoned sites had a magic all their own. Like street art, they’re forbidden. Many people consider both things to be eyesores, dangerous, and useless. But these things were magical to me, and I began to feel a great need to share that magic with everyone I knew. I even took girls on picnics in abandoned warehouses, and on walks to see my favorite pieces of graffiti. But that just wasn’t enough. It needed to be shared with the whole world. So I created Ell. Thanks for reading and being a part of this exciting new project. I hope you find this forbidden world just as exciting as I have.

6 ELL


7 ELL


8 ELL


9 ELL


99 OSGOOD PLACE SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94133 (415) 743-9990 LETTERS@ELLMAG.COM

OWNER & FOUNDER: LARA HEDBERG DEAM President & Publisher: Michela O’Connor Abrams Editor-in-Chief: Allison Arieff Creative Director: Claudia Bruno Managing Editor: Ann Wilson Spradlin Senior Editors: Andrew Wagner, Sam Grawe New York Editor: Shonquis Moreno Los Angeles Editor: Frances Andertort Editor-at Large: Virginia Gardiner Editor: Amara Holstein Associate Editor: Amber Bravo Assistant Managing Editor: Carleigh Bell Copy Editor: Rachel Fudge Fact Checkers: Madeline Kerr, Hon Walker, Megan Mansell Williams Editorial Intern: Christopher Bright Senior Designer: Brendan Callahan Design Production Manager: Kathryn Hansen Designer: Emily CM Anderson Marketing Art Director: Gayle Chin Photo Editor: Kate Stone Associate Photo Editor: Aya Brackett Contributing Photo Editor: Deborah Kozloff Hearey Photo Intern: Kane Fried Senior Production Director: Fran Fox Production Specialist: Bill Lyons Production Coordinator: Joy Pascual Contributing Editors: lain Aitch (London) Deborah Bishop (San Francisco) David A. Greene (Los Angeles) Marc Kristal (New York) Jane Szita (Amsterdam) Operations Director: Romi Jacques Accounting Manager: Wanda Smith Consumer Marketing Director: Laura MacArthur Simkins Subscriptions Manager: Brian Karo Newsstand Consultant: George Clark National Distribution: Warner Publisher Services Partner Marketing Director: Celine Bleu Events Manager: Sita Bhaumik Marketing Coordinator: Elizabeth Heinrich Marketing Intern: Kathy Chandler Online Director: Perry Nelson Brand Development Director: Joan McCraw Brand Consultants: Betsy Burroughs, Muriel Foster Schelke Advertising Operations Coordinator: Fida Sleiman ELL Advertising Offices (New York) 1212) 383-2010 International Sales Director: W. Keven Weeks/ keven@ellmag.com Eastern Regional Manager: Kathryn McKeeeer/ kathryn@ellrriag.com New England/Canada Sales Manager: Wayne carrington /wayne@ellmag.com Sales Coordinator: Joanne Lucano/ joanne@ellmag.com West Coast Barbara Bella & Associates Danny Della Lana (San Francisco) 1 415) 986-7762 / danny@bbasf.com James Wood (Los Angeles) 13231 467-5906 / )woods@bba-lacom Midwest Derr Media Group, Timothy J. Derr 18471 615-1921 /derrmediagroup@comcdstnet Karen Teegarden & Associates, Diane MacLean 12481 642-1773 / diane@kteegarden.com Southwest Nuala Berrells Media, Nuala Berrells 12141 660-9713 / nuala@sbcgloba net Southeast Andy Clifton 1706) 369-7320/ cljfton@fccmediacnm Milan, Italy Niche SrI, Andrea Pipitone 1021 29419059 / andrea.pipitose@nicheland.com Modern Market Managers East: Lauren Dismuke 1917) 941-1148 / lauren@ellmagcom Southwest: Tracey Lasko 1917) 892-4921 / tdlaskn@nyc.rr.com Northwest, Midwest: Angela Ames 14151 898-5329 / angela@ellmag.com DesignSource Director Nancy Alonzu 14151 290-8532 / nancy@ellmag.com Media Relations Shelley Tatum Kieran 16501 838-9431 / shelleyWellmag.com

10 ELL

A R T B Y DA I N P H OTO G R A P H Y B Y L I N D S AY A D DA M S

Article Reprints: FosteReprints Donna Bushore 1866) 879-9144, x156 d bushore@fostereprrnts.com


11 ELL


N AV I GAT I O N

8

24

28

34

51

67

F E AT U R E S

D E PA R T M E N T A L

A C O M M O N N A M E ; PA P E R G E O D E S G R O W I N G A R O U N D T H E

S P OT T E D ; A R T B Y DA I N . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6

G LO B E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 8 F O U N D T Y P E ; H A N D - PA I N T E D A A K A S H N I H A L A N I ; A N E X P LO R AT I O N O F S H A P E A N D C O LO R T H R O U G H TA P E S C U LT P U R E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

24

URBAN LEGEND; THE ABANDONED F I L M P L A N T O F TA I P E I C I T Y . . . . . 2 0

I S A AC C O R DA L ; M I N I AT U R E S C U L P T U R E S I N O D D P L AC E S , I L L U S T R A T I N G VA R I O U S A N G L E S O F H U M A N L I F E . . . . . . . . . .

TYPOGRAPHY ....................... 18

28

RECYCLED BUILDINGS; ENTIRE BUILDINGS TRANSFORMED ......

S PA C E I N VA D E R ; E X C I T I N G 8 - B I T M O S A I C S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

45

34 GEOMETRIC; ART BY SY .......... 48

M A R R A I N B O W G U A R D I A N ; A N U N T R A D I T I O N A L PA I N T J O B , TA K I N G OV E R O N E B U I L D I N G AT A T I M E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 1

C H E R N O B Y L ; A BA N D O N E D, B U T N OT F O R G OT T E N . . . . . . . . . . 6 7 12 ELL

COLLAB; BANKSY AND MBW .... 50


18 43 13 ELL


14 ELL


15 ELL


16 ELL


DAIN

On the way to an English class at NYU, James Frasier, from Greenwich Village, New York, stumbled upon this Dain poster on a street corner. “I didn’t actually know who [Dain] was. I just thought the poster looked cool, so I grabbed it and planned on hanging it up in my dorm room.” Frasier’s girlfriend, an art major, immediately recognized the artwork as Dain’s. “I was really surprised at first and when I realized what had happened I just started laughing. It’s cool though. Jesse didn’t even know who Dain was, but he was still captivated enough by his work to rip it off an alley wall.”

Caleb Sinclair, from Montgomery, Alabama, was meeting his wife for lunch on their honeymoon when he discovered this piece. “There’s a graffiti blog I follow on Tumblr... they posted this exact picture at one point, so I instantly recognized it,” says Sinclair. “I was curious about the rest of his work. I looked him up as soon as I got home. He’s probably my favorite graffiti artist now.”

Jenny Hisch, from St. Louis, Missouri, was on a mission trip, taking photos for her blog, when she spotted this large collaboration piece by Dain and Rae. “It instantly grabbed my attention because it was different. You normally think of graffiti as something that comes out of a spray can, you know? But this was paper that had been glued to the wall and painted over. I’d never seen anything like it.” Hisch says that she now follows both Rae’s and Dain’s work and uses it as inspiration for her own art.

FRANCE Carly Henderson, from Little Rock, Arkansas, was on her way to a shopping mall during a vacation with some friends when they came across a Dain poster. “I didn’t notice it until my friend commented on how it was disturbing to her.” Henderson said she nearly missed the poster because she was checking her cell phone. “I’m glad she said something or I wouldn’t have seen it. I’ve been a fan of Dain’s for a while but this was the first time I ever got to see his work in person.”

“I couldn’t stop looking at it. I literally stopped in my tracks,” says Jane Watson, from London. “I see graffiti all the time. Banksy even makes a statement with his spray can here occasionally. It’s really cool, but I was never really a fan... but then I come across this picture of a stunning girl with all this paint splattered across her face and I fell in love. I’m not sure what [Dain] meant to say, but the image alone is mesmerizing.” 17 ELL


18 ELL


19 ELL


U R B A N L E G E N D WRITTEN BY SALEM YORK

20 ELL

“Keep quiet and keep down, this building is active,” says BryGuy, his pointed finger catching a flashlight behind him. “And no more flashlights.” Everything snaps to black. Between the clanks and buried explosions of the acres-long factory to our right, the only other sound is the percussion of footfalls along the dirt road on which we’re running. “There’s a guard up there, be careful,” BryGuy announces, heading deeper into knee-high grass. A hundred yards in front of us our target appears: a large abandoned film plant on a flat, black field. BryGuy kneels at the crossroads, and in the shadow of a flickering streetlight whispers: “Ok, that’s it. That’s where we’re going.”   Tonight’s event has so far been executed with militaristic precision, each member moving with the economy and alertness of a soldier on a dangerous reconnaissance mission. But this group isn’t wearing fatigues and night-vision goggles; they’re in baggy shorts, untied shoes and black hoodies. The triggers they’re flipping aren’t on guns, but on beat-up flea market flashlights. And this isn’t a war zone. It’s a weedy field in front of an abandoned film plant along a rural road an hour south of San Luis Obispo. It’s Friday night at 11:30, and Taipei City’s Urban Explorer Meet has just begun.   Urban exploration is the examination of offlimits or seldom seen parts of man-made structures. Unlike other adventurers, such as rock climbers or spelunkers, urban explorers shun the natural world in pursuit of more closely examining and understanding the inner workings of our constructed world, of seeing civic society in its real, raw, unpainted, unplastered and unprettied state. It’s internal city touring, but without guides, doubledecker buses, maps or directions. It’s about going where people aren’t supposed to go.   Indeed, a few kids trespassing in old buildings is nothing new. What makes urban exploration different is that it is not a few kids - it is tens of thousands of people of varying ages and professions. And it’s not just old buildings: It is subbasements, engine rooms, mine shafts, train tunnels, drains, cemeteries, hospitals, decommissioned ships, nuclear missile silos and more. Urban exploration is a worldwide phenomenon with its own fanzines, conventions, culture, ethics, periodicals, books, movies, MTV specials and clubs from Russia to Australia, Canada to Chile. And it’s growing.   All this newfound attention has made many longtime urban explorers cautious. They’ve adopted online pseudonyms such as Darkwolf, Shadowsix, SkullmanX and AllieKat to hide their


ABANDONED

identities. Discoveries are no longer openly shared online, but handled like carefully guarded secrets among a small network of trusted cronies. Newcomers are viewed skeptically, and in some cases made to withstand lengthy mental and physical vetting before they are allowed to join other members on explorations.   Which was exactly why I was shoving myself under a chain-link fence and into a broken window on the ground floor of a radiation-polluted former film plant on a warm Wednesday night in June. Repeated attempts to solicit a response from urban explorers online had gone nowhere

P H OTO C R E D I T: VO FA N

Above: Fallen columns at the abandoned film plant cast elegant shadows across the floor in the mid-day sun Top Left: The floor of the grand hall, still sparkling Bottom Left: A grand staircase and chandelier still hanging in the forier Top Right: A set of sofas and curtains rest undisturbed and untouched Bottom Right: Sunlight leaks into a mirror-filled basement

21 ELL21 ELL


URBAN LEGENDS (CONTINUED)

for months. Rumors were that law enforcement had been monitoring some Web sites after discovering that burglars were scanning them for tips on how to break into buildings. A last-ditch effort at RSVPing to the Central California Urban Explorer Meet in San Luis Obispo (to which I was not invited) spurred enough curiosity for the host, BryGuy, to write me back - to tell me directly that I couldn’t come. BryGuy eventually relented, and said I could possibly come, depending on how I handled myself during a short test run with an established Bay Area explorer named Tunnelbug.   Through a catacomb of blown-out rooms covered in spooky graffiti, dirt, and broken glass, we emerge into the building’s grand foyer, a sweeping acres-wide room surrounded by three-story-high glass curtain walls. Pigeons fly through the gauzy light of the dirty windows, their helicopter flutter reverberating through the room. Dramatic shadows from the 30-foot-tall columns cover black puddles of water. The room looks grand and cinematic, a moody backdrop to a big-budget, postapocalyptic thriller. It’s dazzling. At the center is a spiral staircase extending three floors high.   The building was built by the Navy between 1944 and 1947, and was used to research formulas for film to photograph equipment for battleships and submarines. It was also a major headquarters for the study and practice of military cryptography, as evidenced by the codebooks and crypto machines haphazardly left behind in piles throughout the second and third floors. The fourth floor held the director’s office. Elaborately decorated with sofas and fancy curtains, it almost looks like a penthouse suite at a five-star hotel. Closed in 1974, the building has been abandoned ever since.   When an area is closed and left to sit for decades, it is not only nature that returns - but also the laws of nature. Dry rot, fire damage, razor-sharp rusted nails and unstable earth are constant menaces at most abandoned sites. It is the explorer’s responsibility to avoid death or injury in these areas, to be solely responsible for one’s self. In a modern society so buffered and baby-proofed with guardrails, signs, tour guides, maps, safety lids, safety bars and safety belts, relearning these basic self-reliant survival skills for urban exploration is scary, and doesn’t come easy. But the payoff for most urban explorers is worth it: a freedom to do absolutely anything you want, whenever you want, to whatever you want, if just for a little while.

22 ELL


23 ELL


24 ELL


25 ELL


26 ELL


27 ELL


PHOTO

28 ELL

G

AC BY ISA RAPHY

CORDA

L

re et in le in th e st om a pu dd fr ge er em rs li fe pr es er ve el es s m en in A bove : Fac rk in g lo tr pt y N Y pa em in pa an S , in po ol g na B ar ce lo pe ts hi s do an as ph au lt ly va gran t m er su n in ne m lo su A e th t: ef fr om Top L se ek re fu ge S ta tu et te s Top R ig h t:


F O S E L G N A Y N A THE M

L A D R O C C A A IS

A

NY BY JEN RTICLE

HART

s about house ture show ec it k ch o ar lo ves an meone Everyone lo ired of so u q re in s is te d wri l that because al n Bachelar is, as Gasto se transcend u o to h a y ing at e abilit th “ e, we ac p S s of in which The Poetic e houses th l e al h f o ries ses we av our memo all the hou ] d n h [a it r w te e, shel f cours have found eginning, o b — ay ” m in rs e live visito dreamed w . Although t, rst lived in fi e or architec w aj se m u the ho ion of a it ib h e ex th lo in ed the so ately involv appreciate ally as intim su u a concert t f o o n n e ig they ar the des d in eh on b es cess to give up thought pro are likely d e an th , h le it p am sented w hall, for ex gs. But pre in h g w u ra d ro d th aile alk reading det mediately w im f le o p s eo el p d , o ouse ects’ m plan of a h And archit s. n sy io ta n at fa in f o imag do, a level it in their dollhouses as , e physical k th ar sp ce n s house to exper ie le ace. ib ss o p it t familiar sp that makes new and ye a the in t g u n o ei fb ore ab sensation o ions are m it ib ara h b ar ex B se t. When Also, hou out the pas ab ed e ag ar st ) ey th rcher future than ame B.J. A n in e th ry le g n al (usi astelli G Jakobson the Leo C at e” al S r “Houses fo

ternational ed eight in it v in e g sh , in 1980 gs, showin New York te dwellin va ri p l ra n tu ig to des architec architects round for g e il d rt ce fe balan to be object of the form geometric a “ ,” as she ly al — n o n inventio alyzed rati an e b to se of Nine solids zaki’s Hou voids and o Is e. d u g lo e cata sicism, an wrote in th ladian clas al P f is o h e k retold se spo Squares fo Ber m Hou n ia d ad rc an A t basz’s onmen Emilio Am r the envir concern fo t’s ec it ch that ar y. e solar energ view at th interest in designs on g in s n li o in p w ea e Minn In 1985, th ter, from a en C A l “ ra ed tu ll hitec n ca competitio Boston Arc y and Design rt A communit f o h it e Colleg dealt w ,” se u ld o u H co ican that New Amer er housing d for clust ee as conven l e el th w d life an at home as d es ac sp ork backyards an provide w ouses, with h e ce es n h ra T . su care al reas nient child of tradition nt an aura le , fs o ro d gable the al trends. te House,” to new soci e Un-Priva h T ses “ u h o it h w 6 ying 2 This year, rt is displa A e n av er h d o h f M of whic Museum o all but six — 8 8 9 1 nce designed si 29 ELL


new deals with The show t. il luu b g l n ra bei itectu so been or are r fresh arch fo ll g ca in rk at o th rns ine w social patte that comb es n r o fo r la ce la cu arti nd a p tions, in p and that fi es r, ac te sp u p g m in liv ike a co spaces with e home. L th g in in rd d rl co o w es, ac the virtual concentrat orary house p the outside m to te n s al co the ting sign it sm o, in an tr n ,o privacy. Als to MoMA timacy and in f o ” era, m st o co e mily ro world at th s of the “fa rm o quarn e e at th f to separ ed h a reversal o is an b y one or e frequentl y to live al el k li children ar as st nuclear ients are ju traditional in ters, and cl as s ip show x relationsh anized the in same-se ey, who org il R archif ce o t en epartmen d families. Ter ’s A M o n in his rator of M ain questio m e as chief cu th s se o nger design, p ouse no lo tecture and e private h th If acter “ ar : y ch sa f es at sort o h catalogue w r, te ac estic char has a dom group of ” a diverse will it have? m o fr e m s co ers, repThe answer n than oth w o n k r te , and the some bet er ica, Japan architects, m A th u o e exhibiurope, S aspect of th resenting E s u o ri cu -fashioned tes. One of the old United Sta n io ct le se wallpaper is the tern as the tion design at p r u sp k hotographs orr is Lar e-format p William M rg la ’s w o ment as r the sh Crafts move backdrop fo d an s rt A a romangs. The iration from and drawin sp in k o to ast is the Morr is s the contr defined by ap h er p t u eavy work t — b suit the h ticized pas es o d le er ab mfort wallpap d other co point. The shelves, an k o o b at serve as s, th . ed o iture C tables, b rn u F e th y d that give vided b objects pro e models an th r fo ls ta e pedes , as if these ready-mad the galleries to y it al u like q a workman a

le se at to a co m fo rt ab le pr ov id es ho er w in ne r tu be s se A ca ut io na ry re To p L ef t: P t: h ig re r To p R at er ti re d wan de fo r de ep er w r a lo st m in ia tu re s e es th e s m ou rn s fo ar nd ie fr pr ep of p ou em pl at io n ig h t: A gr in de ep co nt ts B o tt o m R si r ke or w w : A ci ty so ul B el o on th e st re et

30 ELL


31 ELL


ol of wat er de ep in a po ce fa r, te ge si de wal k cr ow d to of a bu st li ng bu si ne ss m en er of rn p co ou e gr th Top : A by a ca r an si ts on do w n, st ru ck ho m el es s m ce A fa e: ys dl la id in Top M at e pe de st ra A n un fo rt un Top R ig h t: 32 ELL


rooms were part of an architect’s studio and home combined. On the whole, the houses and loft apartments on view are anything but cozy. Rather, the architects are committed to design whose appeal lies in its response to and integration of advanced technologies and new materials. Sleekness here runs more than skin deep. After years of the decorative pastiche associated with PostModernism, it came as both a surprise and a relief that the reigning influence in this exhibition was Mies van der Rohe and, in particular, the Farnsworth House, which the architect designed some 50 years ago in Plano, Illinois, as a weekend retreat for his close friend, Dr. Edith Farnsworth. A glass box with a flat roof and evenly spaced structural steel I-beams painted white, the house dematerializes at night (even with the draperies closed) into a cube of light. There have been many copies since, but the architects in the MoMA show are creating radical variations on the theme, skewing the form by selecting and developing only certain aspects of Mies’s design to advance new ideas about the configuration of rooms and the requirements of the electronic age. Two houses in Tokyo by Japanese architects are among the most exciting. On one of Tokyo’s eclectic and densely packed streets, Shigeru Ban’s Curtain Wall House juts out on a corner like a billboard for Modernism. In reversing the fundamental order — by hanging glass inside and curtains outside — the architect explores the

formal possibilities offered by the traditional Japanese shoji-screen house, where translucency is valued over transparency. The glass sits in sliding panels and retracts into corners of the house, and once drawn, the sailcloth curtain (besides making an obvious but witty allusion to non-loadbearing walls) provides shade during the day and privacy at night. More in keeping with Mies’s courtyard houses, the M House by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa is separated from its residential street by a wall of perforated metal, behind which translucent polycarbonate windows filter light into a two-story central courtyard that is sunk, along with the dining, work, and living areas, below ground level. This courtyard and two other light courts are open to the sky, so that in passing through them, one is exposed to the weather as in a traditional Japanese house. The rectangular rooms, upstairs and down, run between the light courts in a configuration that limits privacy within the house — although the streetscape is effectively screened out. Now under construction in Napa Valley, California, the Kramlich Residence and Media Collection, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, features an angular, flatroofed Miesian glass pavilion over a series of subterranean galleries, including one in an underground garage, for the couple’s collection of electronic art. Even the curved inner walls of the pavilion function as screens for video, films, and

digital art, which compete with the view of nature beyond the structure’s glass walls. In the same vein, Diller + Scofidio’s halfcrescent-shaped Slow House, an unbuilt project for a site on Long Island, features a video camera that records the view through the house’s immense atelier-style picture window and allows for instant replay on a monitor inside. And the main walls of Hariri & Hariri’s project for a Digital House feature liquid-crystal displays that allow for videoconferencing with virtual guests in the living room and cooking lessons from a televised chef in the kitchen. Two row houses on Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam by MVRDV, meanwhile, play with transparency and opacity on a large scale: one presents a glass facade to the street, behind which most of its rooms are boxed off by inner walls; the other hides behind a traditional masonry facade but reveals much of its interior through a glass wall running along one side. (The pattern of boxed-off and exposed rooms recalls the vertical grid of Gerrit Rietveld’s Schröder House in Utrecht, a model of which is conveniently on view, along with one of Mies’s Tugendhat House, in the top-floor architecture galleries.) Whether Riley has proved his theory about the loss of privacy is questionable.

33 ELL


INVAS ARTIST: SPACE INVADER HOMETOWN: FRANCE ARTICLE: LILY HARGRAVE PHOTOGRAPHY: SPACE INVADER

34 ELL


ION 35 ELL


Above: Space Invader holds one of his mosaics atop a New York skyscraper

36 ELL


“S OME PE OPLE CA L L M E A P OL LU T ER, OT H E RS S AY I’M AN A R T I S T. I P RE F E R TO TH I N K OF M YS E L F A S AN I N VA D E R .”

Invader’s work illustrates the overwhelming effect technology has had on contemporary culture while also critiquing it, using the ancient and traditional technique of mosaics to simulate digital pixels. Referencing the 1978 Atari video game, the artist began placing mosaics featuring Space Invaders on the streets of Paris in the late 1990s. Joined by Pac Man ghosts and other popular 8-bit characters, the works soon became a familiar sight to encounter in any urban environment. Invader’s usage of tile to create street art, rather than paint or stencil, is not only a unique choice of medium—it also emphasizes his commentary of how digital information networks have affected and transformed our society. Sightings of the work have spread over the last ten years on a global scale as the artist continues invading public spaces across five continents. Currently, Invader’s work can be found on the streets of over forty cities, worldwide.     In the last 15 years or so, installation architecture has come to offer an alternative: the construction within a gallery of temporary, full-scale architecture that creates spaces, programs, and experiences. The best of this work not only occupies but also affects its surroundings, exposing something of the conventions of museum and gallery display and revealing latent possibilities of the space it inhabits.   “Fabrications,” an ambitious, three-venue exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and the Museum

of Modern Art in New York, aims to use installation to draw a diverse audience into a serious, immediate encounter with contemporary architecture. Organized by the three museums’ curators of architecture–Aaron Betsky, Mark Robbins, and Terence Riley, respectively–the show presents 12 installations (four at each venue) that, according to its press materials, “offer an immediate experience of architecture while revealing and addressing ideas about current architectural production, new materials, and making space.” Many of the pieces provide opportunities for direct physical contact; among the 12 projects you’re invited to sit, climb, hide, lay down, pull, and gently drop (while bemused museum guards do their best to remain impassive). Most also strive for immediacy by exposing or exaggerating their tectonic gestures, acting as a kind of large-print version for those not accustomed to reading architecture closely. But if the installations get the “immediate” experience right, they’re not all as successful at dealing with the capacity of architecture to mediate: fewer than half of the projects present themselves as devices for reinterpreting and rearranging architectural space. It’s hard to know why this is; maybe it’s because most of the architects in the show are more used to building big than thinking about museum installation. But why fabricate an interesting architectural object for a

show without also making an interesting claim about its setting, about the institutional and spatial conditions of its display? Across the three venues–the sculpture garden at MOMA and the galleries of the Wexner and SFMOMA–three basic strategies are used to make the installations “immediate”; they might be called mimetic, interactive, and interventionist approaches, and the projects divide up neatly into four per category. The mimetic works present small if nonetheless full-scale buildings or building parts that take a fairly uncritical stance to the constraints of museum display. Patkau Architects’ Petite Maison de Weekend, revisited, at the beautifully installed Wexner site, is a complete wooden cottage for two. Well crafted, if didactic in its demonstration of “sustainable” construction, it presents such features as a deep storage wall, photovoltaic roof, composting toilet, and rain-collection system; after the exhibition, it is meant to be relocated and to serve as a prototype for other such houses. Mockbee/Coker Architects followed a similar strategy, also at the Wexner: the firm built a passageway-cum-porch of different woods, cables, window screen, cast concrete, tree stumps, blue glass bottles, and other materials drawn from the vernacular architecture of the rural South; it will be attached to a home in Alabama after

37 ELL


final working drawings for a piece is identified here as its author), presents a wall in the process of delamination and eruption, a tumbling swell of gypsum board, plywood, lath, and wire. Positioned near the entry, it has an interesting annunciatory presence but misses the chance to reorganize passage into the gallery; worse, the pseudo-sculptural stacks of drywall end up offering a banal display of common building materials. At MOMA, Munkenbeck + Marshall Architects built a structure that recalls Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona pavilion above the garden’s reflecting pool. In a setting so infused with the spirit of Mies (the garden was designed, after the master, by Philip Johnson), this little hut intelligently and ironically captures his aesthetic

38 ELL

in condensed form, and brings an intimate architectural scale into the garden, but otherwise doesn’t do much apart from showcasing two gorgeous hanging panels of woven steel.

The four interactive installations focus on the demonstration of physical forces. With Dancing Bleachers, Eric Owen Moss draped wishbone-like pieces of steel over the Wexner Center’s beams; these gigantic, limp-looking forms were originally meant to be climbed so people could reach viewing platforms some 20 feet above the gallery, but institutional anxieties prevailed, and the hands-on elements (treads and rails) are vestigial. Still, the piece has an undeniably exciting presence and carries muscle enough to confront the idiosyncratic spaces and ornamental structure of Peter Eisenman’s architecture.


Above: A blue alien creeps on unuspecting beachgoers in California

Two SFMOMA installations practically insist on physical interaction, but don’t go far enough in uncovering what Betsky, in his curatorial statement, rightly calls the museum’s “protective skin”–the ways it relies on its apparent physical “neutrality” (white walls, silence, concealed building and security systems, and so on) to veil its own interpretive practices and modes of spatial control. The Body in Action, by Hodgetts + Fung Design Associates, gathers air from the museum’s ventilation system into an enormous sailcloth “lung” that feeds into a bowed wooden mouthpiece; handles invite visitors to open the mouth and feel the rush of air. The Body in Equipoise, by Rob Wellington Quigley, is

a kind of gangplank made of wood, cables, pink stretch wrap, bungee cord, steel tubes, and other materials; as people walk along its surface, they reach a point where their weight causes the floor to slightly drop. Both pieces subvert our expectations of architectural surfaces, but fail to get at the political dimension that Betsky suggests.

At MOMA, Ten Arquitectos with Guy Nordenson removed a portion of the venerable garden’s marble paving and inserted a wooden ramp/seat assembly in the rubble facing Auguste Rodin’s Monument to Balzac. Visitors descend through the ground plane, sit in the chair, and look up to a lean, cantilevered glass canopy inscribed with an unidentified fragment of art historical writing. The reference is so obscure, and its presentation so indirect, that you can’t tell if it has been invoked ironically, respectfully, or gratuitously; meanwhile, the power and immediacy of the excavation gets undermined. It is the four interventionist installations that pose genuinely interesting arguments about conditions of architectural exhibition and museum display along with more

39 ELL


Above: A Super Bubble Pop mosaic in progress, beside a pixelated grid for reference

40 ELL


“I DON’T JUST PUT UP A COUPLE OF INVADERS IN THE CENTER THEN GO HOME. I SET OUT TO COVER THE ENTIRE CITY.” “immediate” aspects of construction and experience. At MOMA, Office dA erected a stair-like structure of perforated, folded sheet steel that leaps, from stiletto feet, beyond the garden’s northern wall, suggesting the interpenetration of museum garden and urban fabric. Despite the fact that–among the Judds and Giacomettis–it risks misreading as a none-too-handsome sculpture, it nonetheless makes a strong urban gesture, both within the garden and when seen from 54th Street. Along part of the glass curtain wall on the opposite side of the garden, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson constructed a quiet but pointed critique of the wall’s way of framing and separating garden and museum. Among other elements, a folded plane of plywood steps up from the garden floor, meets the glass, and then continues inside, effectively bringing the outdoors in. Also outside, a large black panel attached to steel columns blocks the garden view and reinforces the windows’ mirror effect. Reflected images and abstract forms crisscross the glass boundary, entangling viewer and viewed in a nuanced spectral play.

ful position of interior exteriority–you are simultaneously inside and outside the gallery, suspended in a layer of interstitial space–other things become apparent: the messy innards of the building wall, the fact that people usually stand in museums, and the enormous potential of the gallery wall freed from the institutional imperatives of the smooth white plane. To the extent that “Fabrications” can legitimize and promote installation as a form of architectural practice, it marks a significant moment in the development of contemporary architecture. The show demonstrates a broad range of innovative formal strategies and materials while, at its best, showing us–even the novices among us–something of how architecture can change our relationship to the world. Despite the uneven results of the first experiment, an ongoing, periodic forum conceived along these lines could move inventive architectural thinking beyond the design community to a broader, influential, and potentially interested public. As a model for future events, then, “Fabrications” promises something great: a chance for contemporary architecture to reveal–and stretch–itself. Lily Hargrave writes about architecture from New York.

The other interventionist projects actually introduce new programs, and both would make welcome permanent museum installations. At the Wexner, Stanley Saitowitz intensified a rather bland space that has been used as an informal seating area and passageway with Virtual Reading Room, a lovely ensemble of clear acrylic benches, reading lecterns, shelves, and horizontal planes suspended from cables. The work not only adds architectural definition with subtle optical and acoustic effects, but also offers people the chance to sit and read–a rare accommodation in museum galleries. With The Body in Repose, Kuth/Ranieri replaced a perimeter wall at SFMOMA with a sexy new skin; its layers of industrial felt have been clamped, clipped, tatooed, and cut to make little invaginated nooks at the edge of the gallery where you can sit or lie down. From this wonder-

41 ELL


42 ELL


43 ELL


44 ELL

Ell Magazine  

Ell Magazine is a design project I completed as part of my Magazine Design class. As it is a design-based project, the articles are not real...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you