The Architecture of Olafur Eliasson

The design of this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is a collaboration between artist Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen of Scandinavian architecture firm Snohetta. After looking through the incredibly thorough documentation of the construction process at 0lll, I’m starting to get pretty excited about this thing. Open from August until November, this years pavilion will play host to artists, architects, academics and scientists as they lead a series of public experiments, culminating in “an extraordinary, two-part, 48-hour marathon laboratory event exploring the architecture of the senses.” Life Without Buildings loves exploring the architecture of the senses and will probably get a bit of head start on the pavilion…say, as soon as this post is finished.

photo via 0III

This is by no means Elasson’s first collaboration with an architect. In fact, as a sort-of spatial researcher, architecture is integral to his work. One of my favorite of his collaborations is the 2005 Thyssen-Bornemisza Limited Edition Art Pavilion in Venice, designed by David Adjaye.

david adjaye pavilion

david adjaye alafur eliason

The pavilion was specifically designed to present Eliasson’s piece, Your Black Horizon. The project, as described in David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings:

“In the windowless main space, a horizontal line at eye level serves as the primary light source. Located in a slot in the construction of each wall, the light slowly changes colour every 15 minutes and moves through the spectrum of the Venetian sky as filmed on a single day.”

Eliasson’s piece is complemented by near-total darkness, which has the well-designed side effect of concealing construction details, resulting in a space where one can only orient themselves in relation to the art work.

A view of the interior.

The elegant 3-material palette has been very carefully selected. Black bituminous fiber board cladding reflects the darkness of the interior, framing and sun screen are built from heat-treated timber and the interior is clad is OSB. It’s that simple. And it works.

Adjaye is a poet, there’s no other word for what he does. I think this is architecture at it’s finest. A clear concept, simple design, a thoughtful yet limited palette, and a startling sensitivity to both the site and the art.

All images taken from David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings

The Gilded Cages of Wesley Meuris

wesley meuris
The incredible nightlife in the tropical forest, 2007
Cage for Alopex lagopus (Arctic Fox), 2006
wesley meuris
Cage for Galago crassicaudata (African lemur), 2005

The work of artist Wesley Meuris expands our definition of “architecture” to include “cage” and our definition of “cage” to include “art.”> Obviously, these cages (can they even be called cages?) aren’t meant to duplicate the natural environment of their intended habitants. Instead, their design is derived from a carefully conceived and painstakingly documented zoological classification created by the artist. This custom classification seems to recall Borges’ The Analytical Language of John Wilkins, where the author recalls elaborate classification systems, most notably, the ‘Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge’, a system that divides animals into categories such as (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (g) stray dogs, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, and so on. Also important in the design, and perhaps more intuitive that quantifiable, is the relationship between the cage and viewer. It is this factor that enables Meuris’ work to sit so comfortably in a gallery space.

From the artist’s statement:

Beginning with an interest in the interaction between architecture and human conditioned-behaviour, I became intrigued by the conditions that coalesced around the making of cages for animals. The implicit requisite is, of course, that the cages be ‘liveable’ with respect to a particular animal, so that it may survive outside its usual habitat. But more important still in the construction of such cages, is the comfort that we (viewers) generally experience when we look at animals in captivity, most often in zoos. I consider the zoo as a control-domain in terms of the viewers vis-a-vis the observed animals, but the viewing public too is led into a controlled architecture.

These spaces will never be occupied by the animals they are named for, bringing the intent of the work and its form into question. By all technical and spatial accounts, each piece in the series was designed to accommodate a very specific species, yet the excellent craftsmanship and the finest of materials belie its true purpose – It may have been patterened after an analysis of Galago crassicaudata, but it was truly designed for Homo Sapien.



umm…Architasion? Fashitecture?

Fashion & Architecture (not like this) is everywhere these days. It’s the hottest coupling since Brangelina (sans cool combo-name) and it’s offspring will be even more beautiful than the fruit of their super-loins. (only not really)

In New York, the AIA is featuring the somewhat redundantly titled “The Fashion of Architecture: Constructing the Architecture of Fashion.”

Architecture is making its presence felt in fashion as the pliable metals, membrane structures, lightweight glasses and flexible plastics used in building construction are creeping on to the catwalks. At the same time, architects and interior designers are borrowing the techniques of pleating and draping from traditional tailoring to design buildings that are interactive, inflatable, and even portable. The exhibition features projects from architects such as David Adjaye, Shigeru Ban, Winka Dubbeldam, Zaha Hadid, … while showcasing architectonic apparel from fashion mavericks such as Hussein Chalayan, Yoshiki Hishinuma, Kei Kegami, …

The exhibition will be divided into seven themes, one of which – “social spaces” – will focus on the work of artist Lucy Orta. Her work “pioneers new potentials for interior environments and outdoor structures” while poetically commenting on urban life and inter-personal relationships. In another portion of the ongoing event, Mark Wigley, dean of the graduate school of architecture at Columbia University, is planning a runway show during New York Fashion Week, which will highlight high-performance materials and the more structural aspects of fashion.

Speaking of Lucy Orta, We-make-money-not-art” is featuring some similar “wearable architectures” from Takehiko Sanada:

This work is a personalized house (which signifies body) that protects the identity and life of an individual. It can be set on the floor using ropes or poles. By dismantling the coat and opening the front to create a flat surface, a new work can be separately constructed from it. Two individuals who own these prefab coats can meet, join the two pieces together by using the fastener attached to the hems of the coat, and create a coat house (skin/body) for two people. With five, ten, or twenty people, the pieces can be extended and expanded into a dome house (skin/body). This work represents how a diverse group of people from different regions can open their hearts to cover and embrace a new world.

I like that both Orta and Sanada focus on not only the aesthetic AND protective elements of “wearable architectures,” but also on the social – providing both physical, and the sometimes overlooked, pyschological relief.

The Fashion of Architecture is on view from January 11, 2006 to March 11, 2006 at the Center for Architecture – 536 LaGuardia Place