So much cultural discourse today is overwhelmingly negative. “Problematizing” is seen as absolutely good, offering solutions is almost always smiled at as bad. This is particularly troubling for architecture, a discipline that is increasingly struggling to communicate its positive value to the general public. Are the effects of architecture just bad? That’s what it sounds like sometimes. However, whenever we can find alternative routes to broadcast architecture and champion the positive potential of design, this is a good opportunity to reflect on what we are doing here.
Input same difference, an experimental exhibition by Syracuse-based SPORTS at the Kent State College of Architecture + Environmental Design in which SPORTS directors Greg Corso and Molly Hunker commissioned 12 artists to produce new artworks interpreting the afterlife of four of their artists projects. The selected works are public spaces, urban interventions and architectural structures that are designed to be flexible, leaving them open to interpretation by both users and anyone wishing to project meaning onto these public, interactive works.
This unusual curatorial invitation offers a new look at the relationship between art and architecture by giving artists the freedom to depict SPORTS’ work without collaboration. The dissemination of architecture is left to the artists, an audience that has no preconceived architectural notions but has an expertise in how to interpret, imagine and represent objects as they exist without the voice of the designer.
The artists come from a wide variety of backgrounds and media. They are illustrators, painters, poets, multimedia artists, comic artists and science fiction writers.
Since all SPORTS projects are public spaces, the artists‘ Interpretations take on the same unpredictability of these places, imagining new formal readings and programmatic activations.
The nine-part illustration by Ana Galvañ shows city thread, a public installation in a revitalized alleyway in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here the background buildings are removed leaving a sinuous form and a single dancing figure floating through space with lines and shapes. A similar nine-part cartoon illustration by Dave Crosland shows animals and people interacting with each other Roundby imagining a fictional audience using the Ragdale ring’s summer pavilion.
Some artists have made more formal interpretations. Mark Allen‘s AI-generated videos twist and turn the fleeting ripple effects of Run away, a mobile installation first shown on the Santa Barbara Pier. Inspired by the area‘s hazy quality of air, SPORT‘According to artist Keren Katz, the installation should disappear‘His drawing simply interprets the forms as dancing figures.
Each of the four SPORTS projects was assigned an author who created a fictional piece that describes the urban objects in a more emotional and imaginative way than a typical architectural drawing or rendering.
SPORTS likens this unpredictable collaboration to the process of working with the public. “Both the audience and the artists become co-authors of the project,” Corso and Hunker from SPORTS told A. “Perception becomes reality as soon as it‘s done and open to other people‘s interpretation.”
Same difference isn‘For the first time, SPORTS has experimented with architectural media and made ideas with new formats accessible to a larger audience. SPORT, the store was a 2017 installed in los angeles, where T-shirts, tote bags, toys and other consumer goods were adorned with images from SPORTS projects. These alternative media presented the architectures in new ways and offered them to new audiences, much like souvenirs such as souvenir items such as miniature Empire State Buildings or Frank Lloyd Wright ponchos.
Same difference uses artist collaborations to decenter the architect, much like gift shop design. By letting the artist‘s eye becomes a lens to interpret architecture outside without architectural discipline. Movies like Gaspar Noé‘s Enter the void (2010) or Dario Argento‘s Supriria (1977) Redesign architecture or the city as part of their narrative. Artists‘ Interpretations of architecture also give us new eyes to see important places like Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine‘s Koolhaa’s house life or Conner O‘Malley‘s Hudson Yards video game.
However, these are initiated by artists, while SPORTS‘s exhibition has elements of an architect-artist symbiosis. One of the most famous was Collaboration: Artists & Architects, the 1981 Architectural League of New York centennial project that brought together architects with artists. Legendary duos have included Michael Graves and Lennart Anderson, Frank Gehry and Richard Serra, and Emilio Ambasz and Michael Meritet.
League President Jonathan Barnett identified three categories of results. The first category was a more traditional collaboration between artists and architects, designing buildings and giving parts to artists for embellishment. The second group worked more equally on a joint project, where the ending did not carry the individual touch of either participant. The third group worked together on ideas represented by both parties in different proportions, from illustration to collaboration.
However, none produced the scenario that SPORTS conjured up: actively commissioning artists to portray and interpret the architect‘s own work. There is no cooperation, only an invitation and provocation. It would be interesting to see where this experiment might lead. What would it look like for more complex projects? The art could also go in a million directions, opening up many opportunities to build on what SPORTS has done. If we can use outside voices to think about what architecture can accomplish and how it is perceived, we can begin to understand a way forward where architecture can be seen as a positive force that can help make places for all to do better.