Recently, I spent some time with a few of my students exploring the Chicago Architecture Biennial. I was impressed with the breadth of ideas being explored, the broad range of graphic communication strategies employed, and the often divergent positions presented on the ‘State of Architecture’ today.
While the biennial offers no shortage of sources for inspiration and discussion, I thought that I would start by focusing on just one exhibit, Sou Fujimoto’s Architecture Is Everywhere. I couldn’t stop thinking about this particular exhibit, captivated by its simultaneous simplicity, humor, and depth.
At face value, Fujimoto’s installation is a simple trick. He takes everyday objects, inserts tiny scale figures, and through the magic of a scale shift creates a humorous, architectural, spatial illusion. The installation is playful and whimsical (which are not characteristics that usually speak to me). It is easily comprehensible to both architects and non-architects alike. One of my students thought the installation was a joke, and to some extent it could be read that way, but I feel that that there is quite a bit more substance than what might be initially apparent.
There is a kind of simple brilliance to the exhibit. Fujimoto speaks to how architects see the world in a creative and spatial way. He makes us look differently at commonplace objects, illustrating the architectural potential of the everyday world we live in. His argument is that ‘Architecture is first found, and then made’. As we observe these clever pairings of objects and statements, we might begin to imagine new architectural possibilities revealed in the things around us. Furthermore, Fujimoto includes a simple, sometimes humorous, often provocative, statement with each model. The text forces us to revisit the object from a conceptual point of view, challenging us to explore an architecture of ideas.
Looking differently at commonplace objects is, in fact, a very creative and ‘designerly’ thing to do. In creative disciplines, we tend to look differently at the environments we inhabit, finding insight and inspiration in the process. Recently, I finished a book by another Japanese designer, Kena Hara. In it, Hara urges designers to “Rediscover the unknown in the familiar - extract ideas from the commonness of everyday lives.”
By seeing the everyday anew, we find inspiration, and rediscover architectural potential.