Experimental And Exploratory Architecture Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The words Experimental, alternative and 'on the fringes' are used repeatedly today, with many designers, architects, artists striving to venture into territories that are unheard of. The contemporary art scene is growing and changing with more artists delving into what is unexplored. Some are trying to combine art and architecture by doing installations for facilitating interesting spacial interactions, some are trying to amalgamate music and architecture when others are trying to link art with urbanism. This makes us realize that scope of cross disciplinary work is boundless. The various architecture biennials around the globe are an exhibition of the exponentially growing cross breed style of work that is emerging with architects mulling over a mixed bag of disciplines.

With the advent of unrestricted availability of information through the internet and media; with alternative culture becoming more popular, and with increasing willingness amongst architects/ artists to take up projects that are closely linked with the arts; experimental art and architecture today forms a big part of the contemporary art world. This avant-garde, experimental body of architecture greatly interests me and I would like to examine how and to what degree such engagements contribute back to the field of architecture?

My goals shall be to understand the need for, and possibilities of such works; deliberating about some consequential and prized experimental projects, and critically analyzing philosophies of architects/ curators/ artists who believe that such experimentation should form the backbone of architectural practice.


This research study will attempt:

to understand the possibilities of experimental architecture, that is born out of interaction with the artistic disciplines.

to evaluate the importance of cross disciplinary engagements.

to evaluate the importance of experimentation in architecture.

to understand the role and future of such engagements in the contemporary art/ architecture scene in the world and ultimately in India.


To what degree do exploratory and experimental architectural engagements through artistic fields contribute back to the field of architecture?


What are the institutions that promote and corroborate such engagements in architecture?

Is there presence of such institutions in India? If not, then why?

What is the need for cross-disciplinary experimentation in architecture ?


This study aims to deliberate on the future of architectural engagements with the arts, identify some such pivotal experimental work, and establish the importance and need for such work.

With the ongoing Venice biennale 2012 not exhibiting a single work from our country, this study aims to examine the reasons for such little experimental awareness in our country.


1.This research will analyze the evolution and current trends in installation design with special focus on architecture and design.

2.Opinions of various professionals- architects, critics, artists, educationalists, designers- will be considered and discussed.

3.This research allows for a broad area of investigation, with special interest in the disparity between the work being undertaken in the west and in India

This study will shall be one that is subjective in nature, as it is dependent on the views of others.


In the indian context, there is not enough material ( talks, papers etc.) that are published on this topic, and hence the study would depend upon first hand information. Also, this study is not analytical, it is subjective to the the opinions and discretion of those who are being interviewed.


To understand the possibilities of experimental architecture

1.1 Define experimental architecture: Read journals, articles and books on the field of experimental architecture, referring to Lebbeus Woods and his research and work towards the same.

1.2. Explore the different kinds of experimentation that has been carried out by architects in the past and to establish the scope of the research.

1.3 Interview some architects namely Asim Waqif, Khoj Foundation, Raqs media collective to understand their motivations and intentions.

1.4 To study and examine critically, certain prized projects that have made a contribution to the field of architecture and question why?

1.5 Refer to the Biennale as an exposition of the exploratory nature of architecture.

To evaluate the importance of cross disciplinary engagements

2.1 Define cross disciplinary engagements

2.2 Establish that architecture is a multi - disciplinary field in itself

2.3 Understand the possibilities of cross disciplinary exploration in architecture by studying such works, conducting interviews and reading books, journals, articles etc.

2.4 See whether these works have made a difference to the field of architecture in any respect and how they have done so by examining these works against a few set parameters

To evaluate the importance of experimentation in architecture

3.1 Establish the different kinds of experimentation : namely that which is done through/ with the help of other artistic disciplines such as art, music and theatre.

3.2 Examine works of Lebbeus Woods, Peter Cook (Archigram), Chris Bardt, James Cathart, Frank Fatuzzi , Terence Van Elslander and the like.

3.3 Examine different philosophies on experimental architecture and critically analyze them on the basis of their values, and ethics

3.4 Examine the outcomes of the same

To understand how they contribute to the field of architecture

4.1 Understand the role of an architect

4.2 Understand role of architecture as a profession

4.3 Establish the need to be able to create hypothetical scenarios and fictional frameworks to be able to approach problems differently

4.4 Establish the need for the 'novel' or new

4.5 Infer from case studies how they have made a difference to the field.

To examine the role of such engagements in the contemporary architectural scene in India

5.1 Identify architects in India who are experimenting with different fields

5.2 Identify and study their work

5.3 Interview writers/ curators in India who are trying to carry out experimental work in architecture


(An excerpt from the Literature Survey)


As architecture draws from various disciplines across artistic, logical and scientific spheres, it makes it easier for any of these disciplines to align themselves to the same and engage in artistic, empirical, scientific, experimental or academic exchanges. Architecture as a discipline has emerged from the amalgamation of art and science, which increases its affinity to both. The dependance of architecture on other disciplines only brings it closer to them and widens the scope for the execution of work relating to such disciplines.

Also, the architect who has explored and acquired knowledge across various subjects, possesses a multi disciplinary understanding, perspective and a mammoth freedom of choice. He feels free to delve into what he thinks is the most appropriate for the given problem at a given time.

For e.g. In a situation like the one that Szezelina points out in an interview with DOMUS "At the present, the boundaries between art and architecture are blurred. I think everything that is happening on the boundary between these two areas is incredibly interesting. New situations are being generated which help us reinterpret reality. Situations in which, through his or her actions, the artist becomes an architect and situations in which the architect, in executing his or her projects, becomes an artist, are very common." Romuald Demidenko (2012)


The resultant of the various interdisciplinary work in art and architecture might be extremely abstract and subjective, though it is one where the artist has complete freedom in most cases and is limited only by the external conditions and time of the problem. Art and architecture have evolved together with a variety of exchanges, and continue to do so engagingly. Trasi (2001) explains that, on the one hand, in addition to respecting place and function, architecture justifies the autonomy of aesthetic decision. On the other, art becomes ever more sensitive to its hosting buildings, cities, and territories. It intermingles with these by integrating with, or transforming, how they are perceived and identified, which may be interpreted as either subtle merging or radical provocation. Contemporary art, therefore, in its most vital, demonstrative and extreme aspects explores new relationships with 'place' that follow design processes similar to those of architecture. Art and architecture evolve within the same field of enquiry: the essential issue of space.

The proximity that the two disciplines share is due to the easy exchange of knowledge. There are many things that define such an exchange. They are:

2.2.1 Synthesis of elements and the birth of the 'novel'

Artists respond to the influential strength of architecture in visual culture and explore how built forms are being used and abused inn their work, thereby distending and extending space, and perhaps offering alternatives to the autonomous presumptions of architecture.

Klanten(2009) explains that there is an increasing breed of artists who are swimming into architecture and vice versa. In his Book, Beyond Architecture, Klanten talks about the city as an identity and about artists who have potrayed the same in an artistic fashion. What excites him about these engagements is the 'new' or 'novel' ideation, and the emergence of advanced outcomes. About the chapter on cities that have been portrayed by different artists, Klanten says, "The city offers a reality too complex and diverse, too disparate and plural, in order to be represented as a whole. What we witness is the creative emergence of profoundly new fantastic type of cities beyond the blueprint, such as Andreas Zimmermann's enthralling urban Lego worlds, almost autistic cardboard models by Matias Bechtold or Body Isek Kilgelez's hallucinogenic Las Vegas-like dream city structures. The ever changing nature of cities can also be traced in many of the works ranging from Michael Najjar's multiply exposed black and white photo series 'Netropolis' on numerous cities of the world to Eamon O'Kane's series of paintings of the development over the times of a rural area into an industrial zone and its regeneration back to nature. You must realize that all this is only a glimpse of the fabulous world you are about to witness, and nothing but the beginning. The ardent experimentation with and within the discipline of architecture charts novel ways of discovering and negotiating the potential of the urban in visual culture, thus also providing alternative and valid critical insights into understanding the city."

Another example is the Bauhaus school of education, rooted in interdisciplinarity, that remained the premiere institute for architectural education in Europe for many years. Trasi (2001) explains, In 1919 Gropius founded in Weimar the most important architectural education centre in Europe . His program was syncretic. It was about synthesizing and equilibrating artistic contributions from 1850 to 1914, uniting the best artists. The heritage of the Arts and Crafts Movement, of 18th-century engineering, of Art Nouveau and of the Werkbund - but also of the abstract-figurative research in painting in about 1910 -was globally accepted because of the Bauhaus intervention in reconsidering craftsmanship by recognizing and sustaining the productivity of manual labour. 'It exalted new structures and was involved in cooperation between architecture and industry.'

Walter Gropius started the school with many, one of them being Lazlo Maholy-Nagy who was an architect, actor, painter, photographer to name a few. Walter Gropius explains Lazlo's work by saying 'his varied activities - in photography, theatre , films , typography, and advertising designs - neither diminished or disseminated Moholy's powers as a painter. On the contrary, all his successful efforts in these mediums were simply indirect but necessary by-parts on his route to the conquest of a new conception of space in painting. This conception is for me his major contribution to the leadership of Modern art. He succeeded in projecting various interests into his painting; he thus created a new pictorial unity, peculiar to himself.' The 'new' or the 'novel' emerges simply from an encounter, that is interdisciplinary in nature.

2.2.2 Subjectivity and abstraction.

Art being a subject that is more intuitive and subjective that any other, when combined with architecture, gives an opportunity to the architect to be able to create something that he could not have done with architecture alone. Something that is highly abstract and conceptual. Moholy (1947) believes that this kind of interdisciplinary encounter can create abstract content that is necessary for projecting a future order. He says , 'At any given moment man's position is defined by everything he does. This position is determined by his biological nature and by his participation in a given culture. This is quite apart from his personal satisfaction, which is grounded in the successful expression of his emotional pattern. This expression will be fruitful if it carries with it an "objective" meaning for all people. Upon this depends his contribution to the development of culture.' He goes on to say that 'I believed that abstract art not only registers contemporary problems, but projects a desirable future order, unhampered by any secondary meaning which the customary departure from nature usually involves because of its inevitable connotations.'

2.2.3 Use as a medium for conversation and communication between disciplines

As these projects have roots in two disciplines, they can be used as a medium for conversation between art and architecture. For e.g. Delhi based artist, Gigi Skaria's paintings and sculpture installations require into the working methods and the political and topographical consequences of two practices - planning and architecture. Both these practices work primarily with visual tools such as drawing and mapping. Skaria engages with the classical architectural tools of drawing and model making to hold a mirror to the dystopias produced by the nexus of politics, real-estate pressures and developer aesthetics.

Gi Gi Skaria: Keep Delhi CleanAdjania (2012) explains one of Skaria's Paintings, 'Keep Delhi Clean' (2006) and expresses, 'Skaria carves Delhi's cartographical contours in the shape of a walled city, an apt metaphor for the security-paranoid metropolis. Except for the indication of a river, the map is empty and full of potential: Smooth as a cloud or a piece of fallen sky. The city, on the other hand, with its thrumming chaos, is banished from the key zones of the map, rendered as a mass of all that is unmanageable and ungovernable.' He asks if the map as Tabula Rasa offer the possibility to re-envision Delhi? or if is it a comment on the periodic beautification drives lodged by Delhi Govt. to 'clean up' the city, which translates effectively as evicting its expendable citizens to clear land for a new athlete's village or stadium.

2.2.4 Eccentric Expression

Art can act at an eccentric medium for expression or introspection to an architect. Molinari (2012) says that 'drawing for architects represents the indulgence in shear pleasure, the geometric standard by which to govern and share complexity, and the sign by which to assert their creative individuality and vision of the outside world.'

Other artists like Hoon Moon believe that drawings are like a mediating medium to acknowledge an auto-suggest that a possible world could be realized, through fragments of thoughts that compose a momentarily different "other" reality lies a buffer zone, these drawings let a person refuse obsessions of success,wealth and fame. in the ancient oriental painting Murungdowol (oneiric peach field amusement), drawing is not a utopia of withdrawal but a containment of aspiration with multiple points of tangency with what is real. Hence, drawing becomes a medium of mediation and mediation marked by daily instinct, reconciliation and delayed pleasures.

Moon places drawings on the same level as real construction since both are different manifestations of an identical desire, only different in their means of expressions.

2.2.5 Depiction

Pohl(2012) reminds us that the need for representation techniques that create a context for the viewer and transmit and communicate dreams and projects has a long history. "The european dreams of the 1960s and '70s wouldn't have been the same without the new forms of representation used by avant-garde architects,where every reader was in the position to decipher the message behind the represented work."

Hoom Moon In an article by Pohl(2012), WAI Think Tank declares, that 'if architectural representation is limited to the typical drawings and prospectives (like it usually is) it will delimit through those tools the way we think and understand architecture.' WAI is convinced that by exploring the potential of tools and representations used in other intellectual disciplines,like lit, art and music, it is possible to provide new ways of expanding the limits of architectural language and therefore increasing the limitlessness of our world.

The link between architectural representation and the physicality of its constructions has an undeniable influence on architects and students. Pohl(2012) agrees with Kulper by saying that 'representation can allow one to work on things that one may not yet know how to describe spacialy or architecturally.' Antonas as cited by Pohl (2012) maintains that representation is not interesting if its merely an emphasis or a better understanding of a single idea (that is proposed as correct). 'representation of a problem is more constructive,' he declares.


A significant creative surge in the 1960s led some few architects to break away and experiment with different forms of art to initiate critical and analytical discourse on architecture. This chapter would elaborate on two of the same.



Lebbeus Woods, was the architect who coined the genre of experimental architecture. He was one of one of the most influential thinkers of his time who had an unrealistic approach to architecture. The bulk of his work is extremely conceptual and visionary, seeking to embark upon architectural discourse. His works cuts across architecture and many other disciplines for their conceptual potency, imaginative breadth, jarring poetry, and ethical depth. The image below is anexample from his early works, Geomechanical towers, from a collection called 'Centricity' which illustrates a fictitious city where buildings resemble machines but with biological forms found frequently in nature.

Woods is the co-founder and and scientific director of ROEA.ch, an institution devoted to the advancement of experimental architectural thought and practice. "Woods worked cyclically, returning often to themes of architecture's ability to transform, resist, and free the collective and the individual. As an architect whose work lies almost solely in the realm of the imagined, proposed, and the unbuilt, his contributions to the field opened up new avenues for exploring, charting, and inscribing space." expresses Haim D.(2012)

Pencil work constitutes most of, but not all of Woods work. With a mere pencil he created a treasury of imaginary and thought provoking material. Woods created an oeuvre of complex worlds-at times abstract and at times explicit-that present shifts, cycles, and repetitions within the built environment. 'His timeless architecture is not in a particular style or in response to a singular moment in the field; rather, it offers an opportunity to consider how built forms can enhance or hinder individual thought and how a single individual can contribute to the development and mutation of the built world.' Haim D(2012). One of his projects is discussed in detail below:


This is a project that Woods embarked on at the time of the Sarjavero War in 1992. Woods resorted to what he called the establishment of the "Three principles of reconstruction" that he proposed to local architects who would use them as guidelines. His drawings and designs were examples of how these principles could work in particular cases, rather than as actual building proposals. Woods (2011)

PRINCIPLE 1: Restore what has been lost to its pre-war condition.

"The idea is to restore 'normalcy,' where the normal is the way of living lost as a result of the war" Woods (2011). Here the idea considers the war as only an interruption of an ongoing flow of the normal.

PRINCIPLE 2: Demolish the damaged and destroyed buildings and build something entirely new.

"This 'new' could be something radically different from what existed before, or only an updated version of the lost pre-war normal. Its application is very expensive financially, at the least." Woods(2011). Both of these concepts reflect the desires of most city inhabitants to 'get back to normal,' and forget the trauma they suffered as a result of the violence and destruction. He explains in a society where the impact of this change alone on people's everyday lives has been enormous, wise leaders are needed to persuade people that something new must be created-a new normal that modifies or in some ways replaces the lost one, and further, that it can only be created with their consent and creative participation. In effect, a new principle of reconstruction needs to be established.

Principle 3: The post-war city must create the new from the damaged old.

Many of the buildings in the war-damaged city are relatively salvageable, and because the finances of individuals and remaining institutions have been depleted by war and its privations, that salvageable building stock must be used to build the 'new' city. He goes on to say that new ways of living will not be the same as the old, the reconstruction of old buildings must enable new ways and ideas of living.

His drawings seek to provide answers to contemporary dilemmas in a futuristic fashion. Through radical and almost blasphemous notions, he took on the world. Woods(2010), "Architecture is a different kind of space altogether, offered, we could say, as a kind of post-terrestrial resistance against unstable ground, against the lack of a trustworthy planet. Against the lack of an inhabitable world."

Woods' exquisite drawings and his engaging factional writings on architecture have made him one of the mort forward thinkers of his time, and have shown us that architecture can be an experimental pursuit.


Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron and Mike Webb formed Archigram- an Avant Guard group based at the Architectural Association, London in the early 1960s. Archigram was underground counter-cultural magazine that tried to dismantle the apparatus of modern architecture. The magazine containing a myriad of experimental mix-media illustrations, chowk-a-block diagrams and futuristic essays was an attempt at not only critique, but also offered insightful and imaginary solutions to the urban architectural and social order of their time.

Their projects may have been surreal and far reaching, but Manaugh G.(2010) writes "it feels as if Archigram did, in fact, accurately foresee what the architectural world was coming to." He says that even though their ideas may have seemed unrealizable, "those ideas actually lend themselves surprisingly well to the environment in which we now live."

One of their projects called "Drive-in housing" is described below:


The project is was a fictitious proposal for of automated constructional, servicing and dismantling techniques applied to a large building developments, that would comprise of the 'mobile human containers' or cars as parts that fit into these large drive-in architectures.

'The building has been designed large enough to include its own component production units. these manufacture moulded reinforced plastic panels, which are conveyed, folded up, to their position in the structure and then open out to form usable floor space.' Webb M (1999)

They propose not only dwelling spaces but also commercial / public spaces of congregation such as Office, restaurants, cinemas, planned and styled consumer spaces, naves, banking halls or auditoriums- all spaces to be composed of cars.

The three parts of the structure are:

1. The basic clothing skin: that can be inflated to make a chaise-longue or further inflated to make a room. It consists of two layers, an opaque, thermal insulating skin and a transparent/part translucent external cover which, used separately or in conjunction with each other, offer varying degrees of protection against excessive heat, cold, damp, etc.

2. A short range bodiless vehicle: consisting of a tubular frame chassis floating on an air cushion. The owner's body becomes the body of the vehicle. Hence its rather Wellsian name, Cushicle.

3. The third part: is in two sections: first a hotted-up service core node dispensing food, movies, medicine, shows - in short, approximating to a city type and arranged on a country-wide grid pattern; and second, a high-speed continuous moving belt system which would link together these nodal cores and to which the Cushicles would attach themselves, just like the piggyback idea on American railroads.

Applying the principle to the house: the kitchen, bathroom and dressing area, since they are essentially 'work' areas and contain bulky, heavy equipment like refrigerators, baths, coolers, stoves, and w.c.s could become fixed service units, and the living areas be made up of parts which, by means of folding panels, could divide up to form mobile containers and be driven off.

With its radical schemes and depiction of vehement modernity, Archigram was the "pre-eminent

architectural avant-garde of its day" Sadler, S(2005). Archigram had a new sensibility that was seeking to re-analyze the fundamentals of architectural practice. When the growth of an international style had codified modern architecture and cities were triumphantly being built in the image of the Bauhaus and the International Style "Archigram's transcendence of this arrangement, its demand that every design be born of inspiration, implied rebellion against an architectural profession intent upon training, in the main, competent technicians." Sadler, S(2005)



Since the modernist break-away that was seen in the 1960s in architectural culture, there have not been any such extreme movements. Though, as times have been changing, architecture has been evolving. The new architectural firm is not just limited to drawings and construction, but is taking risks. It is venturing into many pilot projects.

Cory Mattheis (2012) believes that it is due to the current economic situation, that the ability of architects branch into the fields of like fabrication, animation, set construction, installation art, product design, and even web design, proves to be a viable (and often times more lucrative) option. Chishti(2012) believes that these changes are based on inter-disciplinary impetuses or forces because a lot of architecture that we see all around the world has seized to be architecture based on commodity, firmness , principles of function and form or principles of structure etc. He says 'its cutting across all those original devices that you associated with the making of architecture and it is becoming in a way a mixture, where theres a lot of borrowing and lending from one form to another.'

These experiments especially those that are backed by research, are considered as 'crucial' for architects by Heinsdorff (2012). Being an installation artist himself, experimenting with art and architecture has helped him innovate new technologies such as new Bamboo technologies and various kinetic sculptures. As architecture evolves, there emerges a new, contemporary architectural practice that is multi-disciplinary and fearless of experimentation.


The vocabulary of architecture is expanding, as it incorporates other arts under its skin. Installations are becoming a popular medium for research and experimentation. Bonnemaison and Eisenbach (2009:15) explain that like competitions it gives an opportunity to architects to explore ideas that can later be incorporated into design.

London based firm called muf architecture/art has integrated installations and events associated with them into its practice as a form of research and as a way to engage the community and provoke conversation with future users. Similar to that, Delhi based Arch-i studio, headed by Anne Feenstra, used installations as a vehicle to engage the city population in their quest for change, a manifesto for Delhi's new master plan, Delhi 2050.

Two interesting projects using installations as a medium are described below:

4.2.1 Mark Robbins: Utopian Prospect

Mark Robbins' work "Utopian Prospect" was built in Woodstock, NY, in the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, an experiment in utopian living stripped of typical societal notions and hierarchies.

The installation had on one side the Catskill Mountains, and the village on the other. Robbins quoted by Eisenbach (2009) describes it: "The smooth side of the block wall supports a steel shutter which can be pivoted by hand into positions that either mask or frame views through a large window at eye level. On this side of the wall, a flight of stairs descends into a cool recess in the earth. It provides access to views through a smaller window located two feet above the ground on the reverse side of the wall."

One could view the Catskill Mountains, frame picturesquely by upper, larger window of the installation, or from the smaller window below, but simultaneously parts of the viewer's body would be framed if viewed from the other side of the wall. There was also a bench on the other side of the wall on which one could sit and enjoy an unobstructed view of the mountains. The viewer's entire body could interact and and participate in the panorama, reflecting the Byrdcliffe Colony's philosophy - of being one with nature.

Thus what was achieved was a versatile pavilion which could either be "a setting for interaction or it could be a protection from the rest of the colony, allowing solitude and contemplation", and through it a deconstruction of perspective viewing. Robbins reminds us that architecture can play a role in molding our attitudes towards nature. Utopian Prospect brings out the relationship between the built and the natural world as one of "symbiosis and interdependency, rather than mastery and exploitation".

4.2.2 Don Hoffman: Recording Wall

Dan Hoffman's Recording Wall is a systematic series of photographs printed on concrete blocks that portrays the human body at work. Hoffman's methodology was unique:

Eisenbach (2009) explains "An eight-by-sixteen-foot concrete wall was erected without mortar. As a mason set each block into place, a remote shutter release activated cameras positioned on either side of the wall: the wall was photographed each time a block was placed. Light-sensitive emulsion painted on each block allowed the photographs to be printed directly on each respective block's surface. As a result, each of the 105 blocks carried a photographic record of the progress of the wall being built. It also documented the physical effort required to build it as we see the man working away, block by block."

The labourer is photographed bent down laying the foundation and right up to when he lays the top rows of the eight-foot tall wall, obscuring himself completely. The irony of the permanence of the work superseding the worker is impressed upon the viewer as well as the repetitive nature of the work. Hoffman tells us that this work was easily understood by his audience and they quickly grasped the sequential nature of the exhibit, and that each element contained a picture of the whole.

We are left with a beautifully simple, self-referential work: a wall, the fundamental architectural element, being laid by a mason, brick by brick, where each brick represented a milestone in its creation. In essence, "a construction about construction".


There are many institutions and consortiums that have helped establish experimental work as conformist practices. Some have encouraged the same for research purposes, and others have done the same for art, some have needed to focus on technology and yet others are working with education. All share a common philosophy - experimentation which forms a cornerstone of their philosophies.


It is only after the 1980's that contemporary architecture achieved global recognition as a curatorial medium. Curatorial practice in architecture and design is a relatively new field, previously left to art historians and curators to present to the public. Bennett M.(2009) thinks that architecture and design are not off-shoots of art, and the academic and museum worlds are beginning to take notice.

The Biennale generates and showcases original projects, concepts and ideas in different formats: conferences, screenings, exhibitions, urban interventions, workshops and debates. Staged in a variety of venues, they give rise to alternative visitor itineraries and original ways of exploring the host city. The Venice Biennale has been curating architecture since 1980 and this year was its 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Biennale. In 1980, the first Biennale directed by Paolo Portoghese which was a deliberation upon the Postmodernist movement. Frank O. Gehry, RemKoolhaas, Arata Isozaki, Robert Venturi, Franco Purini, Ricardo Bofil, and Christian dePortzamparc where among some of the leading architects who participated in creatingPortoghesi's "Strada Novissima" - a hypothetical postmodern "street" made up of twenty facades that sparked a lively debate and became a symbol of the movement itself. Rosenfield K.(2012)

The exhibition has various architects/ artists curating under a central theme, that contribute to international discussions and discourse on architectural affairs. For example the recent theme "Metamorph" or 'metamorphosis in architecture' curated by Kurt W. Forster in 2004 that was dictated and facilitated by new technologies and materials. In 2006, Cities. Architecture and society where Richard Burdett called attention to critical questions facing contemporary society and the role of architects when it comes to "designing democratic and sustainable urban landscapes, as well as their links to policies of intervention, government statements and social cohesion".

In 2008: Out There: Architecture Beyond Building by Aaron Betsky aimed to "move towards a building-free architecture, in order to face society's crucial themes.'' Rosenfield K.(2012)

2010 saw Kazuyo Sejima directing People meet in architecture which intended for visitors to experience the manifold possibilities of architecture and its plurality of approaches.

And finally Common Ground by David Chipperfield in 2012 seeks to "celebrate a vital, interconnected architectural culture, and pose questions about the intellectual and physical territories that it shares. In the methods of selection of participants, my Biennale will encourage the collaboration and dialogue that I believe is at the heart of architecture, and the title will also serve as a metaphor for architecture's field of activity." Chipperfield(2012)

The exposition has fashioned an assorted variety of opportunities for architects to envision and fabricate their experiments. The Biennale has varied projects ranging from entirely hypothetical to those which have been already built. One example of the latter is Anupama Kundoo's "Wall House". She is the only Indian architect to have exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2012. This project displays her various building techniques including six roofing technologies aimed at reducing the use of steel and concrete, that she has worked upon with a lot of experimentation and research. This has certainly made it possible for architects to showcase their ideas or works to the rest of the world.

Since the success of the 1st exhibition, the Venice Biennale remains the progenitor of contemporary architectural curation. Rosenfield K.(2012) expresses, The avant-garde institution has remained at the forefront in the research and promotion of new artistic trends, while leading international events in the field of contemporary arts that are amongst the most important of their kind.


Various kinds of exhibitions around the globe have helped evolve the practice of installations substantially. For institutions like the Shanghai Expo where different countries design and exhibit their culture and technology, installations and pavilions have emerged as the primary medium. This has become a popular practice as it gets taken up by different festivals and 'expos' around the world. While some believe that World Expos are not much more than "visual extravaganzas with little tangible benefit" Waqif A. (2012), they have undeniably caught on as a popular platform for expression, and installations are a part of this ascent.

Bennett M.(2009) believes that as Numerous countries fill their respective pavilions with installations ranging from the practical to the utterly conceptual, they allow for a global audience to view the achievements of individual countries beyond photographs and film, thus providing additional material for a global dialogue on the conditions, directions, and concerns of architecture and design.

Indo-German Urban Mela is another 'expo' where the installations are not the  sole constituents of the exhibition, but act as spaces for the same. Heinsdorff talks about mobile space as a concept. The exhibition happened in five different cities which meant that the installations needed to be dismantled and reassembled at every location. He talks about how people spend so much time on daily travel in urban centers like Mumbai for example. If architecture was mobile, perhaps there would be opportunities to economize on time, to be more efficient. It's just a concept, but this kind of thinking sows the seeds of breakthrough innovations.

This institution has promoted installations and taken them a step closer to mainstream acceptance as a future form of architectural art. 


Experiments with art and installations have become common in colleges as research and teaching methodologies. From Gyorgy Kepes' Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT to the MIT Media Lab, The Center for Information Technology and Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen, educational institutions are bringing in technological innovation into design research through installations; the Bauhaus is considered to be the pioneer in this regard, integrating craft, architecture and the performing arts.

A little closer to home, at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, IM Chisti who conducts the Theory of Design studio takes an unconventional approach. The assignments given to students are often cross-disciplinary, experimenting with different forms of art, music and theatre. Chisti(2012) says, " My belief is that you see the energy behind all forms of expression, and particularly design, is the same, you see only the forms change. Like water, ice and vapor, the forms are different but the energy is the same. Its not something that is a must for everybody to recognize, but if you have the sense of recognizing it, if you are able to recognize that, deep inside you, then you see the connections. And if you start to see these connections, then you start to appreciate the beauty of these forms." Other subjects like Advanced Geometry and Parametric Architecture involve students into building installations to test material and structural systems.


RIEA.ch, that was stet up by Lebbeus Woods is an institution with the purpose of advancing experimentation and research in the field of architecture, in response to changing political, economic, technological and cultural conditions in the contemporary world. Also, early architectural research labs such as Frei Otto's Institute for Lightweight Structures in Stuttgart have provided inventive settings to foster innovative work.


Like professor Chishti(2012) puts it, "the evolution of architecture in the last 100 years has gone through very interesting transformations. So you know about a 100 years back from today (modernism), architecture went through a kind of revolution when it broke away from its past and set out a completely new trajectory or path which also coincided with a break in all other forms of expression."

Architecture was no exception. Architecture and Art have evolved together over time, and continue to do so. From  institutions like the Biennale creating new opportunities for architecture to be added to the many arts they curate and museums like the MoMA inaugurating the Department of Architecture and Design, the trends in architecture are shifting both towards art, and away from art. Towards art in the sense that Architecture is trying to merge with art. With many creatives trying to puncture and perforate boundaries between the two disciplines.

It is also breaking away from art in the sense that design is now being recognized as an independent profession, it is coming to be recognized at a curatorial art, and is being exhibited. Professor Chishti recognises that and is trying to play his role in educating the indian society about the design. With Design X Design, he seeks to provide a platform for the exposition and appreciation of such work. 

There might not have been a radical alteration movement of architecture in these last hundred years, but architecture is slowly progressing and maturing in the direction of the movement of sustainability and invention. This new horizon that we're moving towards has not come about by architecture alone. It has had several exogamous influences. Heinsdorff's ingenious and sustainable installation work persuades us to be led in the direction of this movement. At the same time Robbins' simple experiments effectuate and highlight the symbiotic relationship between the built and the natural world. These efforts serve as an inspiration for people to see architecture in a new light through the sustainable window. 

The future looks out to these this sort of interaction & integration with nature. People who can look beyond the present, and those who have peered into the future, have shared visions such as to rebuild from the old, to build and maintain sustainably. Woods is an example of this, who seemed to have a bird's eye view of the world, where he recognized architecture as a post terrestrial resistance. Woods believed that integration of  the built and the natural world was essential and he sought to propose the same with his visionary drawn elixirs. In the same vein, Cook and others at Archigram embarked upon similar endeavors, initiating discourse by means of experimentation.  

Art and architecture move together. Within architecture, conceptual advancements have been incremental or gradual for the most part, but when those radical inflection points occur, they come from an exogenous influence: that creative space that architects and artists access in their explorations and experiments. 

So experiments with art rarely offer immediate returns, and hence are often undervalued, but as architects, when we sense the first signs of stagnation, when we're suffocated by constraints, it is art that we turn to for inspiration to break through to new pastures.


Interview with Markus Heisendorff

Installation artist

1. You are an installation artist, and your work reflects on experimental architecture, that is born out of interaction with art. i.e. artistic disciplines like art and sculpture. Can you please tell me about your influences in art and architecture.

So in general in your school they ask me what is your strategy? And I told them my strategy is to not have a strategy. My strategy is to be open and most importantly do things in the lines of green design. It has come to become something that is very fashionable. But the real meaning is sustainable, environment-friendly and so on but in fact they have to change a lot of things and I think architecture issues are at the moment the most interesting things directing towards the environment that we live in. And we are the ones who can change things. so, the inspiration, I try, to look deeply into things. People have a very black or white view about things. But my perspective is to always look for other options. To experiment, to find new ways. There has been a lot of innovation, and that inspires me. I'm trying to find something new. To do the things sustainably, we need to have new ideas. I worked with bamboo. Thats not only to have a new sustainable material, thats an old material. But we lose some traditions. Its important to revive them in todays context. specially in India you see climatically functional systems in buildings. For eg. if you go to an old stone house, they had natural air conditioning systems. They do this with good air system, water cooling, bamboo fences or bamboo mats. There are many good systems but often you lose the knowledge. I am interested in doing something in the meaning of "look to the tradition, understand the tradition, create something new" Learn from the tradition, but do something completely new for now and the future... and definitely nature-friendly and sustainable. Next one.

2. What according to you is the relationship between art and architecture, and what do you think are the possibilities of doing such work?

For doing artwork and architecture work, that is more or less the same. The artist does not focus on the functionality. I work with architectural themes, but generally I say it is 'spacework'. I am interested in urban design, so the meaning is you work with your surroundings, your environment; you work with your senses. You think about what you can hear, what you feel, what you see, the noise.. and my idea is to on the one hand find new technique systems. I am very technique-based from my sculptures - if you look to my website, you will see there are a lot of kinetic sculptures so they're moveable. That is based on technics. There have to be light-weight, they have to work with wind energy. You think there's no wind, but my sculpture is moving! So the energy from a little bit of wind is enough to work. I love to understand a little bit engineering work to use it for intelligent systems. I think artists can give good inspiration. Also architects. Not everything must be functional. Sometimes it's more important to give people inspiration. If you design a chair and it's not comfortable, then this is not a good design. There I think there must be work. But if you make a chair like a friend of mine. He works with water-eirtzen (water lillies) 

..like seaweed..?

Something like seaweed, but if the water erhitzen comes to the lake, in a short time the lake is not any more existing. And a friend of mine he started to make furniture design of this environmentally unfriendly plant. So clever usage gives inspiration on how we can use materials for evironmentally friendly design. So there are different targets in design. Artists in one way can give both, technical, clima-systems, lightweight solutions but the most important i think is to give inspiration to change a little bit the time.

Yes, number 3.

3. There are many architectural firms who like to do installations. As an artist, do you think it is important for an architectural firm to have exploration and experimental installations as their backbone, for them to arrive?

You talked before about research. I think it is the most important. Learn about tradition, what all is possible, what is not possible for architects. Architects don't need to be artists and artists don't need to be architects, but both can cooperate very well. If I make a project, I always work in a team. I have architects and engineers, so I'm not an architect or an engineer, I'm an artist.. but together we work as a team to create something new.

I think architects are creative, but lawyers are creative as well. To win a case you must be creative and intelligent. So I don't separate creativity. Creativity has to be the foundation for everything, however you use it. Some architects have good knowledge and ideas, while others need inspiration from outside. I think there is no general answer, but experience and research are crucial .. for architects it is model building, 3d, looking around, find out how light & climate would work etc.

4. In your lecture at SPA, you said "Design can propose new, alternative routes out of the present moment"

Ask me this question in another way.

So does it mean that architecture won't be just buildings, but it will be a system of imagining and re-imagining routes through new scenarios?

After listening to your lecture, I have come to understand that you are a great believer in sustainability. What do you think will make architects adopt new sustainable practices?

When I talk about possibilities of design and researching, collecting ideas from different professions, I collect knowledge. For example, I know now about bamboo. I have a big archive of photographs of (key carbons) around the world. I do this not only with bamboo, but also eco-friendly material, new construction material, high aesthetic material. I do this also with wood, but I think bamboo is perfect. In my next project, I will combine bamboo and wood. Bamboo for me is a kind of symbol. I start to photograph tea gardens - human-made landscape. I studied how humans, especially Japanese, changed the landscape using nature. I start now to make a project with the botanical garden. I photograph them and I show this to you using the rainforest, but in the reality, in the neighborhood, in the botanical gardens, or how we see the things. I started to collect tea gardens as a symbol for nature. 

I also work with water. Water in the meaning of nature. Water is the most important thing - everyday when you open the newspaper you see good and bad stories about water.

So now I have these three themes, and my idea is to bring all three things together. I may have a swimming tea house made of bamboo! So I inspire myself. If someone was to ask me what is your concept, I say: Be open to everything, work hard, try to find everyday a way to make yourself better, bring things to the point. Coming back to your question on sustainability, art doesn't have to be by itself in a function or sustainable, but I want to create something new, my ideas. I say, c'mon, everything can be art. But it's not importnat whether it's art, or design or sculpture. What's importnat is that we create something that's new and solves problems.

I'll tell you why. The last 6 years I travelled a lot, living in hotels. Everything that's noisy - a noisy air conditioner, a noisy neighborhood, or they make a renovation, and they all say "we are so sorry". But "we are so sorry" can't be my life. When I travel half the year, everyday I have a new situation, and I try to make my situation comfortable. I stay mostly in mega cities, and they have their own problems: slow traffic, poisoning from the traffic (air pollution), extreme noise, crowd... All your senses are ... how you say.. (bombarded) with permanently surrounding...


Chaos, yes. So I understand we have to change. I am only a guest in a city, I can go to another city and change my situation. But if people are living in a city, I am sure how we handle today's situation, that can't be our future. It has to change. As an artist, I can't build houses, but I can give inspiration. Especially to the generation of young architects who will create the future. They can understand for themselves that market to earn money they must not do the same stupid things that are being done today, and I'm sure that is the market for the future. There they can earn money, they can have a real future, only when they work in the scheme of environmentally friendly, sustainable green design.

It's better that they do it now, because if they don't then the next generation will have to solve this problem. The word sustainability is very fashionable but it should mean something that is durable, and that will last not just 1 month or 1 year, but will last 20 years. This is today's mistake. Mobile phones are good for just half a year or 2 years and then they are broken or they are no longer in fashion. Do things in high quality and do it in a way that will not waste.

5. What do you think of the institutions that support this kind of work? For example you exhibited at the Shanghai Expo, and the Venice Biennale..

I've never been on the Venice Biennale, don't make me more important that I should be.

(laughing) But what do you think of these institutions? How important do you think they are in an artist's life and what is their agenda?

I think Biennale is a huge expos they give us the chance for global communication. We cannot turn time back, so we work with computer, internet. We have to be very much careful of our own culture. the meaning for architecture is to look to your city, you can look to many cities. they lose their face. they can be everywhere. so try that the culture is always an important part of your creativity. to learn about is good that we have expos so we see what other nations is doing. when you learn from other cultures, you sharpen your eyes for your own culture. then you see the difference "oh wow what a lovely culture", and without culture there is no human-friendly life. So culture is the most important thing.

6. Sir, I wanted to say that a lot of work that you've done in the past few years, for example the tree house in Thailand, the garden expo pavilion, and the urban mela, you have been playing a lot with space, and with the perception of space. So is that how you see people looking at your work? That it's not a purely aesthetic or artistic exploration but it's also architectural. So, as an artist, what is your message to architects? And what do you think this contributes to architecture as a profession?

Three questions in one? Very tricky, very tricky! If you look at my artwork, you will see a lot of works referring, in an abstract way, to space. Space could be where you're sitting, it could be a house or a cottage, it is also your body. Everything is a part of space. The question is how we handle space. If we talk about environment, that is our surroundings. My ideas for installations especially with natural material are mostly open. I show people the inside and the outside. The meaning you find is a good reason. For the Indian, the inner space is important. They waste their surroundings, they don't give care for them, but I want to explain to them that in front of your house is also your space, so give care for the environment, don't waste it.

With my installation I want to make people feel, I want to touch them with nature. With the sky shaped (?) in my tree house in Chiang Mai, Thailand. That's open structures. You be in a structure, you feel space, you think you're in a space, but in reality it's only a shape. When there's transparency, you can look outside, you see nature or the city space and then you understand that is all one. That's not separate. Not only your house is your privacy, but the environment also is your privacy. You have to protect it also.


7. As an installation artist, the nature of your work is transient, temporary. So how does this affect your process of design?

My work is not based on temporary or permanent. That is one interesting part of my work to understand, or to think about temporary space or pavilions, movable pavilions. We talk about mobile space, and that is an interesting thing. My symbol is telecom because from A to B today by ceremonies, in the early times for wars, for traveling whatever. And interesting as a nice symbol tradition.. We have evolved from the nomads, who says we have to live like we live today? We had migration workers, and mongolians who lived in mobile houses. We have people here, especially in India who have to travel for 5 hours everyday by train , so maybe its better that they live in mobile houses. So they are things that we have to care about today. But temporary and permanent is something that helps us makes people question, make them sensitive to ask themselves, 'is this how we want to live?', is that how we want to live in a noisy city, why we accept this? why we don't find solutions? etc.

How do you see the indian art scene? Have you met any indian installation artist who's doing similar work that you admire?

I saw shortly an artist from Karnataka who did an installation, and he made an installation with cow dung in a nice gallery space. I loved his installation. And now we see he only brings what we see in the slums into the museum. It shows us how art can inspire people to bring in the realities of life into the museum. That could shock people, or it could portray what already exists. You have extremely fantastic artists here in India. You have the most fascinating textile designers. You have the most famous handicrafts, textiles, carving. You have had amazing architects and artists in the past. I have just started studying the contemporary architecture here.

And the hope is the young architects who need to change the system. I have to comment on Yamuna being so dirty. Architecture also means environment.


Interview with Asim Waqif

Trained architect who does only installations

Sir, you have delved into film, architecture, art and design among many others. What according to you is the relationship between art and architecture?

Architecture and Art can interfere with each other. but right now it seems that art is rather conceptual, it has distanced itself from the act of creation. The idea is more important than the process of creation.

Architecture on the other hand seems to be obsessed with construction possibilities, so we see a shift towards more computerized forms that were not possible/feasible earlier.

What do you seek to achieve by trying to cross the boundaries between art and design? and what according to you are the possibilities of such cross-disciplinary work?

Design is a rather elitist specialization today. Designers tend to sit on an exclusive pedestal and declare "solutions" for everyone. But more often than not the designer hardly ever uses what he designs. I feel there is a huge disconnect between designers and users in this sense.

Art is also elitist but more in the promotion of it. You don't need to be educated in art but you need to break into the "art scene".

There are immense possibilities in cross-disciplinary work but one needs to be free to disregard ones specialization to be able to effectively include other processes.

Speaking of experimentation, your projects, all have different intentions in terms of materials and spacial considerations. What role does experimentation play in your work? Please talk about your experimentation philosophies, and why you think experimentation is important.

One of the biggest problems I had with Architectural practice (I am generalizing of course) is that it depends too heavily on the studio/office/atelier for the process of design. The actual construction process is, more often than not, a matter of execution. We (as designers/architects) have excluded the producers/fabricators and users from the creative process.

My projects on the other hand, often work at the diametrically opposite end. I never make drawings of the form. The form emerges from the process. And the process is dependent on the workers, the situation, the users, time, almost everything that could possibly interfere. I am very conscious of these interferences, even desire them.

This allows me to create situations far beyond my imagination.

What has been your relationship with the KHOJ Foundation? It is one of the few indian institutions that encourage such exploratory and original work. What would you say is its agenda?

Khoj is quite an incredible space because it is not concentrating on the end product, rather it is trying to investigate processes without prejudice to what emerges. This allows for incredible possibilities as one can forget the pressure of creating an object and concentrate instead on the act.

What do you think about institutions that support this kind of exploratory work? Like the shanghai Expo and the Venice Biennale? What is it that they are trying to achieve?

There is a huge difference between Shanghai and Venice. Even Venice used to be a different kind of event earlier. It was transgressive in the 60/70s but today transgression has become so institutionalized that it is not possible to call it experimental. Venice is unfortunately carrying such a heavy baggage today that it is difficult to do truly transgressive work there.

Shanghai Biennale is very young and more reliant on the emerging Chinese art market. It is also controlled remotely by the govt. of China so its almost impossible to do anything politically critical of the Party.

Shanghai Expo was just a gimmick like all World Expos. Its more to prove to the world that China can host a World Expo. anyway most world expos are visual extravaganzas without much tangible effect.

You are a trained architect, and your work in an exploration of space with many other ideas. Would you call yourself an installation artist? How do you think your work contributes to the field of architecture?

Oh frankly I don't care how my work contributes to the world of architecture. I did study architecture but even before I finished my course I was clear that I did not want to "practice" it. Architecture is my retirement plan.

How do you see indian contemporary experimental art/ architecture on the world map? Please talk about any other architects/ artists who you admire for similar experimental work?

In a globalised world we have become increasingly dependent on trends, like the fashion industry. Right now indian art is hot, last decade it was chinese art. Unfortunately Indian contemporary architecture is nowhere on the global map but I think only Indian Architects are to blame for that.

What we need to do is to