Following are some images from the exhibition “Digital Postmodernities” that was up at the Yale school of Architecture over the last semester. It documented to an extent, the history of Digital Architecture through the work of four architects / engineers – Peter Eisenman, Greg Lynn, Frank Gehry and Chuck Hobermann. The exhibition brings together some fantastic models and drawings, displayed in a neat fashion. It also has some working models of spaces, like the retractable roof of the stadium or a conflatable dome – ingenuously bringing together engineering and technology, art and science, origami and structure.
The exhibition was actually coupled with a 2-day symposium, where the above architects, as well as other important speakers spoke about the history of the field. The panel was generally intrigued how there had been no investment in documenting the history of Digital Architecture, inspite of it presumably being a widely absorbed practice in schools as well as architectural profession. It is debatable whether one must really be interested in digging deeper into the workings or beginnings of Digital Architecture. To an extent, it was funny that the people who claim to be pioneers in this domain themselves feel the urge to be taken up its documentation by others (for example, Architecture PhD students). The obsession of the above architects to be noticed and being spoken about was all over the Symposium! However, perhaps what is happening is that people may not have realized that the escapement of time over the last 20 years has been exponential, and the experience of time itself has changed. And in this background, the people (some who are how aging, and some who are on the threshold of their young days) feel that the moment will soon slip out of their hand if not held now. I sensed this seemingly insecure feeling of slippage of time working behind the organization of the exhibition.
Without any doubt, it is exciting to see “process” models of many built projects of Gehry, Eisenman or Lynn. I was only left wondering if they already knew which drawings to preserve and which were to be discarded, when they were actually making the designs. Preserving every tinker bit of the process, I think is in the nature of today’s architectural practices, more so in the West. If you are famous, your smallest contributions might end up in a large exhibition. On the other hand, a thing I learnt after coming to Yale was that the smallest and most insignificant of things presented neatly and well can become a piece of art work. Some of the objects in this exhibition, for example, seem to matter hardly. They are iterations of processes that typically happen in any design work. Yet, these (random) objects, produced by well known people, brought in the space of a gallery, enclosed in glass boxes force us to consider them seriously.
I enjoyed watching such ‘futility’ (certainly not the right word to use) to some extent. Some of the objects which constituted it had an aesthetic to them which could not be verbalized. In this sense, they rightfully belonged to the museum space, pushing the boundaries of architectural language. They could only be observed, without being put into words. Some other objects were more tangible intellectually and even pretty. I am referring tot he origami models that became the basis of fantastic experiments of Chuck Hobermann’s architectural solutions for the dome or the stadium’s roof. They were playful and reminded me of the Mechanix toys that we used to play with as kids.
Overall, in its feel, the way in which the exhibition was put up reminded me of a student exhibition – that which is filled with lots and lots of process drawings and models. The only thing that made it different was that it was an exhibition where they had enormous budget to frame, box and display things which utmost care. Students can not afford that luxury. I think the careful display was the key to the success of this exhibition. Most of these objects must also be under the possession of the Canadian Center for Architecture. So these were technically museum acquisition, in other words, part of architectural historical archives. Following are the pictures for those who missed or would like to revisit the exhibits. The exhibition was pulled down last week to make space for the year end student works.