reOrder: An Architectural Environment, designed by Situ Studio

Review

of an Exhibition

by David Wells

Published on March 28, 2011, Modified on March 29, 2011

  • Description:

    The Brooklyn Museums central pavilion is beautiful example of classic architecture and has housed many exhibitions since it opened in the early 20th century. Presently they are showcasing an architectural exhibit called reOrder: An Architectural Environment, designed by Situ Studio- a Brooklyn based creative practice specializing in design and fabrication- and will be on view until January 15, 2012. The designers re-imagined the space and transformed it into a surreal architectural forest, with floor to ceiling fabric mushroom like pillars with molded form seats and tables around the bases. There are four large walls placed around which divides the space and offers a central meeting area, where the seating is and an external avenue style thoroughfare that goes all the way around the central area.

    When I entered the space the colossal structures in the center, immediately drew me in and set the tone for my experience. I was excited and wanted to move around faster then I thought I was allowed to. I wondered what these structures were, why they were there and who put them there. As I wandered around I noticed some signage by the entrance that slipped under my radar when I entered. It provided the title and general description of the exhibit as well as the people involved in bringing it from conception to fruition. It was informative and seemingly placed there so the visitor would purposefully miss it and see the exhibit before reading it. The only other signage in the exhibit were signs posted by the video monitors displaying a time lapse film of the production of the exhibit from fabrication to installation, that read “The Making of reOrder.”

    Situ Studio defined their concept as an attempt to “rearticulate the space” while maintaining the integrity of the great hall and its history. The structures soften the space with the intention of “creating a unique forum for public interaction.” I decided to test out this objective by trying to interact with the public. It was apparent that the space inspired dialogue between groups of people that came together but would people welcome an outsider into their group?

    In the opening signage it explains that the centrally located structures have molded seats and tables to encourage public interaction. I noticed a couple trying to sit on a table thinking it was a higher seat and as they would land on the table they would slide right off, because it was not designed to sit on. There wasn’t enough space for a person to sit and the few people I saw that were able to balance on it did not seem comfortable.

    I approached them and mentioned that I thought this might be a table- I said, “In the opening exhibition sign it described these structures to have seats and tables, and in my opinion this is the only part if the exhibit that could fall into that category.” They agreed, we talked briefly about sipping a cappuccino at the table space and when we parted ways the man inquired about where I had read about the exhibit. I mentioned the signage at the beginning and found it interesting that they had missed it as well, reaffirming my feeling that the placement was intentional.

    I continued on my search for environmentally inspired public interaction and was falling short despite my charming approaches. One women saw me coming closer out of the corner of her eye and as the distance between us lessened her gaze intensified and pointed in the opposite direction. I took that as a hint and didn’t approach her. I did however; engage a group of older visitors huddled around the large monitor labeled “Making of…” They were enthusiastic, funny and seemed to enjoy the video. The conversation started because of the video, slowly meandered through other topics and was snapped back to the exhibition by the moving camera time-lapse section showing the installation team putting the whole thing together.

    I found the most profound interactions were the silent ones, people were communicating with each other with their actions and reactions. After the first couple I saw that was trying to sit on the table left, I noticed others start trying it as well. Because of the awkward nature of the experience it caused laughter and positive interaction with several different groups- separately. After one group did it, it would inspire another group to try. This activity, I can only assume, was a visitor created one and not a direct intention of the designer.

    I really enjoyed this exhibit, it was whimsical and intense; it delivered on its promise by providing a unique forum for public interaction. It provided me with opportunity to talk with some people I might not have if the exhibit wasn’t there and in addition it allowed people to communicate with their personal interactions. And furthermore, as an aesthetic design oriented person I found the colossal nature of the structures coupled with the grace of the movements they made through the space to be an enjoyable experience. Over all this exhibit is a conversation piece as well as a space for individual thought.

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