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If there’s a single notion that characterizes Los Angeles design over the past 25 years, it’s the melding of one discipline with another. It’s that ethos that informs the A+D Museum’s new show “S, M, L, XL, L.A.,” which runs through Aug. 31, and features installations, models, jewelry, textiles and other disciplines that showcase such cross-pollination.
“The last 25 years of architectural production here in Los Angeles came from a very experimental practice and a very art and architecture-based one,” curator Danielle Rago explains to The Hollywood Reporter. “It looked outside of the traditional confines of the practice to installation or art objects. I kind of see that happening now, a cross between the disciplines.”
Many of the designers featured in the show were babies when Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau published their seminal text S, M, L, XL in 1995. That 1,376-page tome forms a collection of essays, travelogues, manifestos and meditations on the contemporary city culled from Koolhaas’ design firm O.M.A. (Office for Metropolitan Architecture). It is a rich compendium exploring numerous complex architectural notions, but its main contribution to the A+D Museum’s show is what Koolhaas called “Bigness,” the idea that scale generates its own logic.
Designer Grey Crowell‘s star-shaped, multisided cubicle is not just a cross between disciplines but a cross between dimensions. Inside the cubicle sits a desk, two chairs and a 3D printer. Participants fill out a form, drawing in 2D the front, back and two sides of an object, and the 3D printer then prints a miniature version of their object, which fits snugly in one of the many holes on the cubicle’s facade. By the end of the exhibition, Crowell hopes to see the entire surface filled with 3D printed objects dreamed up by dozens of visitors.
Other concepts are not quite as elaborate, such as a Lego model of the Grand Budapest Hotel constructed of fifty thousand blocks, or James Tate‘s piece using an actual copy of S,M,L,XL. It sits by the main entrance and is surrounded with fragments of pages that have fallen to the floor.
“A few of the major ideas in the book are ideas about void, banding and figure, which are important ideas in architectural conversations,” Tate explains about concepts he uses every day at his firm T8projects. “Void is the absence of something. If you open and go through the book you can see a literal void carved throughout it.”
Designer Laurel Broughton‘s company, Welcome Projects, does a lot of jumping in scale from designing handbags to items larger than a house. Checkerboards are a common motif for her and she has several in the show. In each square, roughly the size of a kitchen floor tile, she places objects ranging from a telephone to a plastic lobster. On the grid between squares, she places matchbox cars. “When you put the cars in, it sort of operates at the scale of an urban environment or city block,” she observes. “So the cars kind of suddenly give scale to the objects as if they were buildings.”
With nearly two dozen designers represented, even the bathrooms have become part of the show with installations by Filipa Valente of limiLab, and Natasha Bajc, co-founder of Urbis group which has done design work on numerous five-star hotels including The Venetian in Las Vegas.
“I think the aesthetics vary incredibly as well as the practitioners that we’ve selected for the show,” notes Rago, co-founder and curator of last year’s peripatetic “On The Road Project”, which showcased contemporary architecture in Southern California. Through her writing as a journalist and shows like “S, M, L, XL”, she aims to educate audiences about a medium that is drastically changing in the digital era, as young practitioners look beyond function and focus on form.
“Any exposure is great,” says Broughton, who is psyched to be included. “But more than that, it’s an opportunity to do a piece that isn’t functional as much as experimental or esthetic.”
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