Bureau Spectacular Creates Walk-In Comic Strip At The AF

For their first solo exhibition outside of North America, Chicago-based architecture practice Bureau Spectacular have transformed The Architecture Foundation’s Project Space into an inhabitable installation and a graphic sequence of imaginary worlds, through the studio’s trademark mixture of built structure and cartoon.

Founded by emerging architect Jimenez Lai in 2008, Bureau Spectacular is a studio of architectural affairs, who describe their strategy as one of making “absurd stories about fake realities that invite enticing possibilities”. Fascinated by the interplay between storytelling and building, absurdity and speculation, Bureau Spectacular weave architectural design and theory into comic strips that pop from the page into the real world as installations and small buildings.

Jimenez Lai commented on the exhibition:

“This installation – Three Little Worlds – is a cartoonish blow up of a fragment inside the Cartoonish Metropolis. It is a comic book someone can walk into, a window into another reality.”

Bureau Spectacular’s scenarios often begin in the form of graphic novels, which are later manifested as built structures. Bureau Spectacular: Three Little Worlds merges these two formats, to bring the comic book into the physical world. Combining a wall painting, a specially commissioned graphic novel, and a three-part modular ‘home’, the installation presents slices of life from inside Lai’s Cartoonish Metropolis. The three reconfigurable ‘rooms’ explore the contemporary performance of living in public, by suggesting themselves as real-world frames from a comic strip. The rooms can face the street as a stage, or cluster together as a home, and will play out the relationship between spectacle and spectator in architecture and performance art, merging Hugh Hefner’s exhibitionism with Joseph Beuys’s conception of art as life, to explore the plural fantasies and realities that architecture can provoke and frame.

Resisting the generic, and celebrating the specific, the exhibition provokes thinking on three different realities – life on the street outside the gallery, lived life inside the architectural forms, and imagined lives drawn on the page and in the mind – creating in Jimenez Lai’s words, “a manifesto exploring Plural Realities… a collection of little worlds making-up a composite society.”

The installation can be thought of as an abstract hotel, with Lai himself calling it home over the London Festival of Architecture period, during which he is producing a mural over the walls of the Project Space to introduce further characters from the Cartoonish Metropolis to the gallery. Later in the exhibition a series of invited guests will take up residence in exchange for hosting a range of public events – from film-screenings to dinners, lectures to discos, workshops to art works.

The exhibition follows the recent publication of Lai’s ground breaking graphic novel, Citizens of No Place (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), and his award of the 2012 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers. It presents a UK audience with a unique opportunity to engage with the work of this celebrated designer at a pivotal point in his career.

Exhibition Runs From 24 June – 25 August

The Architecture Foundation, 136-148 Tooley St, London SE1 2TU

Visit The Exhibition


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