In January 2016, I led the exhibition design and production of Closed Worlds at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, curated by Lydia Kallipoliti of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). The exhibition presented an archive of 41 living prototypes of closed resource regeneration systems built over the last century. The archive represents an unexplored genealogy of closed systems in architectural practice. The exhibition also featured a VR installation conceived as the 42nd "contemporary" prototype within the archive, featuring work by Farzin Farzin. This project was completed at Pentagram under the direction of Natasha Jen. Graphic design by Jang Hyun Han.
Photography by Jake Naughton
"What do outer space capsules, submarines, and office buildings have in common?
Each was conceived as a closed system: a self-sustaining physical environment demarcated from its surroundings by a boundary that does not allow for the transfer of matter or energy."
- Curatorial Statement, Storefront for Art & Architecture
Given the limited footprint of Storefront for Art & Architecture, and given the richness and breadth of research which we had to work with, representing each of the 41 closed-system prototypes while relaying the collective thesis of the exhibition within the gallery was a challenge.
Our method was to address the various aspects of the exhibition content through these five ways:
Each of the 41 projects is represented within a suspended, digitally-printed styrene cylinder, and a central question posed by each project is wrapped around the exterior of the cylinder. Hung at four distinct lengths throughout the gallery, visitors peep into the cylinders for an 'immersed' introduction to the projects -- effectively the analog counterpoint to the 42nd prototype, a virtual reality experience.
A comprehensive timeline spanning the length of the gallery compares each of the 41 prototypes by typology -- designating the projects as either a self-reliant community, corporate ecology, autonomous house, earth colony, ecotourism, equipment, or pod -- and also measures the relative consumption and generation of ecological resources in realizing the project (air, water, energy, biomass, and building materials) through a weighted numerical scale.