Voyeur Architecture - Design Bureau

Voyeur Architecture

Friday, April 13th, 2012

By Stephen Killion

Jimenez Lai, founder of Bureau Spectacular, wants to live out the fantasy of many children who have seen Ben Stiller family-oriented comedies. Next summer, he plans to live in a museum, in his site specific installation at the Architecture Foundation's Project Space in London during the London Festival of Architecture, to be precise. The installation will be a continuation of his self-coined "super furniture" projects, see White Elephant and Briefcase House, and will be his first solo exhibition outside of the United States. Super furniture, he has said, is either "a building that is kind of too small or a couch that is kind of too big." His Hefner/Beuys House (pictured at left in progress) acts as a lifesize doll house, a stage where the mundane details of living becomes performance art. And yes, it is named after Joseph Beuys and Hugh Hefner, but why exactly? 

Design Bureau spoke with Mr. Lai, also an assistant professor at UIC and comic book artist, to find out more about his Hef-inspired plans for living in an bubble, er, installation and his concept of citizens of no place.

How are we "citizens of no place"?
Thomas More tried to describe a fictional place, an introspective reality, which unfortunately now is understood as being an "ideal place." "No place" is a space to celebrate what we are free to imagine and articulate; we can give physicality to perceived realities. This non-objective, anti-absolute attitude is an optimistic way to nurture the richness and multiplicity of cultures.     

What is your fascination with super furniture?
The obstructive object also carves out negative spaces that suddenly become resized, reshaped and exact. It becomes an object that takes a different life by being inside it, on it or next to it. An example of an architecturally sized "super furniture" is the Guggenheim in New York. The space creates a distance between subjects, allowing everyone to become simultaneously a spectacle and a spectator. 

How does super furniture blur architecture and object?
As super furniture mostly impacts the interior of architecture, it often act as an oversize architectural model. In most cases, a detachable mass can be considered a designed object. But every piece of super furniture speaks to a relationship with the ground and the shape of a mass, the object becomes an undersized architecture while directly affecting the reality it resides in.  

How does inhabiting your super furniture allow for a new understanding of the objects?
I understand that living somewhere allows me to write a new story for myself with the objects dimensions, textures and proportions. Super furniture allows you to be pulled into a new realm, detached from the spaces within where they inhabit.

How do you see yourself becoming the two characters that the installation is named after (Joseph Beuys and Hugh Hefner)? 
I see these characters as two introverts living in extroverted places. Beuys placed himself out of context while Hefner performed from within his mansion. Part of this exploration is to also better understand public and private being a singular act and the balance within its intricacies.  

Could you describe what you see is important between the overlap of performance art and architecture?
Voyeurism changes a person's relationship to view others, and therefore causes us to misbehave from our normal states. I believe this is a relationship that architecture can embellish upon. Storytelling is an articulation of fiction with affective means. In this project, where the spectator-spectacle relationship becomes heightened, the inhabitant will become staged to transform into a new person within a new reality. 

Watch the video above to hear Lai talk more about his project and head over to his Kickstarter page to place your contributions

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