EXHIBITION REVIEW: 44 Low Resolution Houses
From September 11 to November 9, 2018, 44 model houses by 44 architecture offices crammed into the Princeton School of Architecture’s north gallery for the exhibition 44 Low-resolution Houses. Curated by Michael Meredith and designed by MOS, the show addressed the house as a commodity and testbed for architectural theses, while building a case for the new architectural category, “low-resolution.”
According to Meredith, all 44 houses fall into at least one of the following types of low-resolution: houses that draw on vernacular elements; houses that make their construction visible; or houses composed of basic geometric primitives, arranged in a non-compositional or abstract manner.
Illuminated and raised on black plinths, the model houses seem to float in space as autonomous characters: one white collection of shapes, a mass amassed. The white edges of the models stand out crisply against the black backdrop. All models were made with the same technique: 100lb Bristol paper, cut, scored, folded and decorated with material hatches – producing the blinding effect of equivalence. A method that encourages comparison without representational distraction.
In addition to the category of low-resolution, Meredith addressed the topic of popular consumption in architecture. “For better or for worse,” wrote Meredith, “each house is treated like an untethered object or image, which is how we experience most architecture anyway,” referencing the onslaught of architectural photography, collages, and model photos that populate our Instagram feeds, emails, and galleries.
In the gallery, the shapes blurred together as a single entity. But the difficulty of differentiating between the homogenous white houses was intentional. In response to the hyper-accessibility of the Instagram collage, Meredith opted for specialization — filtering out the lazy passerby from the willing analyst. A challenge that refuses viewers easy consumption.
One-to-one material samples were collected from each of the 44 offices — concrete blocks, acrylic sheets, perforated aluminum — and carefully strewn across the lobby floor. Placed outside of the formal gallery, the pile was separate and out of context, utilitarian reduced to decoration. Intermingling with each other, the samples were combined to articulate an attitude, an ambiance — one that acknowledged materiality as a necessary part of building but chooses to temporarily suspended it in favor of the installation.
The idea of a “collection” pervaded every aspect of the exhibition. However, unlike the pile projects that have appeared at least once in every biennial from 2009-present, here Meredith’s notion of collection is positioned as the precursor to “collective.” The exhibition, while still an assembly of parts, was not meant to convey randomness, but the opposite. The 44 houses, 44 authors, and 44 material samples were intentionally curated to produce a new category of architecture.
A survey show with a clear thesis is well needed, still it’s hard to not feel somewhat disappointed by the model’s lack of architectural specificity. After all, how often is a collection of 44 houses from young, international offices consolidated in one space, let alone rebuilt in uniform. What we would really like to see is 44 Low-resolution Houses in high-def.
Participating architects: 6a, Adamo-Faiden, Angela Deuber Architect, Atelier Barda, Atelier Bow-Wow, Besler & Sons, Brandlhuber+, Bruther, Bureau Spectacular, architecten de vylder vinck taillieu in collaboration with Joris Van Huychem, Edition Office, Ensamble Studio, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism in collaboration with Aixopluc, fala atelier, First Office, GAFPA in collaboration with Stabico Ingenieurs, OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Go Hasegawa and Associates, Hans Tursack, HHF and Ai Weiwei, Independent Architecture, Johannes Norlander Arkitektur, Johnston Marklee, The LADG, Lütjens Padmanabhan Architekten, MAIO, Monadnock, MPdL Studio, MOS, New Affiliates, OFF-OFF, Outpost Office, PARA Project, Pascal Flammer, Paul Preissner Architects, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Point Supreme, PRODUCTORA, Stan Allen Architect, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, Tato Architects, T+E+A+M, Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, and WORKac.
Text by Michaela Friedberg and Carly Richman.