Friday, March 14, 2008

The Architect as Provocateur

In today's Changing Skyline column,I take a look at the provocative poet-artist-architect Vito Acconci, whose work explores how our built spaces dictate our actions and feelings. Acconci, hasn't built very much. But he does have one existing project here, a sculpture at Philadelphia Airport's Terminal C (pictured below). The piece riffs on Acconci's interest in creating continuous movement from level to level, sort of like what UN Studio did at the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart. Acconci had an even more ambitious proposal for Philadelphia that would have taken those ideas a step further. He was commissioned by SETPA in the '90s to design the public art piece for the lightwell at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard. His design envisioned a vine-shrouded igloo (Think 34th Street Bells) over a spiraling walkway that brought you down to the concourse level. Only problem was the cost was about ten times the measly $350,000 budget. So that project never went anywhere. Septa instead commissioned artists Barbara Grygutis. Working with that budget, she came up with a kind of dwarf sculpture. Her group of illuminated leaves aren't so bad, but it seems dumb that they barely crest over street level.They just beg to be taller so we can see them as walk along the street. The image here, of course, shows them to their best advantage.

You can learn more about Acconci from the exhibit at the Slought Foundation gallery, which conveniently recorded the lecture he gave Feb. 15 at the University of Pennsylvania.


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