Photo above: The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health – Getty Images
SURREAL ARCHITECTURE and DESIGN: A Psychological Odyssey
By: Leah Welch | Olivia Jacopetti
“Sol Poniente” – Dugo
A building begins as an idea. There’s a spark somewhere in the superior temporal gyrus of the brain – it bounces from right to left hemisphere and then through a series of synapse firings as it finally jumps out onto a blueprint. The architect organizes lines, numbers, and visions across his blue landscape. Suddenly, where there was once an empty lot, it is filled; the abstract is made real with concrete, rebar and wood.
Buildings are all born the same way: an idea, a blueprint, and man’s will. Fuse them together and voilà, architecture. It is an art form that through the centuries has been reimagining itself and now stands at the precipice of the new modern.
Technology is expanding, growing, and evolving into grander things. Along with technology is the growth and curiosity of the human psyche. The architect breeds these two worlds together with an idea. Today’s eco architects are blending practicality with surrealism.
We no longer live in boxes; we live in designers. Architects such as Hiroshi Hara, Le Corbusier, Nabito, and Patrick Blanc are infusing their ideas into a higher ideal. They are marrying nature and man through a vision, albeit a very surrealistic vision, of art as home, or for our more modern times, as workspace.
Eco architecture is about form, function, and tweaking an idea so that it seamlessly blends architecture with surrealistic art. These eco architects are giving skylines new definition. Eco architecture doesn’t obstruct views even though a lot of the buildings or pieces are larger than life. Eco architecture destroys a convention; there is a debate that this design strays too much from practical and functional purposes. With that said, the art of eco architecture is in the destruction of such conventions.
HIGH RISE INNOVATION
“The Stairscraper” is an innovative high rise designed by Barcelona architect Nabito. Nabito re-imagines the home by maximizing space and environmental sustainability. The building’s spiral shape allows each floor to have its own garden and will give New Yorkers a 360-degree view of the Big Apple. Nabito turns the familiar into the unfamiliar on a grand scale, while fusing practicality, to make an environmentally mindful, innovative, and aesthetically surreal piece of art.
South Korean sculptor Lila Jang combines surrealism and design with her chairs, sofas, and dressers. Jang’s couch crawls halfway up a wall daring the viewer to imagine a Dali-esque invitation to either sit or simply look at the couch as a piece of art. Jang seems to play with the idea of home and unease as her pieces, while functional, give the viewer something else: a type of dreamscape in the living room. Home is no longer home; familiar objects are not what they are supposed to be. Design becomes a conversation piece with a lot of question marks in it. Is this a couch? Are we allowed to sit? Is it an installation piece? If I sit on it will I break it?
Surrealistic furniture is fascinating because it doesn’t simply function, it questions. It questions our standard of functionality. When is a couch not a couch? When does a couch become art? What is the line? These questions make Jang’s work on the cutting edge of design.
Xavier Velhain’s restaurant installation evokes a similar line of questioning. The oversized, attention-grabbing installation named “Sophie” creates an added experience for restaurant goers. It is similar to how Alexander Calder made his mobile larger than life and invited viewers to look at space in a different way.
“Sophie”, a human-like figure, invades the home and the communal place of the restaurant, bringing to the forefront the question of the relationship between human and object. Do people have a visceral response, an emotional one, or at the very least a curiosity about her? What does “Sophie” essentially do for the space? How does she re-define it? The psychological playground of the human mind engages with her which, perhaps, is the artist’s intention.
Spanish photographer Victor Enrich utilizes modern digital capabilities to turn buildings upside-down. Enrich’s creations create a non-reality. Enrich says, “…my buildings definitely don’t have an architectonic function…but they DO have other functions…” His version of Orchid Hotel of Tel Aviv features dangerously-reaching balconies to have the best view, whose yellow lighting makes them look like sprouting french fries. Upon a closer inspection, the McDonald’s sign is just below the hotel rooms. Surreal photos such as Enrich’s offer projections of social and political commentary. Viewers may ask: What if this building was to actually exist? Would it be functional? Is this safe?
The beauty of surrealistic photography is that these buildings aren’t conceivable; they reside in the fantastic. They cannot come into our reality because the construction would be impossible. It is their absence from our world, their unattainable nature that inspires our fascination with them.
Filip Dujardin brings standardized features of buildings together to create Tetris-like mishmash edifices that are beyond this world’s construction capabilities. Homes with several roofs, every kind of window arranged on one façade, a country home partially sunk in sand dunes – all images are right out of a dreamscape. It is precisely because they’re dreams that an audience can look at them and think, I wonder if…
Jim Kazanjian conveys the same I wonder if moment by exploring building and landscape. Kazanjian’s scenes are void of color and based off of horror literature. Kazanjian combines multiple images to create ‘hyper-collages’. The homes are castle-like and isolated above the surrounding naturalistic landscape Their isolation isn’t limited to geography, as they are absolutely vacant and evoke an ominous, ghostly feeling in the viewer.
Surrealist architecture and design share a metaphorical view of our world. A skyscraper connotes a sense of time; a lamp, the complexities of human vision; a wall calls into question the concept of motion. The idea of long-standing and permanent fixtures representing movement and abstract concepts is surreal in and of itself. The possibilities for these interactions are as endless as our perceptions of the world. Battling paralysis and stillness with movement, the penetration of rigidity and the breaching of the static barrier by envisioning constant flux when designing an object of permanence may seem to be a contradictory and impossible task, yet that is the beauty and wonder of the surreal. The concrete and the abstract intertwine, and buried within the surreal is reality. Surrealism isn’t a separate artistic avant-garde, but a sub-stratum of the whole modern culture. Abstract surreal pieces have the ability to connote the same sentiment with an added dimension that reflects from its impossibility. Dali characterized Art Noveau architecture as ‘the terrifying and edible beauty’—yet this also describes surreal architecture and design.