Just like every other major architectural exhibition, the Chicago Architecture Biennial is a massive undertaking filled with large scale models, full size mock- ups and room sized installations. However, the most light-handed approach in the main exhibition can be found sandwiched between two full scale houses. Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto placed about 40 different found objects on five-inch-by-five-inch plywood bases.
The objects range from wooden branches to industrial mass-products like ashtrays, to processed food such as chips or candy. Each plate is populated with white scalies and paired with a line of text. A sponge becomes a “myriad of voids layered on top of another, creating a density of void” and a pine cone reads: “When one thinks about it, this form has been a friend in architecture for thousands of years.”
The casual inexpensiveness of the objects is amplified by the way they are displayed, seemingly without attachment. A pile of loosely arranged chips seems likely to fly away with the next visitor brushing by. Clearly there is a relationship to Fujimoto’s search for lightness, literally in the appearance of the architecture but also in the figure of the architect being open to inspiration from unexpected sources.
This minimal installation eclipses many of the larger efforts of the show—Aaron Betsky called it the most successful installation in the main building. While the installation brings up questions about the role of ready-mades in the design process and issues of scalability, it also quietly mocks the expensive, time- and energy-consuming efforts of some of the exhibitors. With ease it brings playfulness and the joy of simple discoveries back into the discussion.