Here are four new and delightful architecture exhibitions you won’t want to miss

Mark Your Calendars

Here are four new and delightful architecture exhibitions you won’t want to miss

Better When Messy at the University of Michigan (Courtesy Leah Wulfman)

Looking to expand your mind this year? AN’s editors have you covered with four exhibitions you won’t want to miss out on. From coast to coast, these highlighted exhibitions pulled from the January/February issue of The Architect’s Newspaper include a historical account of the 1900 World’s Fair, a showcase of innovative furnishings designed in response to the pandemic, and a look at ADUs.

And for those who crave more, check out AN‘s spring lecture series roundup, a concise list of public programming at architecture schools across the country.

Deconstructing Power: W. E. B. Du Bois at the 1900 World’s Fair

exhibition view
Installation photo of Deconstructing Power: W. E. B. Du Bois at the 1900 World’s Fair. (Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution)

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128
Through May 29

The ingenious bar, pie, and pyramid charts—plus line graphs, pictograms, and tables—devised by a young W. E. B. Du Bois and his students at Atlanta University (later Clark University) for the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris are the heart of this show. Over the years, these startling “statistical graphics” have fluctuated in and out of public awareness; Instagram, it seems, has finally ensured them a sort of permanent preserve. The aesthetic dimension of Du Bois’s project can’t be denied, even after discovering they were the result of happenstance. (Those Malevichian reds and Bauhaus blues and yellows? According to one researcher, they belonged to a standard palette produced by a Philadelphia-based manufacturer; Du Bois had lived in the city before departing for Atlanta.) As indices of Black life in the United States, however, the handmade visualizations carried real sociological weight. Deconstructing Power leverages this tension between representation and data-driven analysis, even as it assembles exemplars of the fin de siècle material culture in which Du Bois’s diagrams fortuitously found themselves. Samuel Medina

Better When Messy

person with VR headset in front of idrt pile
Better When Messy at the University of Michigan (Courtesy Leah Wulfman)

Liberty Research Annex at the University of Michigan

305 West Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Through March 24

Leah Wulfman, Kevin Daye, and Adam Miller, fellows at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, dish the dirt on architecture in this polymorphous show. The aim, it seems, involves dragging a profession that insists— not without pathos—on the self-identified “discipline” through the muck of contemporary reality. Its salubrious technocratic fixes are (implicitly) despoiled, its attachments to asymptotically optimized futures (rhetorically) wrecked, its benighted sense of agency (figuratively) pissed on. Wulfman’s installation, Free Dirt, incorporates such dissimilar materials as tree branches, LEDs, video screens, and soil obtained from Craigslist in a simulation of our “unruly, self-fragilizing ecosystem.” While the occasion for all this sordidness is prosaic—like many schools, Taubman’s faculty and fellows routinely exhibit their work in group settings—it reveals the preoccupations of a younger generation of architectural designers who, uninterested in selling out, prefer to work in the creative margins. What they’re telling those above and below them is this: Train your mind on the gutter. SM

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place

tablet stands
Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place at the High Museum of Art (Caroline Tompkins)

High Museum of Art

1280 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
Through March 5

For all its anxious alienation, the pandemic proved a productive period for some. If Shelter in Place is any indication, Stephen Burks and Malika Leiper, who run the Brooklyn industrial design office Stephen Burks Man Made, made the most of their time in self-isolation. “Our home sort of became a laboratory,” he told an interviewer last year. “We looked for opportunities to create space for one another.” Of the notional but spirited residential furnishings that form the centerpiece of the exhibition, one is for the newest member of the Burks-Leiper household: a flat-screen TV. Rather than putting up “a big black void” on the wall, the couple ensconced it in a woven shroud. Other pieces—all of them handmade—include a mobile reading nook, a bookshelf made to resemble a giant bust, artful collages, and loungey seating. The staging surveys the last decade of Burks’s practice, during which he did stints as a studio instructor at Columbia GSAPP. Shelter in Place is accompanied by a book of the same name, published by Yale University Press, which, among other texts, includes Burks in conversation with the late bell hooks. SM

Small Infrastructures

models of houses
Small Infrastructures at SPUR Urban Center (Quinn Gravier)

SPUR Urban Center

654 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Through February 28

Curated by Michelle Chang of JaJa Co and Rudabeh Pakravan of Sidell Pakravan, this more conventional group show nonetheless raises timely questions about ADUs, which some proffer as a solution for alleviating the country’s affordable-housing crisis. That vision hasn’t exactly panned out: A 2021 program in Los Angeles, for instance, failed to significantly ease permit retrievals, minimize costs, or open up new revenue streams for architects. Many of the exhibition’s nine ADUs—split between sites in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and nearby Berkeley—are implicitly critical of such approaches: less concerned with formal whimsy, they relate architectural investigation to realistic administrative constraints. First Office’s entry seeks rapprochement with builders by embracing mundane but easily doable details; Anderson Anderson Architecture’s is premised on total prefabrication; and NEMESTUDIO’s design doubles as an apologia for land trusts. Should all this sound too boring, find consolation in the cheery, supple curves of Sean Canty’s proposal. From March 30 until April 2 the show will be on view at the Helms Bakery District in Los Angeles. SM