visionary architecture


In March this year, while Hungary was in the middle of a parliamentary election, Brooklyn-based Michael Rakowitz walked around Budapest wearing a mobile architecture studio. His invitation to the city’s inhabitants was simple: tell me your dreams for the city. He provided people with supplies to sketch or make models proposing alternatives to the new architecture that has accompanied the city’s building boom. The results were meant to be pasted up around town alongside the political campaign posters and published in a book in the spirit of Unbuilt America, the mid-1980s’ catalogue of forgotten visionary architecture.

This emphasis on revelatory exchange, and on the artist’s self-appointed role as its facilitator, is well-travelled territory – particularly among those who use their work to remediate the urban environment and empower its inhabitants. Rakowitz, who first attracted attention for a series of inflatable plastic structures that could be hooked up to a building’s heating vents and used as homeless housing units, paraSITE shelter (2000), would seem at first glance to be heavily invested in this public practice and its attendant ethic of benign generosity. For a project in 2004 entitled P (Lot), for example, he created tents for parking spaces on the streets of Vienna, made from off-the-shelf car covers, and encouraged people to check them out from the museum and erect them in metered locations. But he disputes the idea that he is providing a service and at times seems uncomfortable with the artistic function of the things he creates.

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