What if buildings were unreasonable? What if they could express emotion? Along with human feeling, would they take on our features? Would they grow hair, breathe, excrete? It is common sense that in architecture, form follows function. But what if that scheme were reversed?
Berenika Boberska is here to answer these questions, to unite playfulness and utility in holy matrimony. Equally versed in art and architecture, she loves both forms of expression while still recognizing their limits. Through the ages, and especially since the break to abstraction, the purpose of art has become mostly aesthetic—for the pure love of form. Art with function, be it decorative (to go with your couch) or political (Social Realism), has been alternately frowned upon, or viewed with curiosity and mistrust. At the same time, Modern architecture has followed the stern vision of Le Corbusier, a man who unsentimentally proclaimed, “A house is a machine for living in.” Unsurprisingly, the art in architecture—the play in form—has become reduced to ornamentation, and frill has become a dirty word.
“Architecture, it is almost a service industry,” Ms. Boberska remarks. “You do not proposition clients with your vision. You cannot break rules, it is very reserved. That is why I am so excited about the idea of unsolicited design. Letting the ideas run wild, you really come up with something unique and fun. I am a feral designer.” She laughs and I notice Feral Research Studio stenciled in hot pink on the glass door behind her. It is a perfect symbol of Ms. Bobenska’s aesthetic and her work, a conglomeration of magic and pragmatism.
So how does feral architecture take shape? This is the question at the heart of the exhibit. Ms. Boberska has invited London and L. A. friends and colleagues from the realms of art, architecture, and poetry to explore this question. Their contributions take on myriad forms, from Louise Clark’s village of Hummel houses made into an archipelago at the base of a popsicle stick mountain to Zoe Hodgeson’s salt hotel, constructed from several overhead projections.
Ms. Boberska, who has studied under Frank Gehry, is interested in finding the rational in the irrational. Her structure, the centerpiece of the exhibit, is a fiberglass explosion of frill, and it began as a story about unrequited love. A woman, madly in love but unnoticed by the object of her desire, hangs her gown out of her balcony window in the hopes that it will be noticed by him. She adds folds, flounces, and ruffles, until the gown is out of control and begins to take over the façade of the building. Its naked desire, written into every fold and crinkle, begins to upset the neighbors, as is documented by the humorous letter accompanying the installation.
The fairy tale brings forth the form, but what of its function? Even though this is still an ongoing exploration, Ms. Boberska has some ideas. With its rippled surface providing increased surface area, this fractal-type structure could actually revolutionize solar paneling in architecture.
At a time when concern about our consumption and its effect on the environment is growing daily, the very idea of ornament could be made to seem outmoded, downright wasteful even. But it is the irrational that brings about new ideas, fairy tales paving the way for efficiencies. Perhaps art will save us after all.