Installations by Architects - LAb[au]

Installations by Architects, Experiments in Building and Design
Authors: Sarah Bonnemaison , Ronit Eisenbach
Princeton Architectural Press

LAb[au] featured project:
Touch - interactive urban installation
chapter4 about : public space
page 174-175

The proposed book, Building Questions: Installations by Architects, argues that architectural installations are a form of design research. These site-specific, ephemeral constructions transform spectators into participants and extend the discipline of architecture by highlighting the relationship between design theory and practice. Installations have developed since the 1980s, spurred in part by the rise of museums as venues for exhibiting architectural work and influenced by site-specific environments created by artists. While ephemeral architecture has a long history in festivals and world exhibitions (described in the introduction to the book), we are focusing here on the particular phenomena of contemporary installations as an exciting and emerging category of practice.

Installations by architects embody or even foreshadow the "cutting edge" of architecture by allowing for design experimentation. Freed from the mandates of function, clients, building regulations and market-driven budgets, installations offer architects an opportunity to foreground questions that are part of the theoretical and cultural context of architecture. Through installations, architects have engaged in critical, often controversial issues, explored the effects of built work, and advanced the experimental edge of construction in ways that conventionally commissioned buildings cannot. Installations are quick sketches or studies for new, potentially enduring visions of the world.


The book focuses on installations by architects that contribute to theoretical discussions about architecture and the built environment and examines this work as a group. In contrast to built works of architecture, which must necessarily be many things to many people, installations generally focus ona specific issue in the field of architecture. By examining this body of work as a whole, we can better consider how it contributes to a range of critical topics in architecture. Although an extensive list of installations will be included as an appendix, the book is not meant to be a survey but rather a series of investigations framed around major issues facing the discipline today. We will argue that these themes — body, tectonics, nature, public space, memory, and domesticity — raise important questions for the field as a whole and cover critical conversations within architecture today. Each chapter analyzes in depth a number of exemplary projects that articulate critical questions, and includes additional ones as references to create constellations of work that share similar theoretical ideas. Through a process of layering, patterns in the discussions emerge and are brought forward for reflection in the postscript.

While the essays draw on current theoretical debates, the authors are careful to avoid specialized jargon in order to make the text accessible and enjoyable. The book is oriented to both a general audience interested in architecture and art, and to design professionals. We also anticipate that the essays will attract a wider readership from art history, museum and cultural studies, gender studies, and human geography (in terms of issues relating to public spaces). As conceived, the book is intended to link the academic community with the architectural community by demonstrating how architects have been advancing a set of shared issues through installation work. This book is directed towards making installations more available, understandable, and relevant to these different audiences, by showing how they bridge disciplines and are a unique and provocative tool in thinking about the built environment.


This book complements the literature on contemporary architecture and its relationship to theory and practice. While several exhibition catalogues place the practice of installation within current architectural preoccupations, there is still no book that looks at this phenomenon in its larger historical and theoretical context. Building Questions: Installations by Architects proposes to fill this gap by focusing thematically on this emerging and exciting practice.

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