Response – Kissing Architecture

May 10, 2012

The text Kissing Architecture by Sylvia Lanvin is critiquing modern architecture as having failed on a number of points. The specific (modern?) architecture of the new addition to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York by Yoshio Taniguchi, is described as being banal and without flavor. One of the examples put forward in the text, Pipilotti Rists artwork Pour Your Body Out projected against a white wall in MoMA, is then described as a kiss, and possibly as a savior of the bleak modern architecture. This new media art piece that rub up against the surfaces of the museum gives its architecture a new dimension, a new interpretation. Lanvin writes: “Architecture can expand its affective range – and therefore its consequence – by hooking up with more cultural players.” (p. 22) Lanvin identifies this mixing up of material and intent as a possible future for the architectural discipline. She writes: “surfaces are where architecture gets close to turning into something else and therefore exactly where it becomes vulnerable and full of potential.” (p. 26)

Looking at the institution of bygdegården, a movement of emerging community spaces in rural Sweden, I find that its architecture is a kind of modest vernacular, build with quite simple materials, and not very decorated. My observations are build on a number of bygdegårdar I often visited, and went to parties in, growing up in rural Västergötland, Sweden. The typology of bygdegårdar were to fit a number of different kinds of activities, and so to the simple structures, decoration could be added to go with the specific event it was going to hold. One example of this is a mural with a psychedelic pattern made in the basement space of a bygdegård about a kilometer from the house I grew up in. The mural was made by a group of teenagers that used to hang out there in the seventies. Another example is putting up a kind of frame made of birch twigs and flowers in front of the entrance when wedding parties was going to be held there.

These kind of vernacular spaces might seem pretty far from buildings of status, such as the MoMA in New York, and the ways of decorating them may be quite analogue, but perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn in terms of the kissing of architecture. Perhaps both of these examples can be seen as a way of kissing the bygdegård, giving it specific features for specific events, and being the savior when organizing activities in an otherwise pretty charmless building.


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