International Center of Photography
Brian Wallis, Christopher Phillips, Edward Earle, Carol Squiers (curators); Joanna Lehan (assistant curator); Karlos Carcamo (production manager)
Exhibition Design and Fabrication
Matter Architecture Practice
Sandra Wheeler (partner in charge, design); Alfred Zollinger (partner in charge, fabrication); Ken Kinosita (project architect); Elizabeth Beecheri, Christine Chang, Carolina Garcia, Michele Gorman, Lindsey Jones, Klara Hobza, Ina Ko, Bahare Nadjafi, Roxana Asami, Kyle Ewing, Brian Kim, Kwi-Hae Kim, Young Park, Jessica Sato (fabrication team)
Alicia Cheng (partner in charge, design); Stephanie Church, Rachel Griffin (designers)
The project was to design the setting for Ecotopia: The Second ICP Triennial of Photography and Video, an exhibition showcasing contemporary views of the natural world in this current age of undeniable climatic change. The project had to be installed within two weeks on an extremely stringent budget, using mass production techniques accessible to a largely non-professional installation crew.
Both as a commentary on America’s less discussed dependencies on oil and current debates around “green architecture,” Ecotopia was fabricated out of a non-biodegradable, yet 100% recyclable, petroleum-based polyethylene foam tubing commonly used to insulate plumbing and heating pipes.
Designing for conserving energy and reducing noise, this single material was repurposed and recombined to create cost-effective viewing rooms for audio-visual projections, sound-absorbing enclosures, light screens, seating, and monitor pods in forms echoing the exhibitions’s biological themes and aggregate graphic identity.
Situated to appear as fungal outgrowths from architectural quirks in the ICP’s existing galleries, the organically shaped pods were consciously designed to be reminiscent of topiary, referencing this strange and idealizing attempt to shape natural growth into stylized man-made forms. The pods and screens were fabricated through additive and organic processes of assembling “woven” cellular panels, ensuring minimal material waste. This production method countered current trends in producing biomorphic architectural forms through digitally driven reductive processes, whereby a form is carved from a larger solid.
“This work breaks the tradition of so many failed exhibitions on environmental issues. The design perfectly mirrors the images themselves as a delicate celebration of natural beauty but doesn’t diminish the gravity of the devastation. The color and ecologically conscious materials create the perfect forum for an energized and important dialogue.”