A Skate Park that Glides over the Land and Drops into the Sea, San; Jan, PR, 2006

Acconci Studio

Location: Brooklyn, New York
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Born in the Bronx in 1940, Vito Hannibal Acconci spent two decades as a literalist concrete poet, photo-conceptualist, performer, videographer, filmmaker, and installation artist. During the 1980s, his sculptural work displayed overt references to architecture and design, exploring issues of public and private spaces and viewer interaction.

Using many of the same tools and interests of his earlier years, he founded Acconci Studio in 1988 “for theoretical design and building.” Acconci rejects the modernist idea of the autonomous artist, and has wholly embraced a team approach in his recent work. Untrained in architecture, he sees the discipline in terms of activity, behavior, and performance. Over the last few years, Acconci Studio has created works that reveal an affinity for “stretching, braiding, knotting, twisting, warping, and morphing.” Its work involves modeling architecture like clay so that surface and structure are united, and space is malleable and flexible— both physically and socially.

In 2003, Acconci Studio was hired to design a performance space, café, and children’s playground on the River Mur in Graz, Austria, as part of the European Capital of Cultures Festival. The result, an extraordinary pod-shaped “island” that traverses the river, made of interlaced steel mesh, glass, asphalt, rubber, and light, has become a visual symbol of the city. The island is a dome that morphs into a bowl that morphs into a dome. When the bowl is not used as a theater, it becomes a plaza where people can sit and interact. The playground doubles as the backdrop of the stage and as a ceiling for the café. The entrance canopy twists down into lounge seats, the curved tables are movable, and the rubber edge of the terrace twists down to make bar counters.

The same year, Acconci Studio was commissioned to design the United Bamboo store in Tokyo, Japan. Using its signature “push-pull” method of design, the studio replaced the nonstructural walls of the old building with bulging glass alcoves in which clothes appear to hang from the shrubbery outside. The exterior was re-clothed with a stainless-steel mesh and glass façade on which images of clothed people in the store are projected out to the street. Inside, translucent PVC sheeting is literally pulled down from the ceiling and walls to make shelves and counters so that the entire store seems to be one surface. Fluorescent lighting behind the PVC diffuses light throughout the store and illuminates the clothing from behind.

By creating and merging various stylistic and functional categories the studio makes work which straddles sculpture, furniture, public art, design, and architecture. Acconci Studio epitomizes a design methodology and strategy that Acconci believes will lead to more and more “spin-offs”—houses and buildings on the one hand and clothing, products, packaging on the other— in the future.