By Carter B. Horsley
"Skin + Bones" is a fabulous exhibition
with superb accompanying catalogue that explores evolving relationships
between fashion and architecture. It was shown at the Museum of
Contemporary Art in Los Anglees from November 29, 2006 to March
5, 2007 and at the National Art Center in Tokyo from June 6 to
August 12, 2007. While some of the similarities in recent years
between the two disciplines are simplistic, many of them are very
sophisticated, very interesting and very fascinating. Most of
the included dresses and buildings are spectacular.
"In both frashio and architecture,"
Brooke Hodge wrote in her catalogue essay, "the early 1980s
were marked by significant design events and advances that have
contributed to cultural shifts in each field. Japanese fashion
designers Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto first presented their work
during the Paris ready-to-wear collection shows in April 1981.
The oversized, often asymmetrical black clothing they showed featured
intentional holes, tatters and unfinished edges that stood in
stark contrast to the elegantly decorative, crisply tailored,
and formfitting looks being shown by the majority of designers
and, as a result, challenged accepted ideas of ashion, feminity,
and beauty. The following year, architecture Bernard Tschumi won
the international competition to design the Parc de la Villette
in Paris (completed in 1998). His project, and the resulting collaboration
between architect Peter Eisenman and philosopher Jacques Derrida,
served to introduce ideas of deonstruction to a much larger audience."
Yoshiki Hishinuma was born in Sendai, Japan,
in 1958 and launched his own label in 1996 in Paris after working
briefly for Miyake Issey. He is known for using for innovative
textiles and unusual shapes and the authors note that he "combines
new technology with traditional Japanese techniques such as shibori
or tie-dying to develop textiles with effects like pleating, puckering,
and crinkling that provide texture and volume.
Hishinuma's Inside-Out 2 Way Dress was first
shown in 2004 the same year that Toyo Ito's wonderful Omotesando
Building for Tod's was completed in Toyko.
Ralph Rucci (b. 1957 in Philadelphia) made
his debut fashion collection in 1981. The "Pauline Tunic"
of 2002-3 features hand-looped ribbons, according to the catalogue,
"loosely appliqued to a long black gazar chemise that trails
to the ground, creating an elaborate three-dimensional surface
and a billowing silhouette. Rucci has been credited with resurrecting
gazar, a heavy silk organza that was first developed by Swiss
textile firm Abraham for Cristobal Balenciaga in 1958. Rucci favors
toothy fabrics...for their sculptural qualities....Another Rucci
innovation is seen in his suspension garments, including the Ivory
Suspension Suit (spring/autumn 2005). Areas of the garment are
broken up into fragments and reconnected through a system of hand-knotted
threads so that they seem suspended and appear as forms in space,
similar to those in Russian Constructivist paintings by Kasimir
Elena Manferdini (b. 1976, Bologna) "approaches
the design of a garment as she would the skin of a building by
using tools and techniques more commonly applied to architectural
and aeronautical design," the catalogue maintained, adding
that "trained as both a civil engineer and an architecture,
Manerdini has included fashion in her interdisciplinary practice
since 2002. She creates garments using Maya three-dimensional
modeling software, translating patterns through a machining computer
application to laser-cut individual pieces of fabric and texturize
them with slashes, cuts, or perforations....The cuts are meant
to create three-dimensionality on the curvature of the body. They
move and stretch, they open and distort as you walk."
Alexander McQueen, who was
born in London in 1969, is known for his impeccable tailoring
and architectonic forms and the elaborate sets of his presentations.
The catalogue notes that "His Scanners collection (autumn/winter
2003-04), for instance, was shown on a set depicting a stark snowy
landscape below a glass bridge that also served as a wind tunnel.
Conjuring up visiions of a nomadic traveler in a futuristic environment,
the presentation featured McQueen's signature A-line skirts and
bifitted bodices in ornate or geometrically patterned fabrics,
many of which were lavishly embroidered....McQueen's ability to
combine contrasting cqualities - such as hard and soft, rigid
and fluid, violent and fragile - in the same garment is evident
in the way the layers of a delicate fluted underskirt peek out
from the stiff exterior cladding."
J. Meejin Yoon was born in
Seoul i 1972 and the catalogue notes that "her multidisciplinary
practice MY Studio encompasses architecture, site-specific installations,
and, on occasion, fashion design. Yoon's work falls between the
conceptual and the concrete, and many of her small-scale conceptual
designs enable her to test ideas that she may later incorporate
into large-scale, realizable projects....Made of white felt, the
Mobius Dress takes the shape of a Mobius strip, a loop made by
flipping one end of a rectangular strip and then connecting it
to the opposite end. By cutting while following the contours of
the strip two times around, three connected loops are formed.
When the cut edges of the dress are zipped together, the garment
encloses the body in a stiff A-line shape. When unzipped, the
dress unfolds and its intertwining loops cascade to the floor."
One of the most spectacular and unusual buildings
in recent years is Selfridges Department Store in Birmingham,
England, that was completed in 2003 to designs by Future Systems
of London. The book notes that the project "takes the form
of a four-story amorphous blob clad in a blue stucco skin studded
with fifteen thousand shimmering anodized-aluminum disks."
"The shape and skin of the building are so unusual that it
seems alien next to its neighbor, a nineteenth-century church,"
it continued, noting that the partners of Future Systems, Jay
Kaplicky and Amanda Levete, "compare the undulating curves
of the building to those of a waistline and the fluency of its
billowing shape to the drape of fabric." "Citing snakeskin
and the 1960s paillette dresses of Paco Rabanne as inspirations,
the architects designed a cladding system that wraps all surfaces
of the building, including the roof, in one continuous movement,
confounding conventional notions of front, back, and side facades."
The 1997 Sun Tower in Seoul, South Korea was
designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis and is a 10-story building
that combines retail and office space and is distinguished by
its two-layer skin comprising an inner steel-and-glass building
envelope and an outer performated aluminium-mesh screen. Morphosis
would employ such a screen several years later in 2009 for a new
building for Cooper Union on the Bowery at 7th Street.
The catalogue notes that "the screen wraps
and folds over the inner envelope like a garment, erupting into
an abstract crown of sculptural forms on the roof," adding
that "the folds of the screen are inspired by origami as
well as by the client's identity; there is a remarkable similarity
between Morphosis's schematic diagrams for the folding skin and
the patterns used to cut and assemble pieces of a garment."
"Shifting between translucent and opaque depending on the
viewer's perspective of the time of day, the second skin serves
both aesthetic and practical purposes, functioning simultaneously
as a brise-soleil or sunscreen, an enclosure, and an oversized
One of the best buildings in the United States
in recent decades is the Seattle Central Library that was completed
in 2004 and designed by Rem Koolhaas of the Office for Metropolitan
Architecture. The building's bold, dramatic, cantilevered form
is, according to the catalogue, "wrapped in a mesh skin of
diamond-shaped panes of glass (much like a fishnet stocking) set
into a matching steel grid that operates as both a transparent
curtain wall and part of the structural systems. As Herbert Muschamp
described, 'the interior's overhanging platforms have been draped
with a metal and glass building skin, as if it were a piece of
cloth. Hence the exterior folds."
Chris Wilkinson and James Eyre
of Wilkinson Eyre Architects created an accordion-like skybridge
between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House in the
Covent Garden section of London 2001-3. The skybridge is known
as the "Bridge of Aspiration" and is at the fourth story.
The catalogue provides the
"Because the openings
in each building are not directly aligned with earh other in elevation
or laterally, the architects offered a graceful solution: a sinuous
aluminum spine supports the bridge's sleevelike enclosure, pleated
with twenty-three square aluminum portals and glazed intervalas.
Each portal rotates four degrees from its neighboring one and
shifts slightly to accommodate the skewered alignment."