Ammar Eloueini wants
to prove that digital architecture is realistic in the nondigital
realm. He explains, "There's been so much debate about the
box versus the blobbut architects are now proving that architecture
conceived on the computer can be completed successfully and completed
in interesting ways." As chair of the Digital Media Program
at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Architecture
and founder of Digit-all Studio, Eloueini aims to demonstrate by
example that "different architecture with different sensibilities"
is capable of being built.
from Lebanon, studied at the Ecole d'Architecture in Paris. Before
his licensure in 1994, he traveled around the U.S. and became interested
in the advanced architectural design degree offered by Columbia
University. "Being part of the paperless program taught by
Gregg Lynn and Hani Rashid was a fantastic experience," relates
Eloueini. "I was one of 45 students with varied backgrounds
[who were] all interested in exploring the new theory of digital
media in architecture."
the Columbia program in 1996, Eloueini returned to Paris. "I
found New York to be too congested," he explains. "Going
back to Paris allowed me to bring these new ideas and practices
to Europe at a time when digital media was done by practically no
one else." He formed the Digit-all Studio in 1997 and made
a name for himself as one of the few digital mediasavvy architects
in Europe, by turns teaching, exhibiting his work, and entering
international competitions for designs like the New York Cultural
Exchange Information Center and the Sarajevo Concert Hall.
When he was offered
a teaching position at UIC in 1999, Eloueini also received a grant
from the French Ministry of Culture to display his work, a coup
that convinced him to maintain a presence in Europe and the U.S.
His dual-continent firm has been awarded many commissions since
his move. In a fortuitous turn of events, the avant-garde fashion
designer Issey Miyake opened a boutique next door to the Parisian
gallery where Eloueini had a solo exhibition. Impressed with Eloueini's
work, Miyake initiated discussions with the architect, which led
to a project to develop a new concept for his retail spaces. Since
Miyake is known for his innovative use of fabrics, Eloueini is following
suit by researching materials to be used in unconventional forms.
In 2001, Eloueini
was awarded the prestigious Nouveaux Albums des Jeunes Architectes,
the French Institute of Architect's highest recognition awarded
to architects under 35. Since then, he has been creating projects
that have leaped from the digital to the real world. Collaborating
with New Yorkbased choreographer John Jasperse, Eloueini created
a stage set for the piece California that was not simply a backdrop
but a structure that could morph and become part of the performance.
The complex structure, whose form was generated by advanced CAD
tools, took shape through the use of polycarbonate forms connected
by zip ties. Its construction allows the touring company to easily
disassemble and transport the set as they travel. Eloueini's work
will also be seen this June at the Museum of Contemporary Art in
Chicago, where he was commissioned to design an upcoming exhibition,
Skin Tight, featuring the works of 10 international fashion designers.