The ArchRecord Interview: Vito Acconci
BR: Speaking of Ground Zero and wasted opportunities, I’m dying to ask you about Building Full of Holes, your own proposal for the site, and about your take on what we’re actually left with now at Ground Zero.
VA: Building Full of Holes started from thinking that if a building nowadays is going to be exploded anyway, maybe a building has to come pre-exploded. That was the basic starting point. But what interested us was now that there are holes through the building, there are tunnels through the building. Now that there are tunnels through the building, the rest of the city can come inside. Parks can come inside, street vendors can come inside. So rather than observing the convention of this private building built with a public plaza outside, our attempt, as it is with all our work, is to mix public and private.
Based on what you have seen and read about this project, how would you grade it? Use the stars below to indicate your assessment, five stars being the highest rating.
In terms of what we’re left with, it’s gotten much worse than it ever was when the Libeskind proposal was first chosen. But the Libeskind proposal was the choice of solemnity and religiousness and fake history, 1776 and all that. There were some not bad proposals. The United Architects’ proposal was really potentially exciting because it was almost this winding building, and as soon as buildings wind, they’re not monuments anymore. The Libeskind proposal was monuments as building. But it has gotten even worse.
BR: Going through your projects I found a handful of qualities that seemed to be in most if not all of them. And one of them is this notion of bulges: people either being physically able to bulge out the space or the bulge is already there. What drives this interest in this form?
VA: We want a space to go out of its habit. If it’s inside and private, we want it to stretch to the outside. If it’s outside and kept away from the inside, we want a way to get partially inside. We like it when a space bulges out and you’re still within the walls of a building, but you might be in a more park-like, outside space. So it’s a way of being in two places at once. And a person starts to decide, where do I want to be? Do they want to be more outside? We want people to be decision makers. And I do love surfaces if you can push them, if you can bulge them, if you can do activities with them
BR: The juxtaposition of transparencies and mirrors is another characteristic that has appeared in a few of your projects: In a great way in the Atlanta Airport Transfer Corridors, where people are sometimes seeing themselves in a mirror and sometimes seeing other people.
VA: This project came from the fact we knew we had to have this wall. Transfer corridors separate people: Are you getting off the plane and going into the city or are you transferring to a domestic or international flight? So there was no question we had to have the wall, but we thought maybe the wall could be a little bit more fluid. If the wall waved, a person sitting in one corridor is right next to a person in the other corridor. So you can’t have physical contact, but you still at least have an approach at contact. If you mix mirror and transparent, you see the person in the other corridor but that person now might have you feet or your arms.
One thing I hope characterizes our architecture is that we want a questioning of certainties. It’s not that we want people to necessarily be in danger, but we do want them to be on uncertain or shaky ground. Because when you’re on shaky ground, you have to make more decisions for yourself. You can’t assume a convention to fall back on. A lot of our projects come from the fact that we question the idea of home. Because home can be very comforting but home is also a little bit like dying. Home is great if you can leave it. We’re much more interested in thinking of space not as a place but as circulation routes. We would like space to be this possibility of movements; this possibility of not just going out of the space, but can you constantly move within the space, through the space.
BR: Is the questioning of certainties, of making people a little bit uncomfortable, is that the closest relationship between your conceptual art and your architecture?
VA: It probably is. But also it’s because architecture supposedly has firmness and stability and you want to question that. It’s not that we want to make a space that falls apart. But we want people to realize, well, let’s not feel as sure of ourselves as all that. Because when you feel so sure of yourself, maybe you feel so comfortable that you don’t need other possibilities. We try always to make an attempt to bring in those other possibilities.
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