Can you build an anti-building? This question is raised in the exhibition "Cedric Price: The Fun Palace," on display in the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in Buell Hall through Nov. 11.
Mark Wigley, dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, describes Price's vision for the Fun Palace as "lacking floors, walls or a roof, this huge 'anti-building' is a vast mechanism that allows arrays of different kinds of space to be suspended in any position and continuously adjusted, moved or removed according to the changing needs of up to 55,000 visitors at a time. The only fixed element is a grid of 75 steel towers that rises high up from a vast horizontal plinth and is straddled by a giant gantry crane passing overhead."
The exhibition includes documents on loan from the Cedric Price archive at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, which reveal an assault on social and architectural conventions, as well as conceptual sketches, design development and final drawings, selected from more than 500 drawings in the archive. The exhibition also includes video outtakes by director Joan Littlewood. Price and Littlewood worked on the project for five years during the 1960s, in a relentless, yet unsuccessful, campaign to get it built.
"The intention [of the exhibition] is not to explain the project, but to encourage the emergence and evolution of different explanations by giving a sense of what this particular archive feels like," says Wigley.
Howard Shubert, associate curator of prints and drawings at the CCA, adds, "Whether characterized as a giant toy or as a building-sized transformable machine, the project has great interest for architects and has always resided on its radical reliance on structure and technology."
"Cedric Price: The Fun Palace" was originally guest-curated by Wigley in collaboration with Shubert, as a section of "Out of the Box," a major exhibition at the CCA in 2003 curated by CCA Director Mirko Zardini.
This exhibition inaugurates a partnership between Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and the CCA, a museum and study centre devoted to build public awareness of the role of architecture in society. The partnership, The Living Archive Project, was established to bring archival documents and artworks to life in experimental design discourse. The project will involve the exchange of archival material, and will promote collaborations among scholars, curators, archivists and students to present a series of exhibitions, conferences, workshops and publications that explore the active role of architectural archives. In February 2006, the GSAPP and CCA will present an exhibition on Gordon Matta-Clark in The Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery as part of the Living Archive Project.
Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m.