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Cooper Hewitt reopened its doors last December with newly renovated and extended exhibitions spaces. This summer saw the opening of two shows, “David Adjaye Selects: Works from Permanent Collection” and “Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio.” Both exhibits explore the minds of two London-based architects, Thomas Heatherwick and Adjaye.
“Selects” is in its 12th installment of the museum’s ongoing project where prominent artists, designers, architects, and writers are invited to explore the museum’s archives and respond and curate their own exhibition. Adjaye, who is of Ghanaian decent, chose fourteen West and South African textiles to curate in his collection. Many are being exhibited for the first time. The textiles are displayed in a surprising way, hung along the sides of a wooden architectural cube, highlighting a new depth to our understanding of traditional fabrics. The collection spans from different regions and time periods to create a narrative of the evolution of African culture. Adjaye spoke about his inspiration behind the collection, saying, “The evolving nature of these cultural narratives is incredibly important in my work; for it is my desire never to return to any one period, but always to move forward through a process of integration, through the unifying, and merging.” He is currently working with Cooper Hewitt’s sister museum, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. The architect is also behind the $122 million revamped plan of the Studio Museum in Harlem.
“Provocations” exhibits the groundbreaking and provocative works of Heatherwick Studio and its process of answering designs biggest questions. The studio’s extensive archives, projects, and future endeavors are all on display for viewers to see, and is curated by Heatherwick and deputy director of Cooper Hewitt, Brooke Hodge. “A lot of the projects that we do, we are not thinking ‘everything in the world must be hairy’ or contorted or twisted. What we do is solve problems; our designs are a response to a place. Growing up, in my experience, buildings were all very flat and lacked detail, texture, and lacked soulfulness. They became quite sterile. So when we arrive at locations, we very much are looking at what we can do, ” Heatherwick said at a press preview earlier this summer.
The “hairy building,” a small porcupine like pavilion made of 4,000 aluminum tubes hallmarked innovation and creativity for the firm. This design was implemented for the UK Pavilion at the 2010 World’s Expo in Shanghai where they used 250,000 LED plan looking species to create the building. The exhibition also showcases the studio’s work on the Olympic Cauldron at the Summer Olympics held in London 2012. This allowed, for the first time in history, for all participating countries to light the cauldron in the opening ceremony. The firm is also currently working on Google’s Mountain View campus in California in collaboration with Danish architect Bjarke Ingel’s firm, BIG.
“David Adjaye Selects: Works from Permanent Collection” is on view through February 14, 2016. “Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studios” is on view through January 3, 2016.