Architect David Rockwell teams up for Italian exhibit

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - New York-based architect David Rockwell is known for stretching the boundaries of design by embracing an innovative style that goes beyond pure aesthetics.

A view of the passageway of the 1,000 square foot Hall of Fragments, framed by two giant convex screens, in Venice, August 21, 2008. REUTERS/Paul Wesley Griggs

His eclectic, cross-disciplinary approach is featured in an exhibition in Venice, Italy, called “Out There: Architecture Beyond Building,” from September 14 to November 23 at the 11th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Rockwell collaborated with architects Casey Jones and Reed Kroloff to create a work called “Hall of Fragments,” which is comprised of a passage created between two screens showing clips from films within which architecture plays a major role.

“The most interesting design opportunities occur when dissimilar things rub up against each other,” Rockwell said.

“I’m always looking for ways to go beyond the bounds of a problem and think of the design from the experience of an interior product or building and look beyond the narrow definitions that separate different types of architecture.”

Rockwell heads up Rockwell Group, which designed the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, Nobu restaurants around the world, as well as the sets for Broadway productions of “Hairspray” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

He spoke to Reuters about his work and the Italian exhibit.

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Q: What is the significance of this project for you?

A: “It touches on collaboration, which is a key thing that fascinates me. It’s also about an experiential environment. It’s about people interacting together, so it’s a deeply communal thing. It also deals with cross-pollination of ideas, which is one of the things that is most important to me.”

Q: What made this project new and different?

A: “What was new about this was developing the technology. The software is something we developed. It’s not been done before; working on curating the movies and finding a way that we could take filmic images and have those deformed and reformed so that if you move through it you determine the environment.”

Q: Does the title “Hall of Fragments” mean something specific?

A: “The idea of “Hall of Fragments” emerged from the notion that you would be able to use these films as fragments of information, and that you didn’t get to see the whole image of the movie, the whole filmic piece, until you were behind the screens. It came out of a way of trying to describe this piece.

Q: Was there any particular reason to do this project now?

A: “The overall thesis of the Biennale is to look at strategies outside of traditional architecture and look at the cross-pollination of film, literature, music and architecture. That’s really what we embraced. Filmmakers don’t have to deal with building codes. They don’t deal with gravity. It’s a totally free atmospheric art form.”

Q: If you had to, how would you label yourself as an architect?

A: “It would be experientialist I guess. I am most interested in finding ways places and things and environments that on a gut, visceral level, engage us and thrill us. In terms of style, I’m someone who’s not interested in having a house style, but interested in drawing from all the things that I see around us that are part of modern-day life.”

Reporting by Julie Mollins; editing by Patricia Reaney