Building Couture

The art and science of architecture and fashion merge at New York’s Center for Architecture.

A dialogue between two distinct disciplines can often be a powerful force behind the creation of new ideas. The current exhibition at the Center for Architecture, The Fashion of Architecture: CONSTRUCTING the Architecture of Fashion, illuminates the commonalities between architecture and fashion, resulting in a show of extremely diverse and imaginative aesthetics.

The exhibition kicked off in early January with a panel discussion featuring curator Bradley Quinn, exhibition designer Margaret Helfand, architect Winka Dubbeldam, and fashion designer Pia Myrvold. Topics included exhibition design, interactive technology, materials, and the fashion establishment. As Quinn explained, the purpose of the exhibition is not simply to show clothing but to explore themes common to both fashion and architecture through applications and materials. The result of this synergy is clear in the design of the exhibition itself—Helfand’s concept literally stitches together the artwork and the space. Explanations of the designers, pieces, and themes hang on cards from a thread-like cabling system in the bilevel exhibition space.

While there are practical applications for new-fangled materials and advanced technological fabrication processes, the central theme here is a cross between couture and sculptural notions based on the protective measures of clothing and buildings. You’ll find, for example, a garment made from hard resin and a giant mobius strip that wraps around the body as a dress. Another piece looks like a handsome torture device with rods that suspend edges of the garment from various points of the body. The dress changes dynamically as the model moves.

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In a direct collaboration between a fashion designer and an architect, Myrvold teamed up with Dubbeldam for the latest editions in her “Clothes as Publishing” series. Dubbeldam’s use of computers is acclaimed for showing architectural movement in ways that were once impossible, and Myrvold’s pioneering work challenges the traditional fashion establishment by mixing fashion and technology. The collaborative project explores the graphic interpretations of architectural forms and relates them directly to fashion. Using a computer program to generate a random collage of Dubbeldam’s images; the consumer can freeze an image that is then printed directly onto a garment.

The themes of the exhibit are many—geometry and scale, graphic form, social spaces, volume and voids, construction (or deconstruction?), surface and space, and dynamic structures. Together, these topics engage in an extensive visual dialogue that is fresh and timely.

The Fashion of Architecture: CONSTRUCTING the Architecture of Fashion is on display at the Center for Architecture in Manhattan through March 11.

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