press release

(West Hollywood, September 26, 2006) As part of its ongoing mission to facilitate and advance cultural innovation, the MAK Center for Art Architecture presents The Gen(H)ome Project, an exhibition exploring the integration of recent developments in information technologies and the natural sciences — especially genetics — into cutting-edge architecture. Interacting with one of the 20th century’s most renowned architectural experiments, the Schindler House, exhibition projects offer “genetic modifications” of the home’s structure, interiors and grounds. Among the many scientific methodologies referenced are nanotechnology, climatology, cell physiology, astronomy, robotics and algorithms.

Gen(H)ome will open with a free day of public tours, lectures and presentations, the annual MAK Day, Sunday, October 29, and remain on view through February 25, 2007.

The exhibition is guest curated by Eran Neuman, Aaron Sprecher and Chandler Ahrens of Open Source Architecture, with MAK Center Director Kimberli Meyer.

Participants include Greg Lynn/FORM, Karl Chu, Servo, Marcos Novak, ocean D, Weathers-Sean Lally, Phillippe Rahm, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, and Open Source Architecture.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a podcast and catalogue detailing the projects, along with essays by Martin Bressani and Robert Jan Van Pelt, Marie-Ange Brayer, Helen Furjàn and Peter Lloyd, Christopher Hight, Aaron Sprecher and Eran Neuman.


There is a long history of the arts incorporating developments in the life sciences. The last century saw Modernist applications of natural symbolism, such as in Victor Horta’s architecture; Buckminster Fuller’s appropriation of structural skeletons; and the Postmodernist replication of life imagery. Today, architectural and artistic objects no longer merely imitate and simulate natural structures and forms; the distinctions between object and subject, organic and inorganic, artificial and virtual are increasingly blurred.

A precedent for this process may be seen in R.M. Schindler’s Kings Road House. Both a social and architectural experiment, the house integrated the 19th century Romantic desire to live immersed in nature with the 20th century need for an engineered, controlled environment. Designed as a communal house for two couples, it proposed a new kind of domestic space. Organized around an open floor plan with gardens shaped as additional rooms, the house presaged California modern, indoor/outdoor living. As the architect stated, “Our rooms will descend close to the ground and the garden will become an integral part of the house. The distinction between indoors and outdoors will disappear.”

Advanced mathematics, genetic science and the introduction of Information Technologies (IT) have engendered new architectural design techniques. Procedures such as streaming, scripting, automation and interaction have shifted the architectural element from a fixed into a responsive component, allowing architects to emulate biological processes. Design now incorporates evolutionary design, mutation and genetic modification.

While new structures and materials are being generated and explored, genetic procedures have rarely been addressed in the context of architectural type. The Gen(H)ome Project examines the new architectural paradigm in its implications for domesticity. Advances in nanotechnology and bioengineering make interactivity between habitat and inhabitant possible. “Smart” spaces will soon react to our needs and preferences. Gen(H)ome realizes these ideas in projects that are provocative, playful and intellectually engaging.

The Projects

Karl Chu is known for originating the term “genetic space” and establishing the theoretical underpinnings of genetic architecture. In Gen(H)ome, he exhibits ZyZx, a part of the Planetary Automata series. Using algorithms, Chu generates spherical mathematical entities — planets — representing variable potentialities. As he describes, “Each planet is generated by a rule in one-dimensional cellular automata. There are a total of 256 possible rules, and, correspondingly, a total of 256 planets, which together constitute a monad: the sum total of possible worlds contained with the universe of one-dimensional cellular automata.”

Genetic research has yielded not only insights into physical traits, but mental and psychological conditions as well, viewing people not only as conscious beings but also as organisms that can be unconsciously affected by external conditions. With Spoorg, a name derived from “spore,” Servo refers to this notion and applies a method of organic cellular adaptability, installing an ivy-like network of “spoorgs” to the interior and exterior of the Schindler House nursery glass window-wall. Mechanical, yet “alive,” the network responds to light and motion. It functions as a shading and speaker system, filtering sunlight and creating an ambient sonic environment.

The architecture office of Greg Lynn FORM creates exotic forms utilizing techniques derived from the aeronautic, automobile and film industries. Because he studied both philosophy and architecture, Lynn combines the realities of design and construction with speculative, theoretical and experimental modes. He has introduced the notion of “smoothness,” positing a continuum between architecture and nature. His theory is infused with genetic procedures that address intricacy as a connective system that is neither top-down nor bottom-up but instead comes into view simultaneously at all scales. This approach is seen in Blob Wall, a modular construction of variable, idiosyncratic forms.

With backgrounds in biology, video art and performance, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau work from an understanding of nature as an information interface. With their whimsical LifeWriter, they invite the public to compose a text using an old-fashioned typewriter with a projection screen standing in for the sheet of paper. When the text appears projected, the written language has been transformed by a computer-generated “genetic code” into living organisms that act, react and mutate. Thus, they effect a virtualization of natural processes.

In light of the new developments in nanotechnology and materials, Marcos Novak employs techniques for decoding and recoding genomes into chimerical combinations in his “Allo” series. Here, in Allo_Gen(H)ome, he continues to explore what happens to architecture once we stop building it and start growing it. Composed of cell-like forms derived from magnetic resonance images of the activation of a brain, Novak offers a hulking, alien “presence,” the largest member of a family of peripheral forms attached to nearby ceilings and walls. Embedded computers and sensors within the forms activate speakers and projectors, which in turn animate the space.

ocean D is a design collaborative based in London, New York and Boston. They focus on applying computational techniques towards new modes of materialization. Their GenLITE, an interactive lighting product, is currently being prototyped for a 2007 launch aimed at domestic, commercial, leisure and entertainment environments. The GenLITE is formed by the aggregation and connection of a multiplicity of small volumetric components (cells) that enact scripts designed to achieve highly specific patterns of formation and growth. Inside each cell are colored lights coded to respond with dynamic color changes.

In Polarized House, Phillippe Rahm uses tiny, beam-mounted ionizers to saturate one end of the Schindler House with positive ions and the opposite end with negative ions. Reflecting not only the building’s flipped, pinwheel structure, but also its history as a house for two couples, and later a divorced couple, the project integrates social and psychological context with the physical experience of the charged atmosphere. The installation is conceived as a “haunting,” dynamically demonstrating that invisible particles have the power to influence moods.

The Texas office of WEATHERS - Sean Lally presents Amplifications in the Chace courtyard, an installation of six glassed-in microclimates. By isolating, re-forming and re-presenting aspects of the natural environment, Lally submits nature to genetic modification. Creating self-contained, self-watering systems, he achieves his goal of “heightening and manipulating” the garden space, while exploring the effects of vegetation on the domestic realm.

Applying an evolutionary stochastic (containing a random variable) algorithm to the two-foot module that organizes the structure of the Schindler House, Open Source Architecture generates The Hylomorphic Project. This triangulating, open structure occupying the Schindler courtyard is created with software “scripted to negotiate between form and matter, structure and surface, as well as function and program.” Much like the work of R.M. Schindler, the modular structure mingles notions of interior and exterior, architecture and nature.


only in german

Modernist Landmark Transformed into Genetics Lab by Artists, Architects
Kuratoren: Eran Neuman, Aaron Sprecher, Chandler Ahrens, Director Kimberli Meyer

mit Greg Lynn / FORM , Karl Chu, Servo , Marcos Novak, ocean D, Weathers-Sean Lally, Phillippe Rahm, Christa Sommerer / Laurent Mignonneau, Open Source Architecture