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Karamuk Kuo talk about their contribution to the 2nd Chicago Architecture Biennial. Why did the team decide to re-import Adolf Loos' famous American Bar to the States?
Text: Karamuk Kuo – 24.9.2017
What do you exhibit in Chicago?
Our piece is a specific commission for a curated room called «Horizontal City» in which participants were asked to rethink a canonical interior space and its representation through the architectural model. Each participant was given a precise dimension and scale for the model but had to choose a photograph of a space as a starting point.
We decided to redo Adolf Loos’ American Bar in Vienna, which was a product of cross-cultural exchange. Built in 1908, the bar was designed after Loos’ visit to Chicago in the late 1890s when he was not only inspired by the architecture of people like Louis Sullivan but also by the free society of the United States where men and women were able to co-mingle in the bars. His import of the American Bar to Vienna, which at the time was politically conservative, introduced a haven for progressive thinkers and a space for open discussions and debate. Given the current political climate in the United States, as well as our own cross-cultural identity, we thought that it would be opportune to (re-)import Loos’ bar to Chicago, though of course with our own re-interpretations of the bar’s materialization and the space beyond, suggested by his mirrored planes. Within the physical constraints of the small space, the illusion of infinite extension underscores its intimacy. The virtual reinforces the real.
How does your project correspond to the motto Make New History?
History empowers us not only through the strategies and techniques that we can build on but it forces us to confront our contemporary condition to suggest a better future. Given the theme of the Biennial, we thought that it was important to also look beyond the physical and material contribution of the piece to what it means in a broader context, beyond our own architectural obsessions.
How is the project related to your work as architects?
In our work, we see architecture as a space for people, a backdrop for the unfolding of everyday life. The act of design is inherently optimistic as we envision possibilities for an unknown future. We’re therefore particularly interested in works that allow for multiple readings and interpretations.
What do you take along from the Chicago Biennial for your future work?
There were many beautiful and sometimes profound contributions which were inspiring but I think what we got most out of it were the conversations and exchanges with the other participants which of course we hope to continue.