September 5, 2013

Exhibit explores architectural technology, prison spaces

MONTREAL — There’s a new tool to complement the architectural drafting table.

The Canadian Centre for Architecture presents two current exhibitions: “Archaeology of the Digital” and “H-Block.” Blueprints, architectural models, photographs and some unique artifacts abound.

“Archaeology of the Digital” nostalgically explores a late 1980s and early 1990s time line when a new creative tool was introduced to the architect — the computer. The exhibit delves into four architectural works in particular: the Lewis Residence by Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman’s unrealized Biocentrum, Chuck Hoberman’s Expanding Sphere, and Shoei Yoh’s roof structures made for the Odawara and Galaxy Toyama gymnasiums.

Frank Gehry’s Lewis Residence model offers a typical look at the iconic architect’s thought process: Crumple up a piece of paper, toss it on the floor, give it a quick computer scan, and design an abstract building around it. The 22,000-square-foot house slated for Ohio looks akin to a luxury home for the Flintstones. The building never made it past the design stage.

One example on display of Shoei Yoh’s gymnasium rooftop structures offers subtly quiet metal waves on an open grid. It could double as rectangular spaghetti strainer in a pinch.

Then, Chuck Hoberman’s Expanding Sphere and Iris Dome installation prototypes evoke what may have made a successful retractable roof for the Olympic Stadium. With the push of a button, the pieces inhale and exhale to full capacity.

The exhibit explores the advent of mass-computer use with some primitive-looking but advanced technology of the day. On hand is a fun display of early AutoCAD 2-D and 3-D design software; how-to books on BASIC and Fortran; and an original Apple Macintosh computer made in 1984, which boasts a whopping 128K of power. A vintage fax machine is also on display.

“Archaeology of the Digital” continues through Thursday, Oct. 3.

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