Photo by Nikolai Mather

The “On Location” exhibit is a visionary collection of innovative architecture. It is comprised of four architectural practices: AGENCY, GELPI Projects, SILO AR+D and studio: indigenous.  UNC Charlotte School of Architecture professor Mark Manack put together this exhibit with his esteemed colleagues from all over the globe. Posted on the exhibit are notes about the exhibit, the names of the four practices, where they are located, who created them and a small description of the design and process of the practices. Designer Michael Abrahamson gave a description of the exhibit, explaining the reasons behind, history of and expectations of the exhibit:

“The purpose of this exhibition is that these architects are at work developing new ways of collecting information about their regions. In addition to vernacular construction, these four practices look also to the geographies- political, social, material, spatial- that define locales. They do this not only to apply their findings to design. To be “on location” in their sense is also to engage first-hand in efforts to make change through architecture.”

The exhibit consists of pictures and projections of structures showcasing these four practices. It is placed on boards so you can walk around and read the descriptions and watch how the artists made the structures. You can also see blueprints of the structures. The SILO AR+D architecture practice has three different locations of implementation: Charlotte, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio and Fayetteville, Arkansas. The principals of the practices are Manack and Frank Jacobus. Manack and Jacobus describe SILO AR+D as “an architecture, research and design practice simultaneously involved in professional and academic activities. [Their] work deliberately engages a variety of contexts, clients and communities.”

The structures displayed in the SILO AR+D exhibit put a lot of emphasis on lighting, angles and triangular shapes. One structure, “Super Sukkah,” in St. Louis, Missouri, consists of multiple glowing glass triangles of various angles towering in an abstract shape that, to me, is a cross between a pentagon and a large equilateral triangle flipped on its side. Even the “North Church” structure, which resembles almost a classroom setting with a podium, an alter table and pull pit chairs, has a collage of triangles inside several larger triangles outfitting the ceiling.

Photo by Nikolai Mather

Studio: indigenous is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The principal is Chris Cornelius of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture & Urban Planning. Cornelius describes studio: indigenous as, “a Native American- owned design studio. [Their] approach to all projects is centered around the cultural values and worldviews of indigenous people.” A common thread of the work is narrative. This stems from the native cultural ritual of storytelling.

One big structure represented in the exhibit is “Wiikiaami.” This is a large structure that resembles a wigwam. It’s made of a copper-like material with wire, poles and numerous transparent grates. At first glance, I couldn’t figure out what the structure was supposed to resemble. After realizing that studio: indigenous is Native American-owned, it  occurred to me that it as a wigwam. My hunch was later verified when I found out that “Wiikiaami”  means wigwam in the Myaamia language. On the board there are blueprints, pictures and diagrams of “Wiikiaami.” Adjacent to the board is a projector that displays how the structure was created and how it was built.

AGENCY is located in El Paso, Texas. Its principals are Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller of Texas Tech University El Paso College of Architecture. Kripa and Mueller describe AGENCY as:

“a collaborative interdisciplinary practice engaging contemporary culture through architecture, urbanism and advocacy. AGENCY positions architectural design as a systemic instrumentation of material ecologies, social constituencies, political policies, and ethical thought, embracing a transformative role and enabling new paradigms of cultural production.”

Photo by Nikolai Mather

One impressive structure that takes a mundane object and turns it into something innovative and spectacular is “Flash,” a large group of traffic cones that are glued upside-down on the underside of a pavilion. This may seem unimpressive, but that changes when night comes. The cones glow in the dark, illuminating the structure.

GELPI Projects is located in Miami, Florida. The principal of GELPI Projects is Nick Gelpi of Florida International University School of Architecture. Gelpi describes his practice as

“design practice dedicated to examining the relationships between materiality and building concepts by focusing on the material consequences of form. [Their] design practice explores buildings in the city spatial installations, furniture, material experiments and mockups by examining architectural thinking across diverse scales.”

This collection is very different from the others. The materials are more industrial and sturdy. One of the structures, “EXOCTIC CONCRETE HOUSE,” is a house made entirely out of concrete. A personal favorite of mine in the collection is the structure, “HOUSE PAINT PAVILION.” It is the inside of a small wooden house, but it is empty and the walls are striped with different colors and hues.

All of these collections are very innovative and experimental and really show you that any type of material or object can be a masterpiece. To learn more about these four practices and view these pieces first-hand, stop by the “On Location” exhibit in the Storrs Gallery until Nov. 17; it’s worth the trip.