Metabolic City

Site: St. Louis, MO, United States

Status: Built

Program: Installation

Client: Washington University in St. Louis

The exhibition design plays on themes of Metabolic City by considering visitor movement, reciprocal dialogue of two and three-dimensional studies, and a cinematic strategy that engages layers of viewing distance and orientation. The proximity of digital and analog constructions intends to express the 1960s archival material as product of a desired future and our present.


In serpentine formation, the table allows rooms to emerge between itself and the wall, pulling visitors through the space of the gallery’s edge while strategically opening to allow entry to the interior.   The table is a mixture of drafting table and display case with four scales of viewing.  Originals are mounted to the table in a tilted formation reminiscent of drafting table view. Tilted frames of plexi-glass and transparency film capture original video such that moving images are part of the static image series whose reading is ambiguous depending on correct viewing angles.  These dynamic objects also recall the windshield of a car, playing on the movement narrative of the exhibition and future technology systems which sought to seamlessly integrate information and navigation. Below the upper-layer glass table surface, reproductions and quotes form a band of photographic paper with seams matching table joints. This strategy encourages continuous reading while distinguishing original and reproduction.  The lower-layer table surface provides structural rigidity and cost-effectively eliminates curved face material.  The lower surface also reveals the thinness of a paper display case, peeling outward to hold 3D digitally printed and analog constructed student models as support material. Student case study models are placed at the interior in order to provide physical separation from originals while promoting comparison views of components constructed from the original two-dimensional material.  In addition, the lower table strategically transforms to create benches and car-seat infrastructure for correct film viewing angles. 


The original works are organized to encourage readings up close and at a distance.  The viewpoints correlate material of differing scales to specific locations in order to promote looking across the room, physical movement towards visual comparisons, and a visual blending of material that conceptually denies strict categories of separation.  The geometry ties the ends together with significant precedent work forming the conclusion and the beginning.  The design itself is influenced by precedents and is intended to be in dialogue with the historic viewing boxes of Frederick Kiesler. With varying spatial perimeters and three places to sit, a box room transforms into movement systems, layered opportunities of playful observation, and inhabited environments.