Hypothetical Developments On Display In New Orleans


Snooze Towers, Rendering by John Becker

I was not quite sure what to think when Rob Walker, G.K. Darby and Ellen Susan launched the Hypothetical Development Organization late last year. In some ways, it hearkened back to the architectural storytelling of my beloved Archigram, who were " futurist, anti-heroic and pro-consumerist, drawing inspiration from technology in order to create a new reality that was solely expressed through hypothetical projects." with the same kind of architectural wit and fantasy.

But I worried about the idea of dropping these fantasies on the people of New Orleans, who have suffered so much already, and who need a whole lot of reality. Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG says much the same thing:

When I first heard about this project, I was afraid that the resulting posters for hypothetical developments might come off not as aspirational signs of the urban fantastic, but more as a kind of taunting--as if a bunch of architects had come along with their posters to show you all the things that your city is not, all the things we wish you could be good enough to be, that we wish you could pull yourself together long enough to become--like a deranged husband taunting his wife with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue--but, well, just look at you: you're all weeds, empty lots, and abandoned buildings, and, even worse, you're poor.


Mobile Cornucopia: Rendering by Candy Chang

The organizers of the project explain:

Members of this organization begin the narrative process by examining city neighborhoods and commercial districts for compelling structures that appear to have fallen into disuse --"hidden gems" of the built environment. In varying states of repair, these buildings suggest only stories about the past, not the future.

As a public service, H.D.O. invents a hypothetical future for each selected structure. Unlike a traditional, reality-based developer, however, our organization is not bound by rules relating to commercial potential, practical materials, or physics. In our view, plausibility is a creative dead end. That is to say: We are not trying to fool anybody.



Rubble Depot; Rendering by Meg Turner

It is also very clever; I always wondered where rubble came from, and now I know.

In the end, I think it is very much in the tradition of Archigram. HDO concludes by noting that "this project is a labor of love. It is a new form of fiction. But also, it's real."

On display at the Du Mois gallery in New Orleans until May 7.

More on Rob Walker:
Lipstick on a Pig Dept.: Rob Walker on Fiji Water
Quote of the Day: Rob Walker on Refurbishing Normal

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Tags: Designers | New Orleans