Style Worry or #FOMO

Reyner Banham once described the proliferation of styles after a waning epoch as “style worry,” an anxiety where the architect must decide how to go about choosing one style out of many. Today this anxiety has shifted to a worry better characterized as fear of missing out. Digital and social networks of production and distribution incentivize a culture of inclusion, where the boundaries between producer and audience begin to dissolve. Whether it be Trump’s retweets of fringe conspiracies, audience direction of live stream action, or crowd-sourced research, cultural production has become participatory. As a result, Banham’s exclusivity has given over to a stylistic promiscuity and today’s architectural forms and experiments show it. Against this contemporary backdrop, DES 3377: Style Worry or #FOMO seminar (Fall 2018) encouraged students to adopt, engage and hybridize the polemics of architectural theory, mostly from the past twenty-five years, as an essential process of design. Upon synthesizing these theoretical quarrels and camps into their own treatises on form, the students designed individual signature chairs.

This exhibition presents both chairs designed by Harvard Graduate School of Design students and, with the seminar’s ethic of inclusion, those designed by influential creatives outside the GSD community. Each chair is explicit in their portrayal of polemical form making. Both groups’ work presents a variety of conversations and influences indicative of today’s accelerated sharing of ideas, where divergent camps quickly hybridize and mutate into new streams. The exhibition underscores the disciplinary necessity of cultivating and honing theoretical positions as a crucial stage that contextualizes these new inclusionary formal practices. In underscoring the importance of both discursive and representational modes of design, the exhibition of each chair borrows from Joseph Kosuth’s template, One and Three Chairs, whereby each designer presents their chair in three divergent forms: a 1:6 physical model, a drawing/image, and a conceptual statement.

Student Participants: Andrew Bako, Aimilios Davlantis Lo, Eduardo Mediero, Matthew Gehm, Jin Guo, Joshua Kuhr, Benjamin Pennell, Adam Sherman, Sevki Topcu, Kiran Wattamwar, Sol Yoon, and Zi Meng

Outside Exhibitors: ALLTHATISSOLID, MOS Architects, Megan Paulson, Norman Kelley, Soft Baroque, Synthesis-DNA, Zago Architecture, Zaha Hadid Architects