Los Angeles studio Mutuo has designed a housing prototype for Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum of Art which challenges the current housing system. The outdoor exhibition sees five firms, including Mutuo, construct responsive prototypes that explore the history of housing, and its connection with the natural world.
Mutuo’s contribution, titled Finding Flexibility Within Systems, manifests as a “fragmented structure” that seeks to raise questions on housing equity, inclusivity, and resource availability.
Visitors approach the pavilion through a rigid grid of incomplete concrete and steel columns, representing the “stumbling blocks” towards home ownership for many in the United States. The incomplete nature of the columns sets the tone for the wider pavilion, which itself features partially-missing roofs, walls, and floors.
“Design is just one part of a complex housing process that includes land acquisition, financing, permitting, and construction, a process that is unnavigable for most Americans,” explains Mutuo principal Jose Herrasti. “By creating an intentionally incomplete prototype, we’re asking what is missing? Who is in and who is out? How would the current system need to be redesigned for inclusion?”
The pavilion is equally divided into four parts, representing a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and living area, constructed from standardized building materials including structural insulated panels, steel columns and beams, poured-in-place concrete, and paint. The palette was chosen to demonstrate how common materials in the industry can be used to create “extraordinary design variations.”
The standardized materials are contrasted by wooden and clay columns handcrafted by artists from Michoacan, Mexico. Two of the columns, carved from timber in the Mexican town of Cuanajo, merge techniques by Indigenous and colonizing civilizations, while a central pottery column is constructed from stacked, hand-molded elements from Cocucho. According to the designers, the columns were included to “symbolically reject the idea that the housing system must be a rigid set of rules and can celebrate the diversity, flexibility, and resilience of immigrant communities.”
The physical pavilion is complemented by an online platform Stories About Housing, also created by Mutuo, which collects personal narratives from in-person and virtual visitors.
The exhibition is one of several recently reported on Archinect. Earlier this week, MoMA announced it would host Refik Anadol’s first solo US museum exhibition, while earlier this year, an expo of biomaterial sculptures populated the University of Virginia campus created by architecture students and scholars.
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