words Justin McGuirk
Barack Obama might not like it if you moved the Oval Office deep underground, but that is one proposal in the White House Redux competition, held by New York’s Storefront for Art and Architecture.
This beat-style poem and video work, entitled Revenge of the Lawn, won first prize and $5,000. It portrays the White House not as a building but as a sinister dystopian landscape. “No one could really put their finger on what it had, but we kept coming back to it,” says the Storefront’s director, Joseph Grima.
There were nearly 500 entries to the White House Redux ideas competition. The prize-winners proposed to turn the Commander-in-Chief’s house into a giant server, an earth mound and a computer game.
A high-powered jury – including Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda, dean of the Columbia University School of Architecture Mark Wigley and architecture historian Beatriz Colomina – favoured the more polemical entries. “They preferred the more critical and dystopian proposals to the more formalist ones and those with a down-to-earth pragmatism about where the bedrooms should be,” says Grima.
Second prize went to another fiction-style work presenting 12 different White Houses – each a “cautionary tale” – that was a homage to 1960s radical group Superstudio. Third prize was shared between two proposals: one called White House 2.0, an interactive server collecting advice from around the world, the other an underground complex invisible from the air. In the latter, the president works at the base of an inverted pyramid – a metaphor for his accountability.
Finally, honourable mention went to an entry that turned the White House into a computer game, suggesting that the seat of American power should be more of an interactive experience.
Grima suggests that the jury’s selection was influenced by the potential for sensationalist press coverage: “They wanted to distance themselves from anything too architectural because otherwise it might have been: ‘The dean of Columbia said this is a great building and should replace the White House.’”
The exhibition runs until 8 November.
top Revenge of the Lawn, first prize winner, by JP Maruszczak, Roger Connah and Ryan Manning
2 Cautionary Tales for the New World Order, second prize winner, by David Iseri, Laura Sperry, Justin Kruse and Jefferson Frost
An Architecture of Possible Collectives (joint third prize) by Grant Gibson and Chris Annmarie Spencer, which places the Oval Office at the base of an inverted pyramid
White House 2.0 (joint third prize winner) by Wayne Congar and Arrielle Assouline-Lichten
The White House as computer game (honourable mention) by Pieterjan Ginckels and Julian Friedauer