Unbuilt Monuments

March 20, 2000 to May 13, 2000

The vast majority of an architect's projects remain on paper, and some of the field's most ambitious and visionary works have never been realized. Unbuilt Monuments will present six famous never constructed architectural marvels in hyperrealistic computer graphics. The work is a project of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Takehiko Nagakura, PhD, and the MIT ARC group.

Nagakura and his collaborators studied a series of unrealized structures and rendered them in photographic verisimilitude. Each project begins with a thorough study of the structure's original design. Often, Nagakura's team must interpret where details and material specifications are undocumented or unclear. Using sophisticated computer graphics programs, they then simulate the effect of light and materials in space. "We use the same technology that Hollywood does for its special effects," Nagakura explained in Metropolis magazine last June. "Short of building, computer graphics is the only way of getting close to the real sensation of spatial experience. The final result is often much different than even I had imagined."

Unbuilt Monuments features the six structures that Nagakura and his team have "re-created" to date: the Monument to the Third International (1919); Vladimir Tatlin's colossal tower celebrating the Russian Revolution; Le Corbusier's competition entry for the Palace of the Soviets, 1931; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Court House with Curved Wall Elements (1930s); Danteum (1938) by Giuseppe Terragni and Pietro Lingeri, which is a museum and library devoted to Dante that comprises three ascending areas: hell, purgatory and heaven; the Drive-in House (1968), adapted from the work of Archigram member Michael Webb; and Firminy Church (1970) by Le Corbusier with Jose Oubrerie. The exhibition includes a computer-animated video and 30 still images.

Born in Japan, Nagakura is currently an associate professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds a master of architecture from Harvard University and a master of engineering in architecture from Tokyo University. In 1996 he earned a doctorate in architecture from Harvard University. Several Unbuilt Monuments creations were included in the At the End of the Century exhibition on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo in 1998 and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, in 1999. The exhibition was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.