New York

Greg Lynn

Artists Space Exhibitions

It is a polarity that has governed our vision of the future for decades: either the computer age is embraced as the harbinger of an era of unprecedented comfort or as the augur of a technological wasteland. In Greg Lynn’s version, the computer will blissfully alter the spaces we inhabit. Unfortunately, if his recent show is any indication, the form this architectural innovation will take is so detached from the physical world as to be completely sterile.

Tucked away snugly in a corner of the gallery, the asymmetrical Mylar panels that formed the curved walls of Lynn’s installation were molded around the five projects on display with the aid of a computer program. Visitors entered through one of two openings into the tight space, whose panels glowed dimly. Two small computer screens and several tiny orange and yellow resin models were imbedded in the walls, suggesting a digitalized, futurist womb.

However, instead of the laser precision of the computer age—or even the outdated craft of the Beaux Arts studio—what the visitor encountered was the clumsy hand of cheap labor. The Mylar panels were warped and buckled, some overlapping clumsily to reveal the scars of an exhausted intern’s X-Acto knife. The computer terminal that was meant to connect visitors to the Internet was missing—it had been removed the day of the show because the connection to the telephone line had failed. The installation, marred by a flimsy conceptualization of how technology will affect the shape of the future, took a fetishistic delight in the infallability of the new machine.

In the tiny models themselves, even the unintended ironies of another failed utopia were missing. More art object than architecture, the model for an Opera House in Cardiff, Wales, represented the “forest of support walls” that formed the base of the project as rows of splintered glass crowned by columns on which perched cloudlike yellow forms. In another project, a Long Island summer house for “a couple with two children,” a rough block of resin was manipulated via computer by four external “forces”: views, entry sequence, a nearby home, and the existing foundation. A series of models showed how the original form was slowly twisted into a grotesque miniature. The theme was obvious—order “mutated” by function.

By disdaining the details of everyday life, Lynn renders his work marginal. In the house for a couple with two children, only the external forces matter at all—the trite little family is casually tossed out, its needs irrelevant. Other models show no interest in internal space; they are hard as jewels. The computer has become an escape rather than a tool enabling a more complex understanding of how architecture can transform the surfaces that circumscribe our existence.

Architects are famously gullible when it comes to new technologies—they are often the first to celebrate them and the last to grasp them. Lynn could have toyed with the sometimes absurd paradoxes that occur when high-tech meets low-budget, but he seems unable to see them. A disciple of Peter Eisenman, Lynn makes work that is replete with Eisenman’s self-absorbed detachment. While Lynn retreats crablike into the cramped world of the computer screen, we are left to glide over the surface of an empty image.

Nicolai Ouroussoff