For the December 2015 edition of Unbuilt, Design Miami’s architecture installation, Harvard GSD students created a pavilion out of miniature models.
“Design Miami isn’t about architecture,” says Yiliu Shen-Burke. So why was the architectural designer from the Harvard Graduate School of Design standing at the threshold of the white-hot decorative arts fest back in December? Shen-Burke – along with fellow master’s candidates Joanne Cheung, Doug Harsevoort, Steven Meyer, and Jenny Shen – shrank the built environment to the scale of furniture, ceramics or lighting for Unbuilt, the Harvard GSD Pavilion.
Each year since its 2005 inception, the fair has commissioned emerging talent to create an installation for its entry courtyard. Unbuilt marks the first time the privilege has gone to students; in turn, the Cambridge quintet milled 198 architectural models from foam in MiMo-era pink. Mounted on a soaring grid of steel supports, the forms are hung upside down, so visitors could stroll beneath the pastel cloud and take in its orthogonal nooks and biomorphic crannies.
Though the final designs were selected via a competition, Cheung explains the pavilion as a model of inclusivity. The maquettes were elicited from an open call to GSD students, faculty and alumni to submit their unrealized work, from failed competition entries to concepts that never made it off the drawing board.
While the pavilion literally skewers architecture – each volume is pierced by the steel armature, in a kind of urban kebab – its underlying message is heartfelt. Besides representing the widest possible swath of the Harvard GSD community, the project encompasses a huge intellectual network. Great works are founded on creative experiments and design iterations. Unbuilt reminds us that for every icon that is realized, innumerable alternatives engage in a dialogue that even design’s most devoted fans rarely get to witness.