Last week, Ray Harryhausen passed away. For decades, Ray created special effects for Hollywood, using stop motion animation and old fashioned camera trickery to bring artifical villans to the big screen. When asked how computers have revolutionized special effects, Ray replied “you know, in a thirty-second commercial you see the most amazing images, the amazing image is no longer spectacular. It’s become mundane because it’s over used. The computer seems to be able to do anything. So people take it for granted.”
And even though he was talking about mythological characters and fake dinosaurs, he might as well have been talking about architecture.
The allure of digital imagery is undeniable. And plenty of architects have paired it with algorithmically-generated forms to produce compelling renderings of structures that are as likely to see daylight as the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Sure, you can print a 3-D model of your design, just as you can thrill an audience with an enormous and vengeful creature with snakes for fingers, but how connected are these images to reality? It seems relevant to always use the computer, but it doesn’t always seem essential. That’s where folks like the Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop come in. Their work is refreshing, in part, because of it’s lack of digital smoke and mirrors: it’s just straightforward and well-done furniture and small building projects.
A lot of it is clever, too: a stacking bookshelf with beautiful wooden joinery, a wooden spiky hut to wrap in wool, or a small wooden pavilion formed by the spring wind. Their portfolio of buildings and objects has plenty of curiosities, too. You might be curious about that large, house-shaped windsock, for instance. But if you’re imagining a bunch of technophobes living in the sticks somewhere rural, the workshop is actually based in Budapest. A few of their furniture projects have been featured on the likes of Domus and designboom and you can stay connected to them via Tumblr or their Facebook page. I found out about AUW in this excellent video by Bence Mladin, the title of which roughly translates to “Here, Now or Nowhere” and shows the preparations for an exhibition of work by a few of the workshop’s members.
Without any digital trickery, the video for Here, Now or Nowhere will likely make you want to cook food and eat. Just like the work of AUW might make you want to get together with friends and build something elegant. If your friends are as lazy as mine, this is highly unlikely to actually happen. Probably only slightly more likely than getting eaten by a radioactive octopus. But the possibilities of AUW seem much more real than anything CGI.