Horror Vacui, 2013 (An installation) 

For the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Close Closer, with Ang Li and Phoebe Springstubb

The diffusion of contemporary architectural practice signals the displacement of conventional forms of building with new spatial mediums. But with this dematerialized reality comes a sense of alienation from the immediate and the tangible. In a space where walls have come tumbling down, instead of liberation we are left feeling increasingly cenophobic. 

The term horror vacui describes a Moorish visual practice adopted by Portuguese builders in the 15th century that involved covering building facades with azulejos, blue and white ceramic tiles commemorating historic events. Borrowing from this narrative tradition, this installation employs a method of collective storytelling by pairing vernacular production techniques with digital media to temporarily re-clad a building façade.

The installation began with the crowdsourced collection of photographs of architectural interiors. Using a custom image-sorting software, the photographs were processed, and tiled to create a pixelated composite of the building façade. Each time a user uploaded a photograph, it appeared as a projection on the digital model, a virtual placeholder for the physical installation. 

By concretizing digital processes through a bricks and mortar approach, the project aspires to transform content production into a collective endeavor by embedding a social system into a built installation. Individually, each tile is a visual register of a subjective experience—the contributed photograph. Collectively and from afar, the tiles read as a mediated copy of the building behind, a trompe l'oeil rendered in blue and white. By transforming the existing façade into a luminous blue and white narrative surface, the wall is given renewed relevance as a communicating agent, inviting the public to take a closer look at the hidden depths of an architectural surface.

The installation was completed in collaboration with Autodesk and Pedrita Studio. Photo credits: Francisco Nogueira