Panic Room

(exhibition project with Matej Al-Ali and Tomáš Moravec, curator: Rostislav Koryčánek)

„Architecture is now generating instruments rather than monuments: its value is now determined by its ability to mutate, its ability to absorb program changes and the logic of chance. Ignasi da Solà-Morales says it is necessary to change architecture into a characteristic event, specific to each case and place.”  (Jana Ticha / da Ignasi Solà-Morales)

Panic Room is the third project of the artistic trio Al-Ali, Dub and Moravec, dealing with issues of contemporary architectural development of cities and suburban landscapes. For their exhibition at Karlin Studios, they explore the possibilities of uses of modular system from construction units, which they represent in a stereotypical agencement of technocratical lines. The created scene looks like an ongoing construction, which final shape results from social demands together with the quality of the architecture itself.
During the 20th century, architectural practice went from the role of ideas precursor to that of service provider – in better case with some added aesthetic value. Many architects themselves talk about architecture as a customer service, the architect being, during the whole process of communication, project conceptualisation and construction realization, subordinated to the investor’s intentions and conditions determined by economical context and construction production. The construction production has succeeded in assimilating and helping the development of modern architects´ plans and ideas – especially those who supported an economy of construction based on thrift and standardization and transformed their concept into industrial form. Retrospectively the prefabricated, homologated and certificated construction systems became part of the architectural practice and regulation. Established construction systems also guaranteed the realization quality, regardless of the architecture quality.

Construction systems and statutory regulations, which formed together reciprocally profitable coexistence, certainly simplified the process of design and construction. At the same time they significantly influence the final architectural shape. Marketing of advanced construction systems is based on the fact that it opens up endless possibilities for use; as well do the modular Lego system. Construction systems offer the possibility to guarantee certain creativity, and together with the legislation they confront unverified and potentially destructive ideas and thoughts. Elaborated simplification and rationalization operate as a social “panic room” which offers sufficient comfort and is durable enough to resist to the increased activity of uncorrected creative architectural thinking.

The artistic trio perceives those produced construction systems as profaned variations of Le Corbusier´s modulor, longing for universal harmony. In each of those systems can be found in various degrees the diluted knowledge coming from the continuous adaptation of the world to the natural proportions of the human body. On the one hand, the construction systems are the limiting factor, transforming cities and landscapes according to normative perception, on the other hand it is a also a question of will and social concern to use standardized building components in an intentional, unusual or enriching way. The authors used as a model example pallets of construction units, produced by the largest domestic manufacturer for concrete construction elements.

The installation plays with the principle of inversion, turning what is generally viewed as an instrument into – according to some critics, something that misses in architecture – a monument. The relationship between the instrument and the monument is re-evaluated through the use of 24 pallets and 23 tons of concrete masonry units. The units arrangement responds to the product usual distribution system. Material thus placed inside the gallery causes an intensive spatial experience to the visitor, and at the same time symbolizes an ideological platform for the upcoming debate.

The aim of the installation is to evoke a construction site, where the intended construction is to be realized. The initial plan of the panopticon is based on the theories of Jeremy Bentham, philosopher and social reformer of the 18th century. The concept is to allow a single watchman to observe a space in its entirety, and yet not being seen by those who are the object of his observation. The consciousness of the observed, suggesting the existence of an invisible observer, changes the observer’s behavior, as he would always be under observation, even when the observation spot is empty. The panopticon is another allegory of dictate and supervision from construction materials manufacturers and legislation. The realization of the intended model of panopticon is only possible by rotating the usual orientation of the masonry units.

The project has been realised in collaboration and with the kind support of BEST, a.s. and VZV GROUP, s.r.o.