A world where form follows function in a strict manner is simply identified as; boring. My hometown of Ledyard, Connecticut is a prime example of form closely following function throughout the entire town layout. The post office looks exactly like an archetypical post office that would appear in any Google image search while the apartment-repurposed factory buildings look as if they were cut and pasted along the sidewalks. As time progressed throughout architectural history, I found that the expression of the designer is completely overtaken by the gripes of the term “form follows function.” The devoid imagination and expression in modern architecture is almost too sanitized and pristine to the point that the hand of the architect is no longer referred to as a form of art or communication; but rather, a series of abstract thresholds that are outside of the human response. 
One of my main inspirations for breaking free from the tradition of form following function is the Dada art movement that originated in Zurich during the early 20th century. The purpose of the movement was to question the embittered existence of World War I by creating art that had the viewer question the conventions of art and the community that they were accustomed to. A famous quote by a few of the Dada movement front runners, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray was that “Dada is nothing” and “Dada is a state of mind.” These bold statements about the movement were cryptic and unexplanatory to the movement itself; however, that’s what the movement is all about — stirring up the traditional perception and asking questions as to what the meaning of art is (Blythe, Powers 3-5). Marcel Duchamp’s piece titled “Fountain” could be considered the mission statement behind the Dada movement. Duchamp began to question the form and function of a fabricated urinal by stripping it of its metaphysical form by signing it and placing it in an art exhibition. This was a very bold move in the development of artistic representation and can be considered one of the most controversial pieces throughout art history. Duchamp successfully deconstructed the notion of what artistic expression is by breaking down the preconception of the urinal by renaming it as a fountain and writing his name on it as “R.Mutt” which would, in traditional art pieces, dictate that he created the piece himself (Parkinson 47-48). These tricks that Duchamp and the Dada artists played with the notions of art can be translated into modern architectural design through the presence of contradicting forms and functions.
The practice of form contradicting function in modern design, especially architecture, can be viewed as a descendant of the ideologies that made the Dada movement so impactful to the development of artistic expression. In the current fashion industry in New York City, there has been an upsurge of artists that are parodying the major European fashion houses: Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and others. One of the front runners of the movement is the Australian-born artist; Ava Nirui. Based on a recent interview with Ssense Magazine, Nirui stated, “To me, clothes are not just clothes. They’re not just pieces of material sewn together. There’s information there and when you consider all of the elements that go into it, it’s far more than just a garment.”
Nirui is most noteworthy and controversial for her use of repurposing forms that were produced by world-renowned fashion houses and then using them against their original function. An example of her work is wearing a Balenciaga dust bag, that are intended to preserve dresses, as a dress itself. Another example would be a recent collaboration between Niuri and Dover Street Market where she split a Nike Air Monarch in half and inserted a fishtank between the upper and the sole: deeming them unwearable (Ssense). These tricks that Nirui plays with stripping of the function of the original form is certainly a nod to Duchamp’s fountain in the aspect that the expressive qualities of the form are revealed when the function is abandoned.
I began to explore the concept of repurposing against the original purpose through my paintings, fashion design, and architectural design.  My work is intended to have people begin to question the traditions that they are accustomed to by creating a tongue-in-cheek narrative of the current state of modern design. I am in the process of working on an exhibition in Chicago for the upcoming summer to display a series of pieces that are greatly inspired by the Dada movement and the fashion parodies arising out of New York.
The work is comprised of interactive plywood mannequins that are haphazardly assembled to critique the irony of fashion houses trying to mimic a handmade aesthetic by exposing the seams or ripping fabrics and then pricing them at thousands of dollars. I handmade the mannequins and clothing which I then threw paint over, inspired by a house painter’s coveralls after completing a job, to have the audience question if the pieces are ruined or improved with these choices. Similar to Duchamp’s fountain, the function of the clothes is unwearable because they are designed to reveal the body against society’s view on privacy standards. The form is no longer bound to the function. Additionally, the mannequins are stepping through a box with the Gucci monogram tediously copied all over the surface to mock the standards of branding, for the display of social and economic status, by placing it in an inferior situation of being stepped upon by a poorly constructed mannequin. I used the anti-fashion concept as a game of stirring controversy in the audience’s eyes and forcing them to reflect on their own preconceived notions of what branding means to them. I intend to have the audience question if the form has to follow function in modern fashion to be considered either good design or interesting artistic expression.
On a larger scale, architects such as Mies Van Der Rohe or Peter Eisenman can be cited as major proponents of form contradicting function. For example, the Miesian corner, designed by Van Der Rohe, is a subtle nod to the form contradicting the function. Van Der Rohe designed a welded corner bracket that appears to peel back the walls of the building and reveal the internal structure. However, the structural element that is believed to be revealed is actually a mask over the fireproofed concrete structure itself. This trick of mannerist architecture is a poetic expression of the corner by stripping the structure of its metaphysical existence and only using a representation of the structure beneath (Safran 137-138). A more contemporary advocate of form contradicting function is Peter Eisenman. One of his noteworthy designs, House X, breaks down the traditional view of functionalism in a residential setting. The house has been fragmented and reassembled in an unorthodox manner that forces the occupant to question the intentions of the design. Furthermore, it forces the occupant to realize the architecture around them: something that has been lost in translation in modern designs. Throughout the design, there are walls without openings, an inaccessible cage, as well as the transgression of excessive design. Eisenman adds columns where columns are not necessary or staircases that lead to nowhere (Graafland 104-105). I find this approach to designing a building to be intriguing because it encourages the individual to be an active participant in the building itself. It forces engagement and awareness which will, in turn, help society understand the importance of expression in architectural design and help tell the story of the impact of our generation.
Architectural design is becoming too generalized and I find this avant-garde approach to be necessary to relieve the stagnancy of the future of modern architecture. However, without the standards and order of modern designs, the avant-garde would not be seen as an atypical choice. Therefore, uninspired buildings must exist in order for the expressive designs to be understood — much like how the mannerist approach during the Renaissance misused the traditional building vocabulary in order to play with tradition. In essence, I find that architecture can only be expressive if the form does not follow the function because it is separate from the stagnant form following functional buildings. I want my architectural designs to be as conscious as the people living within them. I want the occupants to question the design decisions I make in projects because it will, additionally, help them further discover, recognize, and appreciate the importance of design and art in their everyday lives.      
Blythe, Sarah Ganz., and Edward D. Powers. Looking at Dada. Museum of Modern Art, 2006.
Graafland, Arie. Peter Eisenman Recente Projecten. SUN, 1989.
Parkinson, Gavin. The Duchamp Book. Tate, 2008.
Safran, Yehuda, et al. Mies Van Der Rohe. Editorial Blau, 2000.
Ssense. “Context Is Everything With Ava Nirui.” Ssense.com, 2 Oct. 2017,
Tschumi, Bernard, and Frederic Migayrou. Bernard Tschumi: Architecture: Concept & Notation.   
Editions Du Centre Pompidou, 2014.
Front cover image was provided courtesy of Gabrielle Boisvert
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