Imagined for a site on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, this is one of a number of important theoretical works Denari designed in the 1990s. Devoid of human figures or greenery, the drawing portrays a highly technological vision of architecture produced, ironically, not by machine but laboriously by hand. The heavy shadowing and stark surfaces suggest both the anxiety and the euphoria of the twentieth-century relationship with the machine, a love-hate dynamic still evident today. Denari’s project portrays the moment when the two worlds merge—when, in the words of Italian author Italo Calvino, “The iron machines still exist, but they obey the orders of weightless bits.”
Gallery label from Applied Design, March 2, 2013–January 31, 2014.
These elevations of Neil Denari's School Prototype No. 5 are emblematic of the singular language of design and graphic expression that Denari has developed since establishing his office, COR-TEX, in New York in 1986. Designed for a site on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (the city to which COR-TEX relocated in 1988), the school project is one of a number of important theoretical works, including several competition entries, that Denari undertook in the 1990s. The building embraces a frank functional expressivity. Each space assumes an optimized shape, creating an architectural body whose organs are clearly identifiable.
Devoid of what may be called natural life—human figures or greenery—Denari's drawings portray a highly technological vision of architecture. Their airbrushed inks and Pantone colors are as cool as the metallic surfaces they portray. A rationalized vocabulary defines the two-dimensional space of the drawing as well: gridded backgrounds, metric devices, and other drafting conventions, many of them rather arcane to the casual viewer, create a dense text, a techno-incunabulum. Ironically, this visual lexicon is produced not by machine but by hand, and laboriously. Nor can the drawings be considered truly objective: the heavy shadowing and stark surfaces suggest both the anxiety and the euphoria of the twentieth century's love of the machine—a love-hate relationship certainly still evident in the cyberworld we inhabit today. Denari's project portrays the moment when the two worlds merge. In Italo Calvino's words, "The iron machines still exist, but they obey the orders of weightless bits."
Publication excerpt from an essay by Terence Riley, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 240.