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Review - Exhibition - Forms of Inquiry

Kieran Long finds the AA’s notion of inquiry rather too inward-looking

Forms of Inquiry, at the Architectural Association Gallery, London WC1B, until 31 October.

I often enter the AA gallery and feel as though somebody has told an in-joke that everybody knows the punchline to but me. Well, this new exhibition about graphic design and architecture is exactly like that. When you enter, the first things you see are four softwood trestle-like objects, seemingly randomly placed. I think (although I can’t be sure) that when you look at them from a certain angle, they form letters. This trompe l’oeil (or maybe not) is a typical AA strategy. If you know exactly where to stand, you might be able to divine some message. If not, you’re in the dark.

The show, curated by Zak Kyes (last year appointed art director of the AA) and designer Mark Owens, consists of a series of specially commissioned posters and installations by graphic designers, presenting their relationships with architectural and spatial questions. So, for example, we get Will Holder of the Jan van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands riffing on photos of grain elevators in books by Gropius and Le Corbusier, and Julia Born’s beautiful (if not particularly original) project Secret Instructions exploring the language of theatrical stage directions.

There is no place for the most important architecture journals of today because they aren’t graphically interesting enough. But there is room for Sexymachinery, the magazine
designed by London-based graphic design practice Åbäke and edited by the AA’s very own Shumon Basar, the man in charge of the AA’s cultural programmes. Basar’s presence in this show makes me sceptical and is typical of the AA. The conversation at the UK’s premier architecture school may be cosmopolitan, but it is exquisitely inward-looking.

Resume: Graphic design and architecture in a mystifyingly introverted embrace

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