Behind the Scenes of the Renwick’s Parallax Gap” installation

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  • HELEN BECHTEL: In this installation, we see techniques of drawing, fabrication, and architectural design all come together in an innovative overlap of different artistic mediums. Since founding their practice in 2009, architects David Freeland and Brennan Buck have “built drawings” crafting three-dimensional line work at full building scale.

    Within this field of experimentation, they apply processes and sensibilities associated with drawing to the fabrication of physical structures. As a result, they challenge the standard autonomy and separation between the design of drawings and the construction of buildings, creating a new architectural medium.

    As the museum consistently looks for new interpretations of contemporary craft, it was exciting to think about what it meant to physically craft an architectural drawing.

    BRENNAN BUCK: Parallax Gap is based on perspective drawing; a method architects have used since the Renaissance to simulate what a building or room will look like from a particular point of view.

    In this case, a series of perspective drawings are projected onto multiple layers creating a parallax effect where the relationship between layers shifts as the viewer moves. The installation is made up of nine different ceilings that are drawn – and then built – turning elements of the drawing like line works and hatching, into three-dimensional objects in the gallery.

    These are made from layers of fabric that are printed, CNC cut, stretched over aluminum frames, and then suspended from the ceiling. Each ceiling is drawn so that it creates the illusion of vertical space from one particular vantage point in the room, but as the viewer moves, those distinct views begin to blend together and overlap.

    These conflicts or gaps between views evoke the intersection of multiple orientations often found in Chinese scroll paintings where an area drawn from one direction runs into an area drawn from another direction and the viewer is left to sort things out.

    That is our ambition for “Parallax Gap” that it offers you a visual puzzle to solve as you move around the Grand Salon.

    ABRAHAM THOMAS: In many ways, this project evokes the original founding vision of the Renwick. Completed during the 1860s, the Renwick Gallery was the nation’s first purpose-built art museum, providing a home for William Wilson Corcoran’s collection, and showcasing works of art to the public that Corcoran believed would “encourage American genius.”

    The Grand Salon offers a particularly vital extension of the public realm – a place for the public to interact, and to spend time at their leisure with thought-provoking works of art, architecture, and design.

    Parallax Gap transforms the Renwick Gallery’s Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon into a visual puzzle. This immersive, site-specific installation explores examples of interplay between craft and architecture through a ceiling-suspended structure running the length of the Renwick’s iconic gallery. Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-In-Charge, Abraham Thomas, discusses its creation and development with independent curator Helen Bechtel. Hear them talk about the development and installation process that led to this stunning work.