Making room for women

On (Postmodern) Space: For Lily Reich | 1985

Exhibition Installation, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York City

Architecture exhibits typically consist of photographs, drawings and models about architecture, without allowing the visitor to actually experience architectural space. This installation was meant to provide that experience, and to present a critique of the polemic between Modern and Post-modern space that permeated architectural discourse in the mid 1980s. In that polemic, many critics considered the discrete enclosures (“rooms”) of Post-modern space “retrograde” because they seemed to be a throw back to the strictures of load-bearing walls, in contrast to the “infinite” space of a structural field without boundaries that was said to be Modern architecture’s enduring legacy. Enclosure and openness were assumed to be opposing and irreconcilable ideas. Yet enclosures existed in amalgamation with the most radical versions of the Modern free plan, as in the Velvet and Silk Café, designed by Lily Reich’s for the Women’s Fashion Exhibition in Berlin in 1927. Because of the lack of comparative studies of the work of male and female Modern architects, even when they worked together like Mies Van de Rohe and Lily Reich, we have overlooked spatial proposals such as Reich’s as well as other examples of enclosure in Modern architecture. The chairs within the enclosure, which I designed to force the human body into an accusatory position, seem to demand of the open Miesian column an acknowledgement of the silk enclosure’s modernity as its rightful counterpart.