Building a Paper Architect

The Austrian-American architect and theorist Frederick Kiesler produced thousands of drawings over his decades-long career, but almost no realized structures. Perusing the exhibition Frederick Kiesler: Co-Realities—a collection of his work on view at the Drawing Center, in New York, until July 24—it’s not hard to see why. Kiesler displays little to no interest in actual things in physical space. Instead, he uses pen and paper to interrogate the character of dwellings and accepted modes of living. Perhaps his most famous vision is the Endless House (above), a continuous human-centered living space that looks in sketches like a snail’s shell or an enormous pastry.

For the exhibition, New York’s nArchitects had the unenviable task of translating his abstruse ideas about endlessness and “correlation” into a functional design—something even Kiesler himself rarely attempted. “We wanted to reduce it to a very simple singular thing,” Eric Bunge, one of the firm’s two principals, says. “But from the beginning we were really concerned about not falling into any kind of pastiche.” Their solution? The Endless Table (left), a 145-foot-long display surface that unwinds in a languorous and distinctly Kieslerian loop. By forcing gallerygoers to circulate around a central area, the table loosely references Kiesler’s notions about correlating items and people in space, but it remains modest enough not to draw attention away from the surreal and sublime images on display. We think Kiesler would approve.

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