Bizarre drawings by Bureau Spectacular turned to life.

Hekkta loved jigsaws and Lego when we were younger. The satisfying feeling of everything slotting into place perfectly to create something was a highlight of our childhood, so when we saw that the Architecture studio Bureau Spectacular had turned its drawings of bizarre buildings into models for an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Led by designer Jimenez Lai, Bureau Spectacular imagines architecture without the constraints of clients and building regulations – resulting in haphazard forms that are presented as cartoon-like drawings.

A selection of these drawings were acquired in 2015 by SFMOMA, which was recently extended by Snøhetta. The museum then asked the studio to develop the ideas explored in the images, alongside a comic Lai created in 2013 titled When I Grow Up, into three-dimensional models for the exhibition called Insideoutsidebetweenbeyond.

“The Los Angeles–based studio considers architecture to be a medium capable of rewriting sociological narratives,” said SFMOMA curator Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher. “In this view, architecture is not solely functional; informed by client input and civic policy, buildings also reveal societal values.”


Each of the fictional buildings depicted has a non-conventional shape, comprising mishmashes of volumes around vertical supports. The sectional models also offer a look inside the spaces, some of which are connected by ladders, and others that are occupied by geometric blocks and tumorous forms.

“Noting the banality of developed cities worldwide, Lai suggests that boxy skyscrapers are the result of a drive for economic efficiency,” said Dunlop Fletcher. “In their place, Bureau Spectacular proposes an architecture that reflects a balanced democracy of creative individuals.” Lai’s work has previously manifested in 3D as installations that have included aproject at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, where he filled a palazzo with nine colourful structures representing different domestic functions.

The designer has since created interlocking moveable displays for a Los Angeles boutique that fit together like a puzzle, and reimagined philosopher Marc-Antoine Laugier’s Primitive Hut as an indoor treehouse.


Insideoutsidebetweenbeyond is on display at SFMOMA until 13 August 2017. The museum’s extension opened in Spring 2017 to mixed reviews from critics. Snøhetta partner Craig Dykers told Dezeen that he tried not to step on the toes ofMario Botta’s original Postmodern building.

Elsewhere in the US, a variety of exhibitions about architectural models have popped up recently. Intricate models of buildings by Le Corbusier, Norman Foster, Peter Zumthor and more were shown at New York’s Columbia University, while photographs showing three-dimensional recreations of Luis Barragán’s work were presented at the city’s Sean Kelly Gallery.

Hekkta loves how bizarre yet beautiful these drawings are when they are made into models. It reminds us of the wonderful and ridiculous things we built when we were younger (from what I recall it was a rocket ship for dinosaurs with wheels…).