On a late summer evening in Chicago, the rooftop of one of Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina Towers came alive with a lighting installation designed by MAS Context and Luftwerk. MAS Context editor-in-chief Iker Gil, who has organized a separate traveling exhibition about the landmark towers entitled "Inside Marina City," collaborated with Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero of immersive experience group Luftwerk to interpret drawings of the Marina City into a site-specific video installation on the roof of its west tower.
How did the idea for a Marina Tower installation come to fruition?
I’ve been living in the building for 10 years. Apart from my architecture work [with MAS Studio], I also do a series of publications. Luftwerk had lectured at my program: They had done some installations at Fallingwater, and they’re doing one at the Farnsworth House. I thought, why don’t we use the roof of Marina City? So we held a one-day event, for about four hours. It was fantastic to see how the people from Marina City interacted with it. Luftwerk used all original drawings for Marina City as inspiration for their work.
What were the goals of your Inside Marina Towers exhibition?
The key here is that in my case, I’m an architect, and if I talk with another architect, we might be engaged through looking at it in plans or sections, or we might be interested in the idea that it was the tallest reinforced concrete residential building in the world [when it was built]. You have to find ways of communicating the value of these buildings to people who are not from architecture—why they are important to keep, and why they are so forward thinking.
So it seems like public outreach is a big part of what you’re doing. How do you feel like these kinds of installations and exhibitions benefit both the field and the public?
It’s very interesting for architects to find ways of talking about the value of architecture through non-architectural means. Otherwise what happens is we have the same thing as Prentice, where it gets destroyed because people don’t understand why it was so interesting and so important. We shouldn’t be waiting until we know it’s going to get demolished, we should be celebrating these buildings.
You’ve brought up Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital, and you’re living in Marina City—what does your relationship with these buildings tell you about the future of Brutalism?
I think Brutalist architecture and that period are something that people don’t necessarily appreciate, so it’s in our court to find ways of explaining why a building is important, through photography, or installations, or other modes of engagement. They are buildings that get simplified by their shape, and a lot of the ideas behind them get lost, such as the janitors’ union saw the importance of living by the river, when it was still basically a sewer. There are a lot of underlying and very important ideas that get lost in the shape of these buildings. We’re not trying to lecture people about them, we’re just finding ways of making them exciting. There are a lot of buildings that are somehow problematic, but they just need explanation to tell why they are important.
Luftwerk also illuminated Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to celebrate its 75th anniversary, and raised funds via Kickstarter to produce another light and sound installation at Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., which will be open Oct. 17-20.