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In Place: Aberrant on Work

January 13 - April 22, 2018

Aberrant Architecture

Curated by the Toronto Design Offsite Festival with Nuria Montblanch

Aberrant Architecture’s interest in the condition of work is based on their own experience as nomadic workers, an interest which they have explored and developed through extensive research and inquiry. On the occasion of this exhibition, Aberrant reflects on a series of projects spanning from 2010 to 2012:

“Home working cuts out the commute and reduces costs for employers. But homes are not designed to be offices; emotional adaptation is not always easy. Our Gordon Wu project in 2010 was a ‘trade stand’ offering a suite of products and services to China’s expanding population of flexible workers: a mealtime network to combat loneliness, a set of pedals to be fitted under desks to replicate the health benefits of commuting by bike, and elevator doors fitted to domestic doorframes to recreate the architecture of a traditional workplace. The products, services, and Gordon Wu himself, were all fictional creations; only the issues of isolation, distraction, and lack of direction were real.

In our own practice, we tried working at a local cafe, and also from a co-working hub. Each day we would set up our office in the morning and pack it away in the evening. Both of these typologies have become popular with nomadic workers in recent years, but we should not pretend that public workspace is an entirely modern phenomenon.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, we focused on the typology of the Victorian pub. The Victorian pub is essentially about intensification of use. It often acted as a meeting place, post office, job centre, games room, auction house, library, hotel, and even as a currency exchange. Pubs often had a variety of different public and private environments, with different qualities – from comfy booths to sawdust-scattered floors. They had a commercial motivation for this intensity: patrons chose the environment that suited their activities, and paid different prices for their drinks depending on the given facilities.

The El Paso bar used to depend solely on after-work and weekend drinkers. To increase the day trade, we redesigned it to be a space suitable for nomadic workers. More importantly, we created a variety of environments, including a private mezzanine level, a library, a ‘window box’ residency, and a basement gallery and event space called The Gopher Hole.

In Devil Amongst the Tailors we distilled these ideas into a design for a table, inspired by old-fashioned pub games and traditional school desks – allowing for both work and play. The way that the Victorian pub catered to the needs of the urban population can be repackaged for a contemporary society that is short of storage and living space, and in which citizens increasingly prefer to share ownership of cars, power tools, and even clothing.”

– Aberrant Architecture, 2017


This exhibition is curated by the Toronto Design Offsite Festival with Nuria Montblanch, and co-presented with Harbourfront Centre. It is generously supported by the Government of Ontario, British Council, and Toronto Arts Council with funding from the City of Toronto.



TO DO Talks: Aberrant Architecture

In conjunction with the In Place exhibition, Aberrant founders David Chambers and Kevin Haley will discuss ideas, experiences, and stories with Beatrice Galilee, Daniel Brodsky Associate Curator of Architecture and Design at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Friday, January 19, 2018, 7:30-9pm
Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
$15 regular, $12 students/seniors
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Aberrant Architecture

Combining storytelling and research at the heart of their practice, Aberrant Architecture takes a playful approach to producing spatial experiences that are both meaningful and beautiful. Their participatory form of practice places the needs of people at the centre of the problems they address and the opportunities they create. Aberrant designs interactive architecture, interiors, public art, exhibitions and installations, building close relationships with the communities in which they operate.

Founded by David Chambers and Kevin Haley in 2010, Aberrant has exhibited work at international architecture exhibitions at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, Gwangju Design Biennale, Sao Paulo Biennial and the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale, and co-founded the Gopher Hole, an event space in London. Aberrant Architecture held the first architecture residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A); their work has been collected by the V&A and the Museum of Art in Rio de Janeiro.

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