Outside Design

September 11–December 19, 2015

Reception: Friday, September 18, 6:00–9:00 p.m.

Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State St., 7th floor

Outside Design is an exhibition of design research occurring outside the boundaries of conventional architecture and design practices. Organized as a series of laboratories, this show features the ongoing experiments of Analog Media Lab (Urbana-Champaign), Ants of the Prairie (Buffalo), The Living with Ali Brivanlou Lab (New York), Species of Space (Chicago), and Sweet Water Foundation (Chicago). As each seeks to develop knowledge outside of their own core of expertise, they move increasingly into other terrains. Pursuing projects without traditional patronage, they carry out their work through processes of collaboration, experimentation, and speculation.

Outsiders have a long history and have played an important role in design research. Before the professionalization of the field, this was the territory of the inventor, as well as the amateur, the tinkerer, the moonlighter, and the enthusiast. Outside Design positions a new generation of design outsiders whose work challenges how we think, even if not providing ready solutions; that questions our understanding of the world more than delivering answers; that just might drive future economies rather than serving existing ones.

Outside Design also aligns with another reading of “outside”: the outdoors. Faced with an increasingly false dichotomy between the “designed” interior and the “natural” exterior, the work on view challenges the boundaries of architecture, interiors, and objects.

ANALOG MEDIA LAB designs objects that engage material properties to reveal changes in the environment that the human body might not otherwise perceive.

In designing integrated habitats for humans and pests, ANTS OF THE PRAIRIE works with a biologist to ask how we can be more sensitive to balanced cohabitation.

In collaboration with an embryologist, THE LIVING with ALI BRIVANLOU LAB employ tadpoles and algae to construct a facade prototype that helps us consider the building edge not simply as a line between inside and outside, but as its own rich ecosystem.

SPECIES OF SPACE explores how we come to understand the world around us, and the limitations and mutability of our own sensorial experiences.

Experimenting with ways to repurpose biological and material waste streams through aquaponics and urban agriculture, SWEET WATER FOUNDATION directly addresses social blight through education networks.

Occurring on the 150th anniversary of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the occasion of the first Chicago Architecture Biennial, Outside Design posits what are the important challenges for design in the future and what this means within the School’s legacy of experimental art practice.

As a utopian experiment in design education, and in response to the dialogic practices of the laboratories on view, Outside Design also consists of a daily schedule of programs: workshops, lectures, panels, walks, and class engagements with students from within and outside SAIC. We also encourage note taking, “tack-ups” by visitors, and free play. And by inviting collaborative experimentation and active exchange, with new projects and installations by other participants, this exhibition will continue to transform…

Participate and come back often!


Curated by Jonathan D. Solomon
Director, SAIC Departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects

Exhibition Design: Ania Jaworska with Jenny Meakins

Graphic Design: Zack Ostrowski (sUPERIORbelly)

Outside Design is a collateral event of the first Chicago Architecture Biennial


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