Being in America, the first cultural shock I ever had is that public institutions and office buildings never turn their lights off during after hours. Such phenomenon, as American architect Raymond Hood coined, “architecture of the night,” originated from the pre-war era, intends to exploit lighting as a functional element of spatial architecture which connects the urban landscape under a single roof and avoids underground streets and darkened alley for the safety of nighttime walking.
However, during the postwar years, the expansion of suburbs, enabled by Federal Highway Act and strict zoning laws favoring single-family homes, deviates from the original intention. In those cities other than New York, especially on the west coast, nobody walks in the decayed downtown. People commute to work on their four-wheeled automobiles. Nowadays, those predesigned self-illuminating architectures seem to present us an illusion of spaces, of voids, of unhinged fantasies nobody pays attention to.
When such light adornment is extended to all the Christmas trees and holiday extravaganza during winter holidays, it almost feels theatrically bizarre standing in front of those public buildings. Walking past by them, you will see a homeless person smothered in their blankets every block. Nobody pays attention to them either. For a sensible human being, such scenes of homeless crisis are acknowledged facts. But there is a safe distance of not morally engaging with them - to walk out safely without shamefulness and potential trouble.
The project “Fake Plastic Trees, Little White Houses” are proofs of such witnessing. Standing in the ethical distance of safety and shamefulness, this project intends to demonstrate an empty exercise of power and ask questions about powerful institutions’ roles of providing necessary resources for the needed.
Above that, it discusses the interlinked nature between income segregation and social atomization behind the ideological mask: How does space work to condition the operation of power and the constitution of relational identities? How does architecture of postwar suburban housing and surfaces of everyday live, along with their representations, contribute to racial and class politics of architecture today.