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House Clothes: Experiments in Housing and Textiles

Reception and Gallery Talk: Thursday, September 8th 4:30-6:00pm

House Clothes brings together French 2D’s work in housing and textiles. For nearly a decade the practice, run by sisters Anda and Jenny French, has engaged in design work that addresses the domestic at wildly different scales – from dinner tables to a 180-unit compact living building. At the core of this work is the pursuit of new forms of collectives, with a focus on the social consequences of material and formal effects. Here the collective body, made legible by the figure of patterned cloth or façade, serves as a prompt for new forms of kinship.

These scales mediate between individual bodies and the collective body of the common domain or building, by inventing territory in the spaces between clothing, furniture, room, and structure. In this exhibit, three textile-based experiments – dresses, a bas-relief wall installation, and a many-armed table cloth - accompany three housing project models - a 3-unit adaptive reuse structure, a 30-unit cohousing complex, and a 180-unit compact living building. The softening of this work through textile reveals the negotiation between the private domain and the opportunities for programmatic and formal expression created by common domains. The housing work displayed asks how form can participate in the reimagining of new family structures. Juxtaposed with the full scale experiments in collective experience seen in dresses and table clothes, the collection of pieces here asks you to reconsider constructed relationships.

Recast as ‘house clothes’, these facades and softs surfaces test the capacity of the envelope to emote, conceal, and convey nuance – suggesting a different kind of performative skin. Fabric designed by French 2D stretches and folds to obscure, unite, and amplify new affordances of connecting, comforting, hugging, or protecting. Here the process of reflexivity – reimagining and drawing connections between built projects – suggests deeper engagement in the complex social relationships found in the making of architecture. When we accept and understand the messiness of our own personal frame, can we come to collaboration with a new sense of openness? When we soften our boundaries, can we collectively chart out meaning and priorities within the complexities of the built environment alongside other equally messy, but equally important, forms of expertise?

French 2D, Jenny French and Anda French. 

Exhibition Team Oonagh Davis (lead), Jon Gregurick.  Generously supported by UMASS Amherst Dept. of Architecture and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. With thanks to Adrian Corbey, Mindy Ma, Michael Chang, Sandy Litchfield, and Linda Neshamkin.

University of Massachusetts
John W Olver Design Building #180
551 North Pleasant Street
Amherst MA
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Closed on school holidays


French 2D