Alex_Smith-small.jpgTwo graffiti teams recently launched a design war on the outside walls of Renzo Piano’s new art wing at the Art Institute in Chicago. While this is nothing extremely new in the world of massive urban structures in big cities, it once again raises the discussion about the intersection of art inside and outside the museum. As it was the institute’s Modern Wing that was “assaulted”, the graffiti itself could have easily been presented inside if attached to the right names and presented as a “gritty take on the medium and expectations of modern art.” But, sprayed on the outside, it was erased almost immediately.

Brazilian graffiti team Os Gêmeos, on the other hand, has seen radically different reactions to their work. Starting with the ambition of creating a Brazilian graffiti style they have become an international phenomenon with murals being painted legally on buildings in New York City, and the Netherlands, as a part of exhibits at the Tate Modern in London, and most recently at Art Miami Basel.

Is it the word mural that makes it okay?

Hypothetically, what makes architecture interesting today, in a world that considers itself post-modern, is the interaction between building and occupant. Building, viewer, user, resident, neighborhood, city, region, style—these networks exhibit a highly connected system and integrate what the art of construction should become.

But we holding ourselves back, still struggling with the idea of what the outside of a building should look like. Should architecture be a blank wall that we stare at as we pass by, or an interactive surface that is as much designed as it is ever-changing?

Now more than ever as we look at reinventing our cities and adapting them to their dwellers, we should take time to focus on the interactive surface. Though street graffiti may not be the way, erasing such cries for user impact on architecture should not be ignored with a simple water blaster.

Bio: Alex Smith is an intern at Guernica. Read her last recommendation of the Guggenheim’s Contemplating the Void “here”:

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