Design fairs are crawling with collectors ready to drop thousands of dollars on objects that promise immediate gratification. Case in point: The charming beaded sculptures made by the Los Angeles brothers Nikolai and Simon Haas with the help of women from South Africa’s Khayelitsha Township. The objects—oversized mushrooms and Sendak-like animals—sold out within a half hour of the opening of Design Miami last Tuesday, at up to $150,000 apiece.
But for architects, nothing happens in a half hour, and immediate gratification is elusive. That may be the lesson of Unbuilt, an installation outside the Design Miami tent. It consists of pink foam models of 198 unrealized buildings by Harvard Graduate School of Design students and faculty, raised on a steel frame to provide a bit of shelter. The intent is honorable, but the finished installation reduces buildings of very different scales, functions, and materiality to what are essentially tabletop objects. The school's dean, Mohsen Mostafavi, who was on hand to help launch the installation, pointed out that signs direct visitors to the project’s websites, allowing them to delve into a large and varied body of work. "It's an architectural archive masquerading as a pavilion," he said.