Langlands & Bell

Chambord/La Grande Arche de la Défense, 1992

This triptych produced by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, a set of three bas-relief sculptures, questions the complex relationship between man and architecture through the codes and symbols of consumer society. Representing the Chambord Castle and the Grande Arche de la Défense, each plan is an emptied drawing, like a work in the negative, which reveals the similarities between these two “major projects”. The two buildings are in fact installed on a regular grid, five squares a side, and are organized around a Greek cross, the ideal and ceremonial expression of the centered plan (Bramante’s plan for St. Peter’s in Rome…). As a humanist symbol over which floats the shadow of Vitruvian Man, their modular plan also conveys the emblem of power (Arc de Triomphe, Abbaye de Theleme…). If the volumes of these monumental works trace and organize the surrounding landscape with a deliberate authority, the oeuvre of Langlands & Bell thus reveals the equally as coercive and ideological aspect of the plan. In making nothing less than a pictorial transformation of architecture, appropriated as motif and ornament, the plans of these renowned French buildings are transformed, through the triptych made by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell, into emphatic logotypes. Langlands & Bell show us a world which, in spite of its constant evolution, hangs on to the same symbols in a latent way. These architectures, which are freed from their patrimonial value, are here reduced to their conceptual value.

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