By Will BowenIf all has gone according to plan and the weather has cooperated, by the time you read this a very large crane will have slowly and carefully lifted a small, 15-foot by 18-foot New England-style house (painted baby blue with white window trim and weighing 70,000 pounds) over 100 feet into the air and placed it on the edge of the seven-story roof at the Jacobs engineering building at UCSD where it will hang precariously over the quad, far below.
Watch the installation here:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amattZYQYOY[/youtube]This precise, complex, and costly feat of engineering is not undertaken for utilitarian purposes — no one is going to live in the little house or take university classes there — it is all being done purely for the sake of art.
The house, modeled after a real home in Providence, Rhode Island, and built by artist Do-Ho Suh, is the 18th and latest edition to the 30-year-old Stuart Collection of site specific sculptures that dot the UCSD campus. It is the most complex project to date.
The work is called “Fallen Star,” and the name is meant to convey the notion that the little house was uprooted by some natural or supernatural force or disaster (perhaps a tornado), whirled through the air, and dropped to rest on the top of the stern and modern Jacobs Engineering Building. It’s a lot like Dorothy’s house in the movie “The Wizard Oz,” which was spun all the way from Kansas to Munchkin City in the merry old land of Oz.
The artist, Do-Ho Suh, was born in Korea and earned a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Seoul National University. He received additional training in America at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University.
He says “Fallen House” is about “displacement” – his personal experience of being uprooted and displaced from Korea to America, and on a larger scale, how university students are displaced from their homes in communities all across the country and the world, and brought to the sometimes impersonal and highly competitive atmosphere of UCSD, where there is nothing like a “home” anywhere in sight.
Suh’s “house” will be positioned dangling over the edge of the rooftop with the floor set at an angle. It will be a startling and odd sight seen from afar. Art viewers brave enough will actually be able to go up to a rooftop garden – to ponder the house and the grand views of the campus and surrounding communities.
Suh says he likes the marriage of the two diverse architectural traditions of the house and the building, “I like the idea that the art becomes an actual part of the architecture.”
The project, directed by Mary Beebe and managed by Mathieu Gregoire, was funded from private donations, as well as a $90,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Not a penny of university money was used to build the design.
Suh, who divides his time between Seoul and New York City, is a highly sensitive and intelligent master craftsman. He is a visionary who pays great attention to detail and thoroughness.
Some of his other projects hang in places, like the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. They include a large cloth model of his traditional Korean home that can be transported in a suitcase; a samurai-like standing cloak statue made entirely of Korean army dog tags; and a monument and a floor piece held up by thousands of tiny figurines with faces created from a composite of all the faces from his graduating class.
Suh’s greatness seems to be his ability to take the artifacts from a personal experience and craft them into an art project that has a universal appeal. Beebe concurs, stating that, “Fallen Star was built to create a memorable experience for everyone to think about.”
If you can muster the nerve to enter the house, which is more than half way over the edge of the rooftop, you will no doubt have a breathtaking experience!
View the entire Stuart Collection online: