Built to Wear
by Ball-Nogues Studio


Los Angeles designers Ball-Nogues Studio have completed a temporary, dragon-like installation made from 10,000 items of clothing hanging on cords (+ movie).

Called Built to Wear, the project is part of the Shenzhen & Hong Kong bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture that opened in China last week, and was assembled by 30 volunteers from Shenzhen.

The installation, made up of garments donated by American Apparel, will be gradually dismantled as the clothes are given to visitors, finally ending on 23 January 2010.

Images are by Benjamin Ball unless otherwise stated.

See our other stories about the Shenzen & Hong Kong Biennale:

Monster's Footprints by MAD
Bug Dome by WEAK!
Bloody Haze by MAP Office
Shenzhen & Hong Kong Biennale photos
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Mésarchitectures

Here's some more information from Ball-Nogues Studio:


Temporary spatial installations within urban cultures are a rapidly evolving phenomenon.  Unlike “permanent” buildings, these structures nimbly respond to the accelerated temporality of cities on the move like Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Increasingly they provide the urban spectacles that “signature” buildings aim to deliver.

Like never before, cities are adorned with provisional environments and architecturally scaled events. This situation has been further emboldened by the financial meltdown in 2008 as investors look to spend money on big urban spectacles without the financial commitment of making buildings.


Within this economic outlook, the disposable plates of architecture are better investments than a collection of fine tableware. However, an important question looms when cleaning up after the meal: can the plate be composted or should it be colored with crayon and reused as a party decoration?

Built to Wear, constructed for the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism will be on view through January 23 2010 in the underground exhibition space at the Shenzhen Civic Square.

Above image by Brianna Gorton.

Invoking the theme of the exhibition - City Mobilization – the construction of the installation activated collaboration between Ball Nogues Studio, American Apparel, the Biennale organizers and a group of 30 volunteers from Shenzhen. This hanging architecturally scaled structure is comprised of 10,000 items of clothing manufactured by American Apparel – operator of the largest garment factory in the United States.

Each garment serves the dual role of building component and individual article of clothing. Over the course of the Biennale, the installation will be dismantled and the T-shirts, muscles shirts, spaghetti tank tops, baby dresses, bikinis and g-strings comprising it will be dispersed to visitors.

At a time when most US garment production has moved offshore, Built to Wear invites viewers to contemplate the relocation of manufacturing from the developed world to emerging economic powers like China while reconsidering notions of material life-cycle in architecturally scaled structures.

By using a coveted consumer good – the garment - as its basic building block the project expands and critiques notions of “green’ architecture while activating public space through consumption.

As a visual concept, the installation will serve as a symbolic gesture of sustainability and a poetic reminder that the buildings in our cities are impermanent: frozen moments in the flow of products through the tributaries of global exchange. Outside of its environmental commentary, the project dramatically re-contextualizes the clothing item – a symbol of mass consumerism - into an alternative gesture of hope.

Posted on Friday December 18th 2009 at 12:20 am by Natasha Lyons. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Pony the Trap

    Utter poppycock.

  • tanya telford – T

    i disagree with Pony the Trap, i think this project is managing to raise some valid questions right now re: the clothing industry and yet in quite a fun, light way – for me this project is quite successful and i love the inclusive aspect to it,

  • Anna

    What a waste…

  • architectgal

    It is not architecture. Art, sure, but the lines have not blurred so much that this construct should be confused with an enclosed structure to serve a useful purpose by its construction.

  • tanya telford – T

    for me “what a waste” might be a bit simplistic….but i have feeling (just my view) “quantities” could be one of the possible key words (among others) for this project,

  • brillant idea!

  • @architectgal

    How is this not architecture? I am just curious as to why you think this. Is this your definition of architecture?

    “enclosed structure to serve a useful purpose by its construction”

    Very curious.

  • cb

    i agree with architgirl, it is not really architecture. architecture may not be defined as purley functional shelter, but not enough about the above to me says architecture other than the creators of it who associate with architecture. i think it is sculpture. it is form making, color, composition and yes it is spatial, like architecture also is, but so can sculpture be. anyhow, i like it much better for its color and texture than its spatial or tectonic qualities…

  • Justin

    A chandelier made from t-shirts and hot pants is much better than, say, a large CNC-milled subdivision surface that would be burned after the exhibition.

    fresh and clever (as intended).

    (saying that this lies outside of architectural discourse is reactionary and ridiculous.)

  • Architecture or not, I think it's done beautifully. It might be fun to look with hypercolor shirts too.