Dezeen Magazine

Rotating and tilting ReActor house accommodates two artists for five days

A pair of artists built and lived in this house balanced on a pole in upstate New York, which spun around and inclined as they moved around it during their week-long residency (+ movie).

Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder built the inhabitable ReActor structure at the OMI Art Center, which is located in the Hudson Valley near the town of Ghent.

The sculpture – which measured 44 feet (13.5 metres) long and eight feet (2.5 metres) wide – sat atop a concrete column, raising it 15 feet (4.6 metres) off the ground.

ReActor by Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder

A hinge connected to the column allowed the entire piece to tilt and rotate around a central point as the weight of its inhabitants shifted.

The balancing structure comprised a wooden frame with floor-to-ceiling windows, with a look reminiscent of Modernist houses like Philip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut.

The objective of the exhibition – Wood: From Structure to Enclosure – was to demonstrate the different possibilities for the use of this material.

"The use of primary materials in the hands of architects and designers offers a glimpse at endless plastic and formal possibilities," said Architecture OMI director Warren James.

ReActor by Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder

Symmetrical living spaces occupied by each artist made up the plan. Each half of the "house" included basic cooking amenities, and a central bathroom was shared by both occupants.

The duo calls this art form "social relationship architecture". Both participants lived in the sculpture for five days, in full view of the public.

As each participant went about their day, subtle changes in balance directly influenced the other.

"The structure rotates in response to its inhabitants' movements, exterior forces, and interior conditions, making visible the intimate relationship between architecture and its inhabitants," said the artists.

ReActor by Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder

The performance in the spinning and tilting house opened 27 July 2016 and ended five days later, on 31 July 2016.

"The Architecture OMI program is conceived to facilitate projects exploring the intersection of architecture, art and landscape," according to the foundation.

It provides artists and architects with the opportunity to build installations on its vast tracts of land. The site encompasses 300-acres of farmland, forests and wetlands.

Similar large-scale art installations can be found elsewhere in the region. The Storm King Art Centre, just outside New York City, annually welcomes well-known artists such as Richard Serra, Maya Lin, and Andy Goldsworthy to build art installations on its land.

Photography and video are by Richard Barnes.

ReActor by Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder
Elevation and plan – click for larger image