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Melting facade, zip house, levitating building. The surrealist English architect Alex Chinneck.

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

A house facade that seems to have melted, a pylon placed upside down, a building that levitates in the heart of London: these are some of the surreal and monumental works of Alex Chinneck.

Since the 2010s, the British sculptor, architect, street artist and illusionist has been revolutionising public art by redesigning buildings with fantasy. His latest work in Brighton is a 25-metre-high outdoor staircase that seems to fall apart as it rises.

Alex Chinneck: "The architecture of the building is very angular, a bit like a big box, so I thought I'd introduce some fluidity. In a way, this staircase breaks the envelope of the building, giving it elasticity and dynamism.

The installation took three years to complete and required the work of around 50 people.

The art of trompe l'oeil

With a growing reputation, Alex Chinneck is venturing into increasingly imposing creations, with a daring use of trompe-l'oeil.

Alex Chinneck: "In London, on a fake building in the historic Covent Garden Square, we created the illusion that the top half of the building was floating, as if levitating. The secret is that there are 20 tonnes of steel counterweights to support the structure, hidden in a small room to the right of the building. When people arrive at the front, they are really disorientated. That's what I like about the illusion, is that it questions the viewer in a visual way. Art in the public space has to be accessible, but it also has to be 'bait'. And illusion has a form of visual magnetism.

Alex Chinneck has thus created artworks that are mediatised and popular on social networks, some of which sometimes escape their author, such as this famous levitating house in London, a work called Take my Lightning but don't Steal my Thunder: "Hundreds of thousands of people came to visit it. I stopped going, it was too stressful. People were asking me to get out of the way because I was blocking their pictures. We had to call in security guards because people were trying to rip off pieces to take home."

Source : France Culture Yann Lagarde

Photographie : marc wilmot


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