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Art Break: Andrea Zittel and the Use of Space

In this addition of Art Break, I want to introduce you to Andrea Zittel and her work on how people occupy living space.  Zittel is an American artist who began developing functional objects and experimental living spaces in the 1990s. Her structures examine the minimum amount of space required for a person to live comfortably in the most efficient and functional way possible. One example of her work is the A-Z Cellular Compartment Unit:

A-Z Cellular Compartment Units, 2001
A-Z Cellular Compartment Units, 2001

“The A-Z Cellular Compartment Units turn a single standard sized apartment room into a complex of ten interconnected chambers. Each unit is dedicated to the satisfaction of a single human need or desire from sleeping to eating to reading to watching TV.”

On first glance the units look like giant hamster enclosures – it definitely seems like crawling is involved to navigate between some of the compartments! On taking a closer look, it’s clear that each modular unit is designed for one or more specific tasks that can easily and comfortably be completed in a very compact space. One of the things I really admire about her work is that while the units are extremely functional, they are also aesthetically interesting with a variety of colors, shapes and patterns incorporated into the design.

While looking at Zittel’s projects, I can’t help but notice the similarities between her ideas and some of the goals behind graphic design. For example, here at our office, when we’re working on a design project our process often begins with a discussion and brainstorm of how people will interact with our design considering the space of our medium (whether it be a website, flyer, banner ad etc). Given the popularity of flat design and other minimalist trends, we examine pairing down extra elements to create clean and simple designs that are still also able to communicate our main message in an eye pleasing way.

Stayed tuned for my next Art Break post where we’ll take a look at the Zittel inspired tiny house movement.

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