What if the White House, the ultimate architectural symbol of political power, were to be designed today?

In 1792, a competition was held to design the President’s residence, and the result was the current White House. The Storefront for Art and Architecture, in association with Control Group, challenged modern-day designers to do the same thing in a competition called “White House Redux.” International participants submitted almost 450 entries with 55 animations. The twist is that after all the entries were in, judges realized that few of the plans were actually architectural designs. Instead, most were philosophical, political, satirical, often abstract — and highly creative. And you can see 150 of these proposals now at the recently re-opened Storefront for Art and Architecture.

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Proposals offered interesting perspectives on how our society views the residence of our leader. One design featured a sort of space station White House that would orbit the Earth. Someone submitted a White House made of phalluses. Nine entries suggested painting the White House black. One of the standouts, as highlighted on NPR, was a design that increased the vulnerability of the president by perching the White House on breakable stilts with no protection. The idea was that if you make the president more vulnerable, it would give stronger consequences to executive decisions.

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The winning design, “Revenge of the Lawn,” submitted by J.P. Maruszczak, Ryan Manning (assistant) and Roger Connah, was actually so abstract that I had trouble deciphering it. A series of images, some of the White House lawn with insects and people, others more cryptic, with text mentioning the “White Welling.” Here’s an excerpt from the project description:

“Luminous, spellbinding environment of those inhabitants of White Welling who live so close to iDeath and must know the sun not only shines a different color each day, but the world needs constants scripts to renew its own meaning.”

See what I mean? The design is also accompanied by an animation.

The top three winners chosen by judges received cash prizes. The other winners included “12 Cautionary Tales for a New World Order” by David Iseri, Jefferson Frost, Justin Kruse and Laura Sperry; “WHITE HOUSE 2.0” by Wayne Congar and Arrielle Assouline-Lichten;and an unnamed project by Grant Gibson and Chris-AnnMarie Spencer. The contest has also been memorialized in a massive book, White House Redux, available online and at the Storefront downtown.

If you’re in New York City, check out the exhibit at the Storefront at 97 Kenmare. “White House Redux” will be up until the end of the month.

+ White House Redux