R & Company is pleased to announce Ali Tayar: Systems & One-Offs, which opens at the gallery on April 25. The exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the celebrated architect/designer since his death in 2016, and provides an overview of his multifaceted career. It is co-curated by Dung Ngo, a design editor and one of Tayar’s close friends. Tayar’s estate is earmarking proceeds from the exhibition to create a scholarship in his name towards Parsons School of Design in New York.
Ali Tayar received a traditional, engineering-focused, European architectural education. Drawing inspiration from mass production and modular systems, he developed a signature style, and an opus of original works that are both rational and poetic. Over the span of his career, Tayar worked in all scales, from small everyday objects to furniture prototypes, to architectural interiors and full-scale buildings. Tayar conceptualized his practice with a dual philosophical system, marrying a strong interest in modular design with his passion for classic modernism. “Ali called his studio Parallel Design,” Dung Ngo recalls, “as a recognition that his parallel practices in architecture, interiors, furniture, and product design all came out of the same design philosophy. These correlated thought processes resulted in a cohesive body of works that combined both rigorous aesthetics and evolving, flexible design concepts.”
Systems & One-Offs showcases Ali Tayar’s most compelling designs, objects and furniture. On view is one of Tayar’s earlier and most iconic pieces, “NEA Table, Version 1”. This transformed “ready-made” piece, created out of a molded recomposed wood pallet, cast aluminum, and glass exemplifies Tayar’s interest in and experimentation with found and new materials. This table, along with “Ellen’s Brackets”, a commissioned set of bookshelves, was Tayar’s design debut, and both were included in the 1995 MoMA exhibition Mutant Materials in Contemporary Design.
Also on display is an example of the innovative workstation “ICON”, from his own office at Parallel Design, which is comprised of modular shelving units that can be arranged into configurations of various heights and widths. This piece was exhibited in the 2001 MoMA survey Workspheres and is presented in the exhibition alongside a stackable shelving system, in wood and aluminum from 1992, that can be similarly configured into various formats. Both of these multifunctional pieces are clear examples of Tayar’s aspiration to create flexible modular systems based on spatial context.
The exhibition also unveils a selection of rare ephemera including prototypes, architectural drawings and photographs that provide insight into Ali Tayar’s conceptual process, which was at the center of his practice. On view is a drawing for one of Tayar’s most memorable exteriors: the metal entrance he designed for Mark McDonald’s Gansevoort Gallery in New York’s Meatpacking district (1995 – 2002). The design was described by McDonald as “a brutal, massive, yet delicate design inspired by the gravity-based movement of carcasses of beef on the tracks, hooks, and pulleys throughout the meat-packing area.” The material from this particular work inspired Tayar to realize one of his most celebrated pieces, “Plaza Screen”, a unit system made of extruded aluminum panels that the user can assemble in any length and shape they desire.
The selection of works in Systems & One-Offs serves as a memoir, portraying Tayar’s creative process, his interest in unusual techniques and his innovative approach to materials. In 2001 Tayar stated, “Solutions can often be found by either utilizing existing process in new ways, as in the case of the extruded aluminum shelving bracket, or by investigating materials, such as molded particle board.” The exhibition draws together the diverse set of solutions Tayar achieved through all aspects of his design process. The collection of works on view demonstrates Ali Tayar’s fundamental objective of combining formal modernism and modular design into his own systematic ideology.