Doug Aitken’s mirrored Mirage house installed in Swiss alps
Feb. 1, 2019
By: Augusta Pownall
American artist Doug Aitken has installed a ranch-style house clad in mirrors in the snow-covered mountains of Gstaad, Switzerland.
The single-storey Mirage structure, so called because it reflects the surrounding landscape and disappears into it, is covered top-to-bottom in mirrors.
The structure will remain in its mountain location for two years “reflecting and interacting with the mountain landscape over the changing seasons”.
“Right now it’s completely minimal, removed of all colour and definition. It’s a whiteout, covered in a blanket of snow right now,” Aitken told Dezeen.
“The viewer can come back to the piece as the seasons are changing, in fall in a storm or in the summer when it’s a green pasture. As our lives change the artwork is shifting with us.”
Visitors can freely explore the mirrored structure, which has an open door. The interior is also mirrored to create a kaleidoscopic refracted effect on entering the house.
The structure is modeled on the Californian ranch houses developed in the 1920s and 1930s that incorporated the ideas of modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright with the traditional ranch houses of the American West.
Aitken has previously installed Mirage in the desert outside Palm Springs in 2017 and inside a former state bank in Detroit last year. He made slight optical adjustments to the angles of the structure each time it has been erected.
According to Aitken, the “utterly generic” style is familiar as the archetypal 20th-century suburban house in the US. For this installation, he decided to “embrace the banal as opposed to looking at the regional as exotic,” by installing the same style of house in the Alps.
However, here the shape also reflects that of low-lying Alpine buildings, built to withstand heavy snow.
Alpine houses tend to be built in the summer, but Aitken and his team brought the Gstaad house to its location in pieces over the course of three winter months.
Unlike the Detroit installation where artificial light was used to direct how the structure was seen, in the Alpine location, the artist relies on natural light and changing weather to illuminate the piece.
“The work really is the sum of the landscape around it. When you think of art you often think of something much more solid, but Mirage moves in an autonomous way,” explained Aitken. “It changes in an almost chameleon-like form.”
The installation forms part of Frequencies, a site-specific set of art performances that run from 1 to 3 February 2019 in Gstaad, curated by Neville Wakefield and Olympia Scarry.
Frequencies is the third iteration of the event, called Elevation 1049, following editions in 2014 and 2017.
Photography is by Stefan Altenburger, courtesy of Doug Aitken.