British artist Alex Chinneck’s architectural interventions—a mix of sculpture, engineering, construction, and whimsy—speak the language of the environment in which they exist. “I wanted to make paintings, but I ran out of things to paint,” Chinneck says. “I wanted to make sculptures, but I didn’t know what to sculpt.”
While his work redefines “large scale,” you would be forgiven for missing a piece the first time around. A derelict factory with broken windows doesn’t appear out of the ordinary until you realize that every single window is broken in exactly the same pattern. When a traditional British building is turned completely upside down, familiarity blurs with fantasy. “I love distorting the everyday world,” Chinneck says.
Each piece of art is both physically astounding and technically difficult; in 2014, Alex Chinneck created a stone building in London’s Covent Garden that appeared split in half horizontally, with the top floating. For an earlier piece, the facade of a four-story townhouse slumped into the front yard, as if melting in the sun.
Alex Chinneck acknowledges he’s always been ambitious, and credits the large team of builders, architects and engineers who help bring his designs to fruition. “I see these projects as enormous collaboration,” he says, adding, “every single one seems impossible until we pull it off.”
To realize each project requires an immense amount of planning in numerous fields. Over the years, as Chinneck has employed the latest in industrial possibilities, his growing building prowess has become both an asset and a burden. “The more you learn, the harder it is to daydream,” Chinneck says. “Experience gets in the way. There’s a million reasons why our projects shouldn’t happen, and there’s very few why they should. Most people say you can’t do it, but for me, that’s all the more reason to do it.”
The largest problem, by far, isn’t figuring out how to invert an electricity pylon (done in 2015) or make bricks appear to melt (cast them in wax), it’s actually getting approval from local authorities. “It’s a real issue,” Chinneck says. “I imagine the proposal comes in, and there are a lot of raised eyebrows. Let’s just say if I was making bronze statues of horses in the same size, approval would be a snap.”