Stephen Burks presents Shelter in Place at the High Museum of Art

Designer Stephen Burks unveiled five lockout prototypes, including catwalks for digital devices and a chair that shields you from your surroundings, at a retrospective exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia.

Developed by Burks at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Project Shelter in Place is a series of designs that explore new ways to interact with the home in times of global crisis.

Five prototypes include Supports holding digital devices.

The designs are among 50 works on display in a major exhibition of the designer’s work at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, also called Shelter in Place.

Burks describes them as “funny experiments in adapting to the daily changes this new way of life brings us.”

Spirit House, Stephen Burks
The Spirit House is a miniature house to commemorate grief.

“The Shelter In Place project is a direct expression of our lives during the lockdown,” said the Brooklyn-based designer.

“It uses the radical design framework to question traditional ways of life,” he told Dezeen.

The first prototype Burks built was the Spirit House, a miniature house that offered space to display photographs and objects as a form of memorial to our lost loved ones.

Ancestors, Stephen Burks
Ancestors are an abstract figure symbolizing a form of belonging.

Ritual is also one of the key elements of Atalar, which takes the form of an abstract figure.

Created by the African-American designer to offer a sense of belonging, this sculpture refers to the ritual of keeping Afro-diasporic symbolic sculptures at home.

“The concept refers to how these often unknown objects hold immeasurable meanings for people who cannot trace their ancestry but who undoubtedly feel spiritually connected to their pre-colonial African histories and ways of being,” Burks said.

Private Seat by Stephen Burks
Private Seat creates a protected personal space

A Private Seat is a chair that allows the occupant to separate from the people and activities around him to read, answer private calls, meditate or just be alone.

The supports provide stands for digital devices at sitting and standing heights, while the Woven TV offers a customizable frame for a large television screen.

Woven TV by Stephen Burks
Woven TV questions the role of the television screen

“We questioned whether there was another way to interact with this black box, animate it, and mirror our consumer apps, just like the ‘recently watched’ tab on Netflix or YouTube shows our digital preferences,” Burks said.

The High Museum’s exhibit examines 10 years of Burks’ work, which operated under the alias Readymade Projects before his studio was rebranded as Stephen Burks Man Made.

The Shelter-in-Site Project, developed in response to discussions between Burks and curator Monica Obniski during the pandemic, takes center stage.

In-Site Bunker at the High Museum, including the Broom Thing
Prototypes featured in Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place exhibition

Other notable aspects of the retrospective include the Broom Thing, a tactile “ambient object” made from 26 broomsticks, the characteristic The Others lanterns, and woven Dala armchairs.

The collected artifacts highlight Burks’ ongoing interest in combining industrial design, particularly with craft practices specific to particular cultures and regions.

In-Site Refuge at the High Museum, including the Ata and Others lanterns
Ancestor is displayed next to the Others beacons

He hopes to show how the craft can play a role in “industrial and even digital contexts.”

“The purpose of our work is to bring craft traditions into the future by asking such tough questions to both industry and society at large,” said the designer.

In-Site Refuge at the High Museum, including the Spirit House
Spirit House sits next to woven furniture designs, including the Dala chair

“The global crises we find ourselves in have had a lasting impact on how we view design and its role in society,” he added.

“We have entered the age of design that follows meaning. It is now clear that design has a role to play in our social and ecological responsibility.”

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place is on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from September 16, 2022 to March 5, 2023. Check out the Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.

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