Canadian Centre for Architecture presents

The Design of Carpets That Design Us

When we walk on a carpet, we rarely think of it as an object that controls space, but rather as the ultimate background; easy to overlook underfoot. While carpets may be the most dominant designed elements of some spaces, architectural historians have rarely paused to consider the motives behind their design and placement, and the atmospheric and psychological impacts they might make.

Design of Carpets

Interior of Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Chicago, Illinois
Photograph: Assaf Evron, 2019 © Assaf Evron

The CCA has long been exploring the grey zones of our society: investigating the processes behind the making of architecture, and constantly looking from multiple and unexpected perspectives. From the significance of asphalt in the exhibition and book Sense of the City in 2006 to The Design of Carpets That Design Us today, the CCA explores the apparently banal and considers how it might act as an architectural element that controls and determines space and even our behaviour.

With the emergence of the very large building as capitalist take on the liberating megastructure dream of the 1960s, the carpet becomes a protagonist through which these questions of control, authorship, and economy can be explored. Hotels, casinos, convention centres, and office spaces often come complete with dazzling, confusing, and disorienting carpets. These carpets are on occasion designed by architects, but more often by corporate designers, brand rules, and user behaviour studies. Hospitality experts have laboured to establish an alchemy of carpet production that intensifies experiences and habits that cater to the interests of property owners.

The Design of Carpets That Design Us connects these disparate interests by combining contemporary documentation with materials from an array of commercial and archival sources, asking why architects relinquished authorship of the design of carpets in their projects and have so often failed to conceive of carpets that would enhance, rather than neuter, their buildings. The exhibition highlights the motivations and techniques of designers within flooring corporations and explores how big corporation design rules have taken over carpet production in alignment with branding strategies. Ultimately, this location of power exposes how carpets play a key role in conditioning user behaviours, and transforming architectural spaces into devices for profit.

Display cases invite visitors to delve into case studies and histories of carpets in buildings; four videos by filmmaker Ralitsa Doncheva highlight the complexities in conceiving, producing, and articulating the meaning of these carpets; and a series of photographs by artist Assaf Evron explore the specific effects and atmospheres made possible by the more extreme articulations of carpet space.

In its focus on the pathways that guide or misguide us, The Design of Carpets That Design Us aims to contextualize and decipher the mechanisms that shape some of the most profitable spaces that are being designed today.

To reserve your dated and timed tickets visit: