While architects are naturally plugged in to society's needs, artists are more or less free to be anti-social. A collaborative effort is, for both, a strain.
But when the ornaments jibe with the buildings -- or the tune and the lyrics are in synch, as architect Emilio Ambasz and artist Michael Meritet put it -- the disciplines make strange new music together.
The weird possibilities arising when 22 of America's leading artists and architects join forces, go on view Saturday at the Corcoran. "Collaboration: Artists & Architects" is the result of a commission by the Architectural League of New York, to invent visionary yet realizable projects for the '80s.
Responses by 11 teams include a plan to use living trees to make Columbus, Indiana, a walled, four-gated city; a bridge linking the Chrysler Building and the World Trade Center by Frank O. Gehry and Richard Serra; a large-scale water sculpture for Times Square, and Cesar Pelli and William Bailey's "The Hexagonal Room," in which three Bailey still lifes are integrated with the design of the chamber. Light from a skylight agrees with the shadows in the painting of a woman; her gaze is directed toward the entrance.
Then there is "The Great American Cemetery." A fusion of Stanley Tigerman's architecture and Richard Haas' artistry, the suburbia-of-the-dead uses miniature two- story and colonial houses as grave markers. The whimsical monumental 3-D diorama is meant to update the American attitude toward death. The team finds residential building tradition "every bit as appropriate and as dignified for funeral monuments as the traditional Greek and Roman forms." Beneath the rows of homes are wooden caskets, beneath which sits an ash urn. But will condo owners rest in peace?
COLLABORATION: ARTISTS & ARCHITECTS -- At the Corcoran, 17th and New York Avenue NW, through August 13. Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 4:30, Thursday evenings until 9.