An American artist and filmmaker, Doug Aitken, was born in 1968 in Redondo, California.
His creative pursuits range from visual arts, sculpture, print media, to large-scale installations and architectural interventions. His work has been a part of various renowned museums. Some of his most eminent filmmaking works include Frontier, Sonic Pavilion, Altered Earth, and Black Mirror. 

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Song 1 was another one of his brilliant audiovisual installations that included a 35-minute film being projected on the exterior facade of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC in 2012. 

Mirage by Doug Aitken: House of Mirrors - Sheet4
Doug Aitken_©Frederick Charles

In 2015, Doug Aitken also curated Station to Station, a moving train from New York to San Francisco designed as a light sculpture with content and exhibits for its international audience. He also undertook one of his highly ambitious installations underwater in California in the same year. Doug Aitken was also the first to receive the Frontier Art Prize, a new contemporary award to support artists engaging in bold art that transcend conventional knowledge and expertise in 2017. 

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Mirage by Doug Aitken: House of Mirrors - Sheet6
Mirage in Alps_©Luma Foundation

Doug Aitken has always been engaged in making art that is not stationary and has more experience to offer than just visuals. In the same year, he designed Mirage, an exhibit that looked like a house made of glass that one could walk in and experience.

Gstaad Mirage – Design Philosophy

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Mirage in California_©Lance Gerber

Mirage was designed initially as a part of Desert X, an outdoor art exhibition at the Coachella Valley in California. It was one of the sixteen art installations made for the exhibition. It was placed at the juncture where the San Jacinto mountains meet the Coachella Valley. It was later installed in a former state bank in Detroit in 2018. 

Doug Aitken finally moved its remarkable installation to the snow-rich landscape of the Alps in Switzerland, where it now remains. The design of the installation has been modified to withstand the extreme climate of the area. 

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Gstaad Mirage is often referred to as an ‘echo chamber with a continual encounter’.  Borrowing inspiration from California’s archetypal 20th-century suburban ranch houses, Doug Aitken designed this art installation to be camouflaged with its surroundings. Mirage is also said to have been inspired by the work and design language of Frank Llyod Wright. 

The single-story structure gets its name from its glass walls that reflect the landscape it is set in. The roof is also cladded with glass reflecting away the hue of the sky and blending in the environment of the meadows of the Alps. The structure is totally open to visitors, with its only door inviting people to experience a kaleidoscopic refracted effect of its interiors.

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Installation Map_©https://www.elevation1049.org/gstaad/doug-aitken/mirage.html

Covering 180 square meters of area, situated against the backdrop of Videmanette in Gstaad on a hiking trail at an altitude of 1100m, Gstaad Mirage uses the frequency of light to recreate a continuum of changing visual landscape, internally and externally both. A 15-minute walk from the Schönried station or the Gruben station takes you to this mirrored structure. 

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Mirage Opening_©Dominik Gehl

The interior of the structure is as brilliant at reflections as the exteriors. It is divided into several rooms with fenestrations that appear like frames of realist paintings, keeping you in touch with the real surroundings. 

Gstaad Mirage – Construction and Details

The structure was done by NUSSLI engineers in Switzerland to meet all structural requirements of Mirage, including withstanding snow load up to 470 kg/m2 equivalent to 65 Tesla cars. To achieve a seamless glass facade devoid of mounting systems, visibly had to be designed with facade panels that do not warp in summer or winter temperatures of the Alps in Switzerland. 

The shape of the building was also designed to resemble low-lying Alpine structures designed to withstand heavy snow loads.  

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Mirage by Doug Aitken: House of Mirrors - Sheet3
Mirage structure in Alps_©https://www.elevation1049.org/gstaad/doug-aitken/mirage.html

A timber structure was erected within two weeks. This timber structure was then completely cladded with composite glass panels over four weeks incorporating a special suspension system. All surfaces are cladded with glass except the flooring. Usually, all Alpine structures are constructed in summers, but this structure was installed piece by piece over three winter months. 

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Interiors of Mirage_©Stefan Altenburger

Unlike the installation in Detroit, Gstaad Mirage uses only natural light to create the desired effect of a mirage-like exterior and kaleidoscopic effect in the interiors. 

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Horizontal Lines for Birds_©Stefan Altenburger

The NUSSLI team also worked with Vogelwarte Sempach, the Swiss Bird Protection Society, to come up with a solution to make the reflective building visible to the birds. Hence, the facade has horizontal black lines installed every three centimetres. A 3D model verification was also carried out to ensure that it does not interfere with the reflection of the sunlight throughout the year for the neighbourhood. 

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The most engaging characteristic of Mirage lies in the fact that it can be visited in different seasons as it harbours a different experience every time. A new hue would await the visitor every season, inside and outside.

References

Doug Aitken’s Mirror House Is a Beautiful Chameleon in the Swiss Alps. https://mymodernmet.com/doug-aitken-mirage-mirror-house/.Accessed 23 July 2021.

Mirage House by Doug Aitken. https://thisispaper.com/mag/mirage-house-doug-aitken

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.Accessed 23 July 2021.

“Why It’s Tricky to ‘see’ the Mirage Project by Doug Aitken.” Newly Swissed Online Magazine, 27 Mar. 2019, https://www.newlyswissed.com/mirage-project-by-doug-aitken/.

AG, NÜSSLI (Schweiz). Mirage Gstaad | NUSSLI Group. https://www.nussli.com/en/news-pr-and-media/current-news-and-media-releases/mirage-gstaad/?tab=news. Accessed 23 July 2021.

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Doug Aitken’s Mirror House Is a Beautiful Chameleon in the Swiss Alps. https://mymodernmet.com/doug-aitken-mirage-mirror-house/. Accessed 23 July 2021.

“Doug Aitken Takes His Mirrored Mirage To The Swiss Alps.” IGNANT, 8 Feb. 2019, https://www.ignant.com/2019/02/08/doug-aitken-takes-his-mirrored-mirage-to-the-swiss-alps/.

“Doug Aitken’s Mirrored Mirage.” IGNANT, 23 Mar. 2017, https://www.ignant.com/2017/03/23/doug-aitkens-mirrored-mirage/.

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“Bio.” Doug Aitken Workshop, https://www.dougaitkenworkshop.com/bio .Accessed 23 July 2021.

Author

An architect by the day, and an artist by the night, Akshita relishes practising empathetic architecture and thoughtful composition. As a keen observer of spaces, she is often lost in the criticism of the immediate environment. She also often indulges in photography, and writing, and is always reading a book.

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