Chris Burden - Small Skyscraper (Quasi Legal Skyscraper)

Chris Burden installs skyscraper in shopping mall

Four-storey concept house Small Skyscraper (Quasi Legal Skyscraper) to be built in a Pasadena shopping centre

Chris Burden’s 2003 sculpture Small Skyscraper (Quasi Legal Skyscraper) is to be installed in the courtyard of a shopping and entertainment mall in Pasadena, California next week."It's a sort of 'concept house' that isn’t meant to be inhabitable but plays with the idea of what is a liveable space," says Irene Tsatsos, the director of gallery programmes at the Armory Center for the Arts in Old Town Pasadena, which is organising the display from August 9 until November 11.

Burden originally got the idea for the four-story aluminium and plywood “concept house” when building his own house in 1991. On asking the architect what was the smallest building one could build without a permit he was told it was 400 square feet and 35 feet tall. Ten years later, TK Architecture contacted Burden and the idea of building the sculptures was hatched.

“When they approached me, I said I already knew what I wanted to do,” Burden tells the Art Newspaper.  The result was a lightweight, four-storey tower made of a pre-fab aluminium frame and floors of stacked two-by-four wood planks. “It was their idea to use unistrut tubing as the superstructure of the building.” Burden adds that at first, they considered developing it into an actual habitable structure, with sliding glass doors and a one-man elevator. “But I pulled back from that. I like it as more of a sculpture in the shape of a building,” he says. “It’s in that grey zone, it could be a building, but when Mr Inspector comes knocking you say, ‘Well, that’s not a structure, it’s art.’" Check out more work by Chris Burden in Defining Contemporary Art and The Artist's Body