Founded by Miles Gertler (b. 1990, Canada) and Igor Bragado (b. 1985, Spain) in 2015, Common Accounts is a conceptual design office based in Madrid, Toronto, and Seoul. The duo — who were both trained in architecture but work fluidly between the worlds of art and design — channel broad cultural, technological, and historiographic material into radical architectural propositions that explore ideas of urban space and the self. Fueled by an underlying interest in speculative fiction, Common Accounts explores social narratives and practices of the past to project alternative systems and futures.
Speculative Parade Floats: A central part of Common Accounts’ practice is the design and production of speculative parade floats. Often taking the form of models or slow-looping animations, these hyper-futuristic designs address niche cultural concerns that have gained mainstream traction on the internet, including the Parade of Healthy Oceans, Parade of Inhuman Divisions, Parade of Uncertain Possibilities, and, most recently, Parade of All the Feels, currently on view at MOCA Toronto as part of Greater Toronto Art (September 29, 2021 – January 9, 2022). For Bragado and Gertler, parades represent a strategy for city building; a shared, fleeting experience that has the power to unite the public around a single cause. These speculative floats compress images and narratives associated with these cultural movements into a single form, preserving the intangible zeitgeist of each moment.
Design of Death: Bragado and Gertler have been recognized internationally for their research and explorations into what they call the “design of death,” an area of architectural practice that has become increasingly neglected over the last fifty years. From prototypes of eco-friendly funeral homes to examinations of the technologies that help us evade aging — plastic surgery, cosmetic enhancements, photo editing — Common Accounts strives to bring discussions of death closer to daily life.
The collective’s latest investigation, Eternal Smiles, makes direct reference to the Department of Mortuary Affairs, a subsect of the U.S. Army that is responsible for the retrieval and burial of American soldiers. Mounted on scaffolding and accompanied by a small acrylic / resin painting, the video takes a critical look at teeth, the primary record of identity for fallen soldiers, and how dental records can serve as biological technology in the context of war.
Signal Structures: The tongue in cheek title of this series of sculptural furniture carries two meanings. In the literal sense, a signal structure refers to a steel barricade: a stanchion, ballard, or other road blocking device. These particular objects; however, also signal or invite multiple forms of engagement with the body. Itaewon Chair, the first prototype in the series, is inspired by the signal structures that litter the streets of Seoul. A similar height and shape as the seats found around a typical Korean barbecue table, Itaewon Chair invites the viewer to reimagine these paramilitary devices as vehicles for gathering and communion.
Commissions and research by Common Accounts have been included in biennials and museum exhibitions around the world, including Cube Design Museum, Istanbul Design Biennial, MOCA Toronto, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Seoul International Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, Seoul Museum of Art, and Spanish Academy in Rome. In 2019, the collective was shortlisted to represent Canada at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale.
Gertler and Bragado — who both completed their M.Arch at Princeton University — are deeply involved in advancing the disciplines of architecture and design. They have taught courses at Cooper Union, Cornell University, University of Toronto, and University of Waterloo, and have guest lectured at the Harvard School of Graduate Design, Alserkal Avenue, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, and Soho House Istanbul. Their work has been featured in publications internationally, including The Architect’s Newspaper, Artsy, Dezeen, E-Flux, Frame, The Globe and Mail, and Uncube.