Sunday, March 8, 2009

cornfield not crop circle

Assembly of reiterated parts in the idea of fordism and assembly of mass-customized parts in the emerging paradigm (while the latter is undeniably less about consumption and sameness), are, to me, two sides of the same coin. I appreciate the importance of detail and connection in architecture and its primary role in this exercise, but I fear that designing connections and propagating systems for their own sake will result in a wall; a somewhat flat, continuous and boring bubble (a highly sophisticated one, but lacking in human understanding none the less). No matter how much it is differentiated or customized, it is still a field. I prefer to walk through the cornfield, not occupy the crop circle.



Gasometer, Oberhausen. This adaptive reuse project of a museum and concert space in a giant gas container has an interesting connection to my project. The huge truss work pictured here is an inhabited space-- a hallway. You have to walk in, under, through, over and under the truss work to get to the center of the massive space. The structure, which is just an early modern industrial set of parts is truly experienced and open to interaction-- they even wrap some beams in padding so you don't hit your head in the near-pitch blackness.















I am propagating two systems, and their connection is crucial, but I cannot allow myself to forget the whole or stop myself from being seduced by ideas of scale, however changing. I can neither bring myself to separate experience and part. In the images above, the "failing" iteration quickly became a point of immense clarity for me. While I set out to have a changing frame with a sinuous skin following the same lines, the way in which I constructed it did not allow for such things. Instead it has become two interdependent systems, in which the second system (the tensile system) begins to create its own emerging form. By changing the points of connection (the holes of the rigid system), the sectional qaulity created by the position of the tensile system changes drastically, allowing (in my imagination of different scales) a path that changes in experience through the mass-customization of hole positions. diagrams to follow soon.

And this experiential take on structure, for me, is not without thematic understanding. The underlying emotion is about balance, not in one system to the other (however this may be apparent) but in part to whole, tectonic to experience. In the realm of change vs. Stasis, it argues both and neither at once. In quietude, they exist together, without quarrel.

2 comments:

  1. Jessie says: "I appreciate the importance of detail and connection in architecture and its primary role in this exercise, but I fear that designing connections and propagating systems for their own sake will result in a wall; a somewhat flat, continuous and boring bubble (a highly sophisticated one, but lacking in human understanding none the less). No matter how much it is differentiated or customized, it is still a field. I prefer to walk through the cornfield, not occupy the crop circle."

    This is a great step toward a deeper questioning of what you've been asked to do in Project 3. You've been asked to design an enclosure, but what is an enclosure? Are you uncritically accepting the conventional idea of architectural enclosure: a thin "skin" stretched over a "bubble" of interior space? This is one way to conceive of an enclosure, but only one. A person is enclosed when inhabiting a cornfield or forest. In both places, one is enclosed purely by structure, without membrane. And there is no bubble of space. Instead, structure densely packs space. Space in turn becomes more diffuse, filtered, a balanced mixture of structure and space, like a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

    Where is the enclosure of the cornfield? It is everywhere - the mechanism of "enclosure" is distributed throughout the (spatial) field, rather than being concentrated only at its periphery. This is a very interesting way to think about Project 3, which is perfectly consistent with the goals and constraints of the project.

    You're right that "...designing connections and propagating systems for their own sake will result in a wall..." This is because if you limit your creative thinking only to bottom-up (part-to-whole), then your preconceptions about the whole will remain intact, and most people have a preconception that "enclosure" means "wall". This is why Project 3 really does require an integration of Bottom-up and Top-down. Bottom-up is important, but its not enough.

    Notice that the opposite is also true. If you think about Project 3 in a Top-down way (whole-to-part), then you are likely to have a creative whole that uses uninterestingly conventional connection details. So an important point emerges: The integration of Bottom-up and Top-down is necessary to fully release yourself from your preconceptions and to fully engage design creatively.

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