I have been blogging statements, polemic’s to a degree for a short period of time, without much introduction. These observations have been my first ventures into the blogosphere and concern what I have seen on travels, or what I have recently been thinking when I consider ‘Architecture.’ My last post was concerning the context of objects in response to reading Kengo Kuma’s, ‘Anti-Object.’ This response, a short 200 odd words, attempts to cross the discipline’s of Psychology (Of which I hold an Undergraduate degree), and Architecture (Of which I am currently finishing my second year at Undergraduate level), through the topic of relationships, memories, and identity.
Big, broad, expansive topics, right? And hardly ones which can be pinned down in a short sharp post! But these are notions which get my psychology/architectural mind pondering continuously, and with the notion of object’s without context in mind, I believe it would finally be relevant to share some of my student work with you! Contextualisation of my thoughts so to speak.
Discovering Narrative – Year 2 Semester 1
My design project (‘A House for an Ancestor’) for the first semester of second year on the Ba Architecture at University of Ulster was heavily influenced by the narrative generated by investigations of a previous project. We were asked to survey a small A4 size portion of a tree bark, noting every minute detail in a manner similar to Georges Perec’s beautifully obsessional observations.
Spatial mapping studies of a Tree bark – Hand drawings/Photography
Apart from the data collection of the survey, my observations began to consider the relationship between the city and the tree, why we as human’s feel the need to ‘implant’ nature into our artificial cities. My first notion was to questions whether the human mind can possibly develop far enough from it’s origins to ever feel entirely comfortable in a self generated world of brick and steel, or will our depths always search for a reminder of the natural world in order to regain a sense of place and peace? The tree is allowed to grow freely in it’s city cage, offering it’s inhabitants shelter from the daily struggle, the noise and pollution of the city. To escape from what we as man have created.
If offered the option, I would have declare myself against the city, and would chose the chaos of the tree over the city’s harsh anonymity, but the reality of the world asks for us all to appreciate the co-existence of entities, and this is where I began to develop a notion of the dialogue which exists not in objects, but between them. On one hand the warmth of the organic world of nature represented in the tree, and on the other hand the strength, control and order of mankind, represented in the city.
Contour model; Abstraction of the dialogue between the tree and city – Photography/hand-drawing
Through group discussion on this theme with another member of my year we generated the above model which, abstracted, represents the tension and dialogue of this narrative. The top section, held by a steel rod and a single wire, presents the contour of the tree surface surveyed, the lower section describes the various heights of these contours in uniform steel protruding from concrete; the city.
Contour model; Tree/City
Discovering the space between/A House for an Ancestor
As individuals we were then tasked with designing a House for an Ancestor, our first ever ‘Architectural’ project and to be sited in a portion of the tree we surveyed (with it’s surfaces scale hugely exaggerated). My ancestor, a Miner, offered what the perfect opportunity to further expand on the relationship between man and nature. Instead of the being represented by the city, here man presents himself as directly interacting with nature in his search of minerals and ores, utilising his power to manipulate the earth towards his own goals. This can be viewed negatively, as far as to be called hubris, but it can also be viewed as a mutual harmony. We can look at the miner as the first step in converting the earths’ minerals into new technologies which may benefit mankind and create better living conditions, and ultimately a better future. Again this became a question of dialogue between entities, which allowed me to site my project in the empty space generated be a large overhang in the tree surface, suspended between the ground and a ledge.
Site concept painting – Digital
I did not want to shoehorn program, to prescribe space or to produce something which was generated solely by my own control. Instead I wanted to utilise both the control of man and the chaos of nature to evoke a harmony which spoke of the delicate nature between things, the beautiful tensions. After an exploration of materials I settled on creating a 9x9x9 cube of wire, suspended on a steal frame on a wooded base, with 3 sheets of acrylic suspended between.
Material test #1 – Photography
Varying in opacity, these sheets represented the progression of the miner from light to dark, with the intention of creating an Corbusier-esque Architectural Promenade in reverse, I wished to enlighten my ancestors journey as he descended through the space.
Site, Promenade & Scale – Hand Drawing
The final step in the generation of space was to apply nature further, so far it was only represented in the wooden base of my cube. In order to develop the dialogue I placed the cube in an old gas oven at it’s highest temperature for about 2 hours. The results combined the control I had prescribed with the unpredictability of fire in the burning natural gas, and of gravity, as nature pulled on the plastics and steel. A blissful bi-product of the experiment was the rich colour produced by the smoking of the plastics due to the burning wood. After cooling I found myself with a beautifully delicate golden cube which glistened in the light and produced the scent of charred wood. The process had created undulating spaces within the cube where the materials blended together or resisted each other. A dialogue; and the beginnings of my House for an Ancestor.
Discovered space/Dialogue – Photography
Dialogue to planning #1 – Photography/Hand Drawing
This sums up the progression of the narrative I chased in the project, and as I have been developing projects further towards resolution since, I have found myself seeking to increase my appreciation and understanding of the relationship’s between, as opposed to the objects themselves. I believe it is easy to succumb to an idolisation of aesthetics, and to overlook the beauty inherit in the space generated by relationships and interactions. We all live in a world beyond our individual control, and I hope this approach can only make me more aware of our reality and further my appreciation for what I could otherwise be so easily overlooking.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading! I hope there is something in this that you find of interest, and maybe even prompts you towards looking into these topics further. However, I should probably add that I do not in anyway recommend setting fire to anything without taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of yourself and others (Disclaimer!)