Tuesday, February 5, 2008

two directions

we met with timothy hyde yesterday for our first prep workshop. he outlined three types of thesis projects- those that are technical, those that are social and those that deal with the discipline of architecture. we spent a little while talking about how or if the profession is relevant to those that we design for and a little while talking about architectural academic and theoretical discourse.

im not sure how to define my project within the margin of the three types of projects listed by timothy. my proposal seems equally technical, social and disciplinary. in the end, it will probably be an argument on agency--technical solutions that address certain opportunities for the profession. see previous post. but in terms of design, for the most part, i have two competing agendas. one that is interested in form and one that is interested in performance. for example i love, both because i think they are beautiful and because i think they are underutilized, projects that use simple logics to achieve aesthetic and performative complexity. see almost every project in verb-natures.

shohei matsukawa

there is enormous potential, from the design end, in determining the properties of a unit and its logic for growth and aggregation.


i like the 'ridges' project by ijp corp/george legendre. uses a really simple generative logic- the sine curve- to handle program, structure and form. the sine curve when applied in both plan and section forms a pillow shape. he halves the pillow and pulls the top half from the bottom to create space for shading and to derive curvature for structure. the effect is beautiful i think, and particularly encouraging because like some of these projects, the simplicity of their design logics translates well into fabrication and construction.

ijp corporation

the serpentine pavilion is beautiful for its legibility. a one-shot, comprehensive design proposal that combines clarity in form with an innovative structural solution.

toyo ito, serpentine pavilion

i do not think however, that the potential of these projects has been thoroughly explored. these projects have achieved a certain aesthetic performativity- a formal language that expresses its process, method of construction and fabrication in the complexity of its composition. these projects have achieved a certain complexity built on logic that i find laudable and worthwhile. it seems though that this design strategy (if i can group a whole lot of projects in a poorly defined category) is apparently disinterested with, or at the very least underutilized in, addressing a more social agenda. by this i mean that these projects, for reasons that i am unaware (but that i can probably guess- prohibitively expensive, reluctant governmental support, et cetera), are not designed for clients in low-income contexts or for problematic and hazardous sites. i find this noticeable mostly because these design strategies (particularly those that use rapid prototyping to fabricate simple components from simple design logics to create complex forms) are well suited to structural innovation, programmatic specifity and relative low-cost.

there is already a deep history (and some theoretical discourse) that deals both with social idealism and design that incorporates rigid geometrical logic. the idealism in buckminster fuller's work is evident, both in its social aspiration and in its design proposal. he takes a geometrical unit and through its manipulation and aggregation, proposes architectural solutions that are as pure formally as they are structurally. his work is often dismissed or neglected in architectural discourse because it is ostensibly engineering- work that privileges structural performance over design sensibility. im not sure if i agree.

studies for tensegrity, buckminster fuller

my issue with buckminster fuller's work is that his proposals, though beautiful in their geometry, intelligence and social aspiration, are lost in their generic idealism. his proposals are not very flexible and have difficulty adapting to site specificity, to program, to reality.

cool collage, buckminster fuller

what i'd really like is to take the virtues of buckminster fuller's work, or work like his (in terms of geometrical/structural intelligence and social idealism), and combine it with the virtues of work that use simple logics to achieve complexity, and better, specificity. i'd like to use those two agendas to temper the other-

on one hand, to compromise the structural purity of buckminster fuller's work to achieve greater performative specifity

and on the other, to use social aspirations to condition an aesthetic agenda that is charged with dealing also in structure and siting.

to be clear, i'm not trying to make an argument on some moral imperative. i'm not trying to devalue aesthetic contribution. i am all about making something beautiful. and if what i've written comes off as judgmental or dismissive of aesthetic ambition, it is unintentional. i think that would be arrogant and pretentiously didactic. it would be the same kind of sermonic rant (that in a way i respect but am wary of) that led so many to dismiss fuller's work.

i am not trying to suggest that projects about 'complexity' or that aestheticize Fuller are any more or less valuable because of their social agenda, lyricism, or aestheticism. if a project cares about addressing a social agenda or if it does not, i do not think that necessarily determines the project's merit.

clearly, i am invested in aesthetic, or formal ambition. i want my project to suggest an opportunity (rather than a failure) in the discipline of architecture, an unexplored terrain in its discourse. i think that those design agendas that pursue aesthetic performativity can use the knowledge from that pursuit in new ways- in ways that can redefine the influence and reach of the profession.


michelle said...

to me, it seems like fuller's idealism is more geometric than social. it doesn't seem that far off from the serpentine pavilion or the ijp project because they all seem to be seeking some sort of formal purity. what's cool about an adaptive/generative structure, is that it'll be inherently impure because of the siting.
one way of thinking about the social agenda is showing how your intervention relates to the body.

ryan culligan said...

totally agree with everything except the first line.

think of the dome over manhattan

it also seems like he was WAY ahead of his time in terms of environmental sensibility. the reason his geometry is so compelling is not only because of its structure, but because of the amount of material he achieves it with.

but totally agree it doesnt have enough relation to the body. in that way it isnt social.

i'll post on yours now

michael said...

I think Fuller is extremely social. He's practically a cult figure. His work is a moral imperative of architecture- Efficiency, performance par excellence... Have you ever heard him speak? He gives sermons. I'll send you some audio files...

The other stuff in Verb Natures, I love that stuff, but it's more geometric, there are few social narratives, it's about irregularity, "complexity", it aestheticizes Fuller and the engineering computational side of things, but probably the exact opposite of a Fuller efficiency. He'd think that stuff was garbage, it's too lyrical it's too aesthetic. (Verb Natures is an aesthetic that is performative, as opposed to something that is primarily performative and secondary an aesthetic.) I think the social agenda, and social agency is extremely important to think about at this moment, but I've struggled with this personally. Usually "architecture" is value engineered out of everything that is truly performative. Think of social housing. For me, Typology is really the realm where social and architectural (disciplinary) collide in an interesting way.
Also, I think architects are more invested in aesthetics than we'd like to admit. Personally, the thought that we contribute primarily to aesthetics makes me upset, but it's probably the case. We're not engineers.

michelle said...

i'm not saying that fuller isn't social, but because his forms are so pure and uncompromised, it makes me think that his formal goals overshadow his moral agenda.
think about the problem of the door we were talking about earlier. if you put a geodesic dome over a city but can't get inside, what does it do?

Anonymous said...

I found your blog on your facebook page...and read your recent post...I think the combination of formal emergent complexity or aggregation combined with a social agenda is very interesting, although, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the two together is that they seem to be opposite. Projects like the serpentine pavilion seem almost opulent to be used in the context you describe. Look at that as compared to the work of Recetas Urbanas (http://www.recetasurbanas.net/). HOWEVER, this is what's really interesting, the merging of two seemingly, to some extent, opposite methods of practice to address both agendas.
I hope all is well man, and I'll follow up your posts...

Erik (from Leeser Arch. last summer)

ryan culligan said...

i hear your point on typology. makes sense to me. in terms of our primary contribution to aesthetics, as opposed to a contribution in structural innovation or some social agenda, i'm not convinced that it is entirely upsetting. and im not convinced that needs to be entirely true.

i hope that my project points out an opportunity in the profession to use our faculty with aesthetics, particularly the type of performative aesthetics that we have referenced, in a way that can redefine the role of the architect in certain contexts. i'd like a performative aesthetics that can negotiate structural problems, siting problems, and social problems. i'd like to use those methods that achieve complexity in form to additionally respond to extreme siting and certain social conditions.

i think that it is very important to recognize certain realities. i do not want to tackle only those problems most appropriate for the structural engineer or the social problems for the municipal government, or the economical infrastructure for the non-governmental organization. i hope that my project will address each, but not only to that end. i think it is important to work within the reach of our profession in order to redefine the limits of its influence. if that means working largely with aesthetics, cool.

the point you make, and i guess the one that we had already made, about the problem of the door in the geodesic dome, is exactly the issue that i want to take on. im not sure if his moral agenda is more prominent than his formal agenda, and im not sure in the end if that is what i care about most. but the idea of adapting the purity of his designs, injecting some structural and formal redundancy to get more specific and adaptable performance, is exactly what i think might be compelling.

whats up dude. thanks for the post. the link you gave had some cool work. i hope that i didnt imply that serpentine is opulent, or somehow excessive. it certainly isnt designed for hillsides, or for a particular social agenda but i dont think that diminishes its importance or potential to inform my topic. what id like to do most is take certain ideas from serpentine, and projects like it, and apply similar design logics to perform in a different social context and a different performative capacity.

michael said...

"i'd like a performative aesthetics that can negotiate structural problems, siting problems, and social problems."

Ryan, I couldn't agree with you more. (In fact I wrote a big piece for an upcoming VERB on Parametrics about this, increasing the parameters to include the "performative" and social...)

I hope aesthetics have social agency- it's just never as much as we'd like, but of course we have to try!!!

I think you're trying to do something interesting, it's hard to measure and value in school how successful the socio-political is because it relies upon the "real" world. It is something that we work with in practice more than in school. (Unless you're in the rural studio or a place where you actually build things.) In school we can really only test things against the discipline, against precedents or models of architecture that are inevitably disassociated from their cultural political context and float in an ether of other architectural projects. I think this is not ideal, but it is the situation at the moment.

I would read The Solitude of Buildings by Rafael Moneo, it's a lecture he gave at the GSD and was turned into a publication. It's a wonderful text about the predicament of architecture.

viagra online said...

but totally agree it doesnt have enough relation to the body. in that way it isnt social.