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.
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.
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.