11/16/14 – PLOT+FORMS

I recently worked with Jill Maltby and Han Kwon on an International Competition titled ‘DMZ Platform for Peace’. The competition was a call for architects to address the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea by designing a ‘platform for peaceful engagements’.

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Architecture and Peace

We believe that peace comes through human interaction, awareness and empathy. Architecture is merely the backdrop or stage to these larger political and social exchanges. The actors take the stage and ‘the stage’ recedes. We understand that peace itself cannot be designed, but can be prepared for by collective ownership and site reclamation.

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Seeds of War

An estimated 2.2 million landmines are embedded in the Korean DMZ. These seeds of war continue to kill and maim humans and animals, as well as ignite fires in the low land forests. New satellite mapping technologies make these subsurface weapons visible, yet do not remove them from the earth.

We recognize the material presence of danger in our new global stage, and address it straightforwardly as an architectural problem. How can the realities of warfare become a productive context within which to design?

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Plotting and PLOT+FORMS

We find a desirable relationship between the grid as both conceptual and physical ordering of space, and the unpredictable terrain of the DMZ. The regularity of the grid is graphically superimposed over the dynamic terrain of the 38th parallel. Subsequently, mine clusters and existing growth are allocated as points onto this grid, creating a charted field or PLOT. This PLOT is then given physical FORM by means of columns, planks, and seed stations. PLOT+FORMS are both the process of territorial reclamation and the physical evidence of that process.

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Function and Program

We challenge the notion that every object and every space can be programmed. The PLOT+FORM’s capacity to reveal invisible dangers, while not interrupting existing biological flows are their primary function. What takes place above these conditions is neither autonomous nor imposed, only suggested. Between mines and existing natural growth are a series of seed stations. These stations are equipped with soil bricks consisting of fertile biomass from both North and South Korea that are thrown into dangerous zones, detonating mines. The dramatic upturning of the earth consecrates the land, while the seeds of both cultures are spread among the terrain.

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Mapping and Identity

Since the beginning of recorded human history, social territory was measured by mapping techniques used to define, explain and navigate the Earth. In many ways these maps embodied the identity of its peoples; geometry is culture. Our proposed PLOT+FORMS are both functional and symbolic, creating a new cultural layer by means of peaceful interaction and collective ownership.

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Sadly we weren’t shortlisted as finalists (although a group in our studio won second place), but we learned a lot about the political limits of architecture and its relationship to war. Our group constantly struggled between what was best for the project, and what was best for competition culture. It has been an important reference for our studio team.

11/9/14 – Archipelago

Plan

A ‘collapsing of time’, a la Rowe? Or ‘separate but united by the common ground of their juxtaposition’, a la Ungers? We are exploring the aesthetics of waste, and trying to champion residual space in our first ‘comprehensive studio’.

An archipelago. The islands are leftover buildings, culturally significant, but no match for the inexorable forces of capitalist growth…we have found a new use for them, and scoop them up before they are replaced by high-rise apartment complexes. The archaeogrid: the unifying sea of light and building systems, heating and holding the space in columnar modules. Neutral in tone and rhythm, these are servant structures that ‘back off’ to make the oddities and nuances of the historic buildings stand out.

10/23/14 – 2.5D cont’d – Urban Vignettes

“Where did you get your forms?”

city of boston main drainage cross section 1 cross section 2 cross section 3

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These are more 2.5D studies, framed as ‘urban vignettes’ for an experimental music complex in Boston that I have been working on with Han Kwon and Jill Maltby.

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I’ve realized that a lot of studio work for students (myself included) relates to anxiety about form; not so much as it relates to function, but form in and of itself. Professors know that form ‘emerges’ from a project, but are quick to suggest little things that will make the tectonics ‘nice’. “Have you seen ‘x-building’ by ‘y-architect’? Just do something like that for this detail/profile/material.” I’ve wasted hours choosing to ignore form, treating it as a superficial, and base ‘material interest’, unworthy of acceptance in an immaterial world. I wanted to talk about ‘space’ only: that illusive, spiritual entity that obviously can never be talked about without form.

[I grew up in between suburban and urban Midwest, where there was so much space I had no idea what space was; where you could see the curvature of the earth between the parking lots of Walmart and Hy-Vee. Form? Form is the shitty billboard advertising Hardee's: sculptural, flat, insignificant, or worse: immoral. 'Space' offers a way to talk about design with less emphasis on 'form'. 'Light' becomes a way to make 'space' spiritual. To be sure, there is no 'architecture' for a student interested in only 'light' and 'space'...Spirit and Absence; a place to dwell internally, a non-space. Philosophy, math, criticism: non-spaces. Places that are fun and valuable to visit, but unable to sustain physical life in and of themselves.]

These models are overtly formal, their ‘lack of function’ resolute. They look at what spaces in the city could be like if infrastructure was actually played with, rather than discussed in academic architectural circles as an ‘untapped market’ owned by engineers, waiting to be ‘designed’. The City Museum in St. Louis is all about this re-organization of the stuff of the city. Of course the most interesting parts of these models and the City Museum are moving through and in-between the ‘stuff of the city’. Still, ‘stuff’, in these cases, is required first.

10/5/14 – Lines

The late architectural theorist and professor Lebbeus Woods has the following to say about the Line in his blog (which is still one of my favorites, even though it is no longer updated):

“Line is precise and unequivocal. It is here, not there. Making a line is not about accidents. Rather, it is about contour, edge, shape. It is about where one space begins and another ends. It can be spontaneous or studiously deliberate, but it always carves space in a decisive way. It has a clear ethical, as well as aesthetic, impact. The drawn line is one of the great human inventions, and it is available to all of us, a tool both common and esoteric, personal and universal.”

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Leopold Lambert, in the introduction to his blog Weaponized Architecture,’states: “One line, indeed, has the capacity of splitting a milieu into two distinct impenetrable environments. One line can also encircle a body and imprison it within the space it frames.”

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title page

A few of these drawings can be found in an online publication of my sketches abroad: http://issuu.com/matthewdp/docs/drawing_to_learn

I started to take photographs of my walks, specifically of my feet, between home and the College of Design. Despite the delightful glitches, these stitches show that lines are present in every frame (click to enlarge). Each stitch has a continuous line that both enters and exits the image.

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Lines are valuable to draw for all of these reasons, maybe it is with love for their forms and respect for their capacities; maybe it is because we, as humans, are verticals intersecting an infinite horizon-tal; maybe it is because if our designed environments equate to nothing more than lines on a page, inscribed somewhere and forgotten in the deep recesses of an architect’s storage closet, then we might too have the capacity to transform them and alter them.

Lines are authority made physical, and to wield them is to have some authorization. Lines are productive edges of confrontation, of ‘contour, edge, and shape’, where the separated directly engage their separations.

Acque di Roma – 9/5/14

Today is the 2014 Iowa State Department of Architecture’s Premiere Night in Kocimski Auditorium. The night includes a formal ‘welcome’ to new students in the program, a scholarship/award ceremony, a guest lecture by Tom Leslie (check out his excellent blog here), and a formal opening and reception for the spring 2014 study abroad semester in Rome.

I was part of the graphics and exhibition committee for the evening’s events and put together a series of posters based on our theme: The Waters of Rome.ACQUE 1

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Premiere Night has historically been a joy to participate in, if for no other reason than to ‘share the harvest’ of a semester’s worth of thoughtful making. This year was especially fruitful in the arena of drawing and representation. I will try and post photos/links to the event this weekend.

7/24/14 – DIS Home Stretch Pt. 2

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Working Elevations, North_1:100

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Working Elevations, South_1:100

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‘Path’ Model, studying inbetweeness and ground undulations

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Study model of offset vertical timber boards and bench

4 5 Models are tricky things.

How can something be both an ‘ideal’ and a ‘fake’?
Why do we model first in abstract white volumes, devoid of material characteristics? Shouldn’t form emerge from those now absent characteristics?

Models are beautiful things.

Every model is an instrument in the light of the sun.
A means to measure the earth (geo/earth-metry/measure).
A means to measure time.

Models are imaginary things. Physical and mental investments.

I become the man in the foreground, the child becomes my daughter.
Concept means nothing anymore, ‘architecture’ never meant anything to begin with -
I want to know where we are headed.