Excerpts from Arch 403 Review – 12/15/14

Do irrational spaces make us act more irrationally? (do the winding fractal patterns of the streets in Rome move citizens to love more, to embrace the arts, to worship?…to engage in some of the most important and most memorable facets of life?)FINAL PRESENTATION

Re-purposed materials and residual spaces create moments of gathering and the creation of myth.1 2 3 5

Re-purposed building forms and materials led us (Han Kwon, Jill Maltby and I) to create a small music complex along the waterfront:


I was a little disappointed with our Arch 403 review yesterday. Part of the panel wanted to drown themselves in a pool of architectural honey, smiling at the sickly sweet grand gestures of a Bilbao era long past. It is becoming more difficult to justify the construction of grand architectural gestures throughout the world, especially in a district (the-BRA-dubbed ‘Innovation District) that is succumbing to a non-sustainable urbanization project driven by aimless capitalist urgency and the desire to brand ‘innovation’ as a commodity to be purchased.

Fortunately our studio professor believes in the work we have done, and we are moving forward into the CSI competition.

11/23/14 – Architecture as Armature

I’ve been thinking of late about 1 to 1 interactions between an individual and an architecture: the moment where the positioning of the body, transforms the built into an extension of the body, or the body into an extension of the architecture. I don’t have the best precedents or the best language to speak about it just yet, but the following images contain some of the general ideas:


Emperor’s New Folly – CAMES/gibson http://camesgibson.com/the-emperiors-new-folly/


Scarpa’s sketch of the family tomb at Brion. The tomb becomes an extension of Signora Brion’s slouched form, creating an armature for grief. Weight and emotion are contained in the two bodies.


A pavilion becomes a hat. Scarpa’s ‘infinity goggles’ enabling the transformation. Scarpa, Brion Tomb, San Vito d’Altivole, 1978


A pavilion becomes a hat. Scarpa’s ‘infinity goggles’ enabling the transformation. Scarpa, Brion Tomb, San Vito d’Altivole, 1978


The architecture seems to contain within it a game. The child activates the game, and the architecture awakens with new purpose. What other structures can be awoken? Can the built environment contain latent spiritual activities? Aldo van Eyck, New Amsterdam Orphanage, 1960


The brick fingers of the building embrace the baptismal act. The cross tells the priest where to stand. The mollusk holds the child. Architecture embraces the individuals. Lewerentz, Petri Kyrka, Klippan, 1966

I know I am missing crucial examples BUT Architecture can both extend our bodies and embrace them, or as my professor Karen Bermann so eloquently stated: Architecture in the deeper sense accommodates our needs and expresses compassion for our neediness.

Play, vision, grief, ritual, can be architecturally accommodated at the scale of the individual, in an architecture that is designed for many.

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’.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.




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.