Graduation has come and gone, ArcStart teaching has passed, and during the job hunt I am finding time again to blog. I’ll start with my studio project under Perry Kulper – if you know him or anything of him, the abstract nature of this exploration and its focus on the intangible and theoretical will not surprise you. For those that don’t, suffice to say that Perry’s teachings and his own work involve broadening the scope of our designs through analogic thinking. Elements and attributes can be taken from anything inspiring: the movement of a jellyfish; a baby’s bronzed shoe; 1572 Venice. Nothing is forbidden as a reference so long as it provokes constructive thought. Let’s begin!
A new architectural species has been injected into Manhattan. Their lifespans are short, but their strength comes from the evolution from one iteration to the next.
They take form as light interventions throughout the city that speak to one another, and modify habitual expectations of urban individuals.
Each intervention is temporary, and with the passing away of each species – a sequence of built form – a new one rises from its ashes, taking on a new shape and new ambitions, and relocating to a new context within the city. This species begins as an intervention in Union Square Market, focused on unpacking vision as a construct through a variety of means, such as the relationship between the structure of the sequence to its urban context. It aims to explore also the relationship of the individual to collective via spatial scenarios such as a changing height of perspective or pathways that condense and expand in relation to the human body.
At the end of the market’s season, the species disappears… relocating to what at first may seem a bizarre weaving route through Chinatown. Only on the day of the Chinese New Year Parade does this spatial sequence gain a full significance to the outside viewer; providing viewing platforms and interactive nodal points connecting the parade route to the festival booths.
It’s an architecture aiming to foster particular interactions… it raises the question what is the extent to which this kind of work can truly engage the individual?
We all have certain expectations about form, space, materiality… tapping into these, architecture can create a familiar strangeness sparked by expectations not being met, and then a desire to somehow interact with the environment in a familiar way. Hardscaping taking on a mechanical form, resembling perhaps the inside of a camera or clock, familiar but unable to be specifically tied to one or the other – it implies a function and movement not generally compatible with work of this scale. Mirrored surfaces then bring in the larger experience of the city into the smaller experience of the installation, reorienting individual viewpoints and exploring the means in which we visually navigate our surroundings via a moment of curiosity.
Parts, pieces, and ideas from the prior iteration are given new life in this evolved form. Wooden slats and boards forming the decking of a two-level marketplace are reconfigured into a serpentine structure of elevated platforms from which to watch the Chinese New Year’s parade.
It is an architecture that also attempts to anticipate possible futures. In some ways it’s an exploration in an architectural anachronism; components that seem bizarrely out of place in one context – strangely shaped railings with suction cups at their head and base? – achieve order and significance when relocated in space and time, functioning as a set of clamps attaching platforms to building facades.
The work may be experienced or noticed as fragments, and not necessarily a coherent whole; a city walker may never experience the sequence in its entirety. Nonetheless, the clues for legibility are there if you search for them… the impact of the architecture is proportional to the choice of participation by the individual.
It’s a work that invokes participation from multiple architects or groups also. Crossing multiple property lines and installing itself in multiple public places within the city is not often a way architects can execute their work, implying a need for a collaborative effort in order for the species to survive.
These species act as augmentations to common or unassuming programs, but implement their own hidden agenda: to unpack constructs we use to navigate our individual lives. They strive to activate our engagement with the environment and with each other, vivifying our experiences and proposing a new form of urban play: an architectural species that gives us pause, catalyzing an internal transformation of individual perception and engagement.