Architecture Design Option Studio — Idenburg/Ghantous

Mandatory lottery process
Open only to: 
MArch students
Required of: 
MArch students

This old-school design studio considers the relationship between container and contained. How can architecture anticipate the objects and actions it is to house or hold?  In accelerated times, design justified through program is born dead. Programs are not stable, and typically, despite most well-meaning intentions, misalign with people’s behaviors. Monofunctional organizations foreclose possibility. How, then, might we order architectural space in times of flux?

To this end Umberto Eco’s Opera Aperta (1962) describes a beautifully useful approach captured in his conjecture of openness, which characterizes an author’s cultural production as a “decision to leave arrangements of some constituents of a work to the public or to chance.” In architecture, we can imagine this idea as the construction of a spatially open framework or loose order and situate it in opposition to programmatic, and typological, plan-making approaches. Such is an attitude that puts forth semiautonomous spatial organizations that accommodate, or even merely tolerate, evolving configurations of activities and things. These open orders can have an underlying structural or material logic, but are just as well allusive, compositional, figurative, or arbitrary. Here the architect exceeds the role of translator, a converter of needs and wants into plans, or rearranger, fitting preexisting spatial archetypes within a site, and instead becomes an author. It is where all alibis vanish and we are left to our own devices. A clear, open system is elemental. But in opposition to order through repetition, our times allow for, or even demand, a certain looseness or indifference—“well, kind of, you know, whatever!” Spatial arrangements that generate variety prevail, as activities, objects, and things fluctuate in scale and occurrence. An open structure is anticipatory. It opens up a space of future possibilities. It is intentionally to be determined. It triggers spontaneous participation and focuses on the choreography of situations. There is no start or end, no entry or exit. It does not dictate how to move.

As in the forest, one has to find one’s own path. All hierarchies are eliminated. The framework is pliable yet acknowledges specific conditions. These can be existing site conditions or internal moments of the project. The confrontation with these conditions generates idiosyncrasies that act as points of gravity, providing orientation and specificity. These loci evoke tension between the systematic and the particular. For larger sites, multiple orders can overlap and interfere. The colliding logics create friction and specificity. Eco’s notion of the open work through the lens of architecture, we can start to see the plan beyond an operational manual as something less determined and more catalytic. The plan becomes an enabler—a device that calibrates relationships, a tool for the production of spatial events.

In the case of this studio, the object of containment is uncapturable: the final project will be an architectural proposal for an archive of environmental art.


Week 1
- 9/7 Class Intro (Ghantous)
- 9/8-9/10 Travel to New York (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Week 2
- 9/14 Reading Presentations (Ghantous)
- 9/15 Desk Crits (Ghantous)

Week 3
- 9/21 Pin-Up 1 (Idenburg/Ghantous)
- 9/22 Assignment 2 Intro (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Weeks 4 + 5
- 9/28, 10/5, 10/6 Desk Crits (Ghantous)

Week 6
- 10/12 Pin-Up 2 (Idenburg/Ghantous)
- 10/13 Assignment 3 Intro (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Week 7
- 10/19-10/23 Travel to Reno (pending approval) (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Week 8
- 10/26 Pin-Up 3 (Idenburg/Ghantous)
- 10/27 Desk Crits (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Week 9
- 10/31 Midterm (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Week 10
- 11/9 Skype Crits (Ghantous)

Weeks 11 + 12
- 11/16, 11/17, 11/21  Desk Crits (Idenburg/Ghantous)

Week 13
- 11/30 Pre Final Pin-Up (Ghantous)
- 12/1 Desk Crits (Ghantous)

Week 14
- 12/7, 12/8 Desk Crits (Ghantous)

Week 15
- 12/12 Final Review