Architecture Design Option Studio — OPEN WORK (Walker / Marshall)

Required of: 

Mandatory lottery process.

Half a century ago, architecture became open-ended. Buildings would change and grow, architects argued, not unlike cities. Architects embraced impermanence, promoted flexibility, timed obsolescence, and welcomed uncertainty, just as Umberto Eco proclaimed the birth of the open work and Roland Barthes pronounced the death of the author. Architects also questioned authorship. Many would no longer strive to prescribe outcomes, let alone inscribe meanings. Against the backdrop of modern masters and modern monuments, and as a result of cultural, social, political, and technological developments, buildings became systems. Paradoxically, architects would pioneer new building types, in unprecedented ways, by openly disregarding program.

Design theories for open-ended buildings differed, but they all implied, almost invariably, free plans and modular structures, as well as building components discriminated by their rate of renewal: frame versus clip-on, core versus capsule, structure versus envelope. By the mid-sixties, just a few years after speculation on openness had begun in earnest, several projects materialized. Over the following years, many changed: some according to plan, some according to other, or no plan. Many others did not. Some were demolished against the architect's will, some preserved against the project's principles. Today, those buildings stand as monuments of architecture's attack on permanence.

This studio will examine the vestiges of that debate. It will collectively address two buildings in the U.S. that both promoted openness and made openness a design polemics, but also clashed with one another in their design theories, namely: the Institute for Scientific Information Headquarters (1979) in Philadelphia by Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates, and the Patscentre (1985) in Princeton by the Richard Rogers Partnership. (Two buildings that, paradoxically, challenged through unstable organizations the institutions they were asked to represent, while they focused through their design techniques on questions of representation: the former, an ordinary shed that freed space by reducing design to external decoration; the latter, a sophisticated shed that freed space by reducing design to external structure). The studio brief is simple. You will join a team, be assigned a building, and asked to double its surface. Do you endorse openness, and observe, refine, or redefine the original script? Do you question it, and address the building as an architectural monument? What is at stake is to design in conversation with, and take position on, a building and the arguments it advanced, as well as to tackle a longstanding question within the field, again, half a century later.