Architecture Design Option Studio — The Curious Chronicles of Unusual Spaces (O'Brien)

4.145 or 4.153
Required of: 
MArch students

The studio will mine the potentials for architecture in the relationship between mythical narrative histories and fantastical environmental conditions; specifically, we’ll be looking at Icelandic sagas and Iceland’s enigmatic landscape to imagine unusual, unfamiliar, arresting architectural forms and spaces that establish a charged dialogue with Iceland’s culture and nature. The studio will reflect on the aura of mythicism offered by the sagas and landscapes of Iceland.

In the studio we will be engaging in chronicles in three ways: (1) through the understanding of selected sagas and how they help to create new mappings and narrative depictions of the island - this will be dealt with through texts, maps, and artifacts, (2) through accounts of the natural historical events that have given shape to the enigmatic landscape - this will be dealt with through maps and various media conducive to conveying temporality and change, such as video and time-lapse photography, and (3) through the documentation and representation of our curious interventions. All together they will amass to form our “curious chronicles of unusual spaces.”

Iceland had the first parliament; on a part of the island called Thingvellir. There were gatherings there as early as 930. The site of the first parliament is not on the coast of the island, but is inland. The site was chosen because the owner of the land was found guilty of murder so his land was made public—to be used for assembly proceedings. Our program will likewise be civic. We’ll be designing a building that engages in issues of citizenship and the affairs of a community. We are interested to play out various ordering devices, networks, and hierarchies that come with governance, that come with form and space, as well as the issues of heritage and identity that should be dealt with when considering a civic program.

Running parallel to projects investment into the culture, history, and nature of Iceland is an equally important aesthetic and representational project that will guide the studio. The studio will be invested in ways of working that mine the potentials of defamiliarization in order to make new. At the outset of the semester, we will be testing ways of augmenting, diminishing, subtly transforming the familiar and the vernacular into the unusual and the foreign.

This studio is conducting a pedagogical experiment and has three recurring jurors who are visiting three times throughout the semester coincident with all reviews: Thomas Kelly, Andrew Kovacs, and Jeannette Kuo.