4.183
Architectural Design Workshop — Part-Objects: Precarious Structures and other Forms of Sculptural Disorder

Prerequisites: 
Permission of instructor
Enrollment: 
Limited to 10
Preference Given to: 
MArch, SMArchS, SMACT; UG email instructor

“To give form to the precarious, is to attest to the fragility of life, the awareness of which compels me to be present, to be attentive, to be open; it compels me to be active.”

-Thomas Hirschhorn

“Figurative statues and monuments mounted on pedestals carry on from this, if only because their fall prostrates the vertical and all its power, a significant, awe-inspiring implication. The work of art’s fall also signifies the decline and death of what it represents.”
-Gottfried Bohm on the sculpture of Richard Serra

Conventional compositional theories have difficulty with the articulation and celebration of informality; that liminal state just before a work resigns itself entirely to formlessness. When speaking of the visual nature of architectural organizations, one rarely hears the words “haphazard” or “provisional” outside of contexts that involve ruins, accidents, and material violence (decay, demolition, or erosion). What then, would a formalist theory of precarity look like? And how can one design a casual or improvised structure for a built work that embraces (rather than resists) the “oppressive”, “entropic”, “downward momentum” of gravity?

This course is a semester-long investigation into the expressive/sculptural properties of architectural skeletons. The workshop is designed as a visual-studies-focused exploration of architectural structures or (more accurately) material assemblages. While we will engage in primitive gravitational and tectonic lessons, our intuitively-derived experiments will flirt with what sculptor Robert Morris calls “anti-form”; the material and optical territory of the formless (all that is horizontal, unconstructed, and otherwise base). Through lectures, readings, software tutorials, and modelling exercises, we will work on a series of methods for generating architectural wireframes and structural assemblages poised on the edge of visual (and literal) collapse.

The final deliverables for this course will include one exhibition-quality physical model, and a series of animations (to be executed and rendered in Maya). The scale physical model will attempt to reconcile a stereotomic (cast resin or plaster) construction (read: the “ground” of the project) and a wireframe figure that expresses an animate or choreographed movement.