An American Section

This is the second studio of American Architecture. Our aim is to investigate the simple (drawing) tools of architecture: plans, sections, details, and perspectives. These tools are all we have to make the project. Once put in relation with the American landscape—its size, its scale, and finally, its own myth making—we believe they could ultimately become a set of tools for reflections on what is quintessentially American Architecture. After considering the American Plan last year, this time we will focus on the Section. In parallel to our previous endeavors, we will again work on the university campus, perhaps one of the last pockets of collective life, gradually endangered by contemporary desires to be commercially successful. Convinced as we are that the campus should retain its public position, we feel this is where an experiment in “Americanness” could be realized in the most open-minded way. How do we embrace the reality of the market development, tech startups, and medical and biological research centers without renouncing the collective values of an educational facility? A similar struggle defined the American building campaign after World War II, when the corporate logic coincided with the idea of collective and humanistic progress. We want to investigate this idea of American corporate education, perhaps best embodied in the image of the Mies van der Rohe’s Armour Institute. We want to look into Mittel Amerika, the Midwest, and the Great Lakes megalopolis, where the sheer economic expansion most apparently instigated this ambiguity between the idea and its mass production. The (architectural) idea is reproduced to the point it becomes only a detail, where every expression is in its reduced version of the section. In a way, the section is a better tool here. The plan becomes irrelevant, a matter of quantity and flexibility to accommodate the ever-changing technological requirements. As a concentrated addition to a fully urbanized world, the American Section might offer a responsible answer in times of confused economy and ecology. It is the thinness of the envelope that enables a plan to happen, and we want to explore the consequences of such a prospect by making a tower for Harvard’s campus.