Cancel Architecture [M2]

This studio will be about the architectural power and paradox of negation, symbolically and spatially. Iconoclasm, involving both the desecration of images or sculptures and the dismantlement of highly revered and honored systems of belief, will be understood as a destructive act of reckoning and transformation. The ultimate aim of the project will be to design a building in which such an act is memorialized and hopefully continued. 

Each student will choose a city in which a monument was recently shrouded or removed or in which there exists today an imperative to undertake a removal. Each will proceed to design new, multifunctional buildings in which to embed spaces for a particular kind of de-memorialization.  Our focus will be the specific cases of Confederate monuments and statues that are located in particularly important sites in US cities, but there may be a few exceptions for students who wish to study a case in another country where there exists another kind of monument that also symbolizes social injustice rooted in racism.  

The project will be at once an urban design and a “hidden room” type of project. Each student will produce multiple conceptual designs for altering existing buildings and adding new ones near the site of the removed monument. The scale, scope and functions of the urban building proposal will be determined differently for each case.  The urban ensemble will be designed with the intention to embed a negative space within or partially below it, underground. The urban composition and its programs will do many things, among which is to establish expectations in order that the negative or hidden space containing the displaced and desecrated monument, as well as the sequence into it, will be perceived to be anti-monumental, an affect that will be achieved by means of carefully crafted architectural concepts of concealment. Be aware that, in order to undertake this project, you will need to be intensely interested in certain familiar architectural conventions.

The urban/architectural and the interior/architectural components of the project will at first be considered independently but ultimately become interdependent.  Whether unified or conjoined but somehow still independent, the urban and interior forms and spaces will unmistakably avoid the usual contemporary tropes by which architecture calls attention to itself or behaves affirmatively. 

The design of the hidden space and its newly configured urban context will be a decisive factor in determining the specific iconoclastic treatment of the found monument and its original site.  In dealing with the monument itself, we will draw on research by Daniel Sherer (Architectural History, Princeton SOA), in order to investigate four paradigms of desecration: total destruction (pulverization) in which unrecognizable remains are nevertheless preserved; decapitation or gouging out of facial features, especially the eyes as a re-thematization of vision; breaking apart or dismemberment; partial removal and substitution of bodily or architectural parts to produce a re-signification; or a combination of all of the above. 

Students will document their chosen sites and monuments in multiple media, all obtained on line, and will 3D Rhino model both the massing and key architectural features of the context. Multiple conceptual schemes will be studied in 3D and, in addition, by means of evocative drawings, montages and renderings.  The final proposal will be carefully and succinctly documented in plan/section drawings and in a well articulated 3D model that will be supplemented by a few strategically selected still images and, in some cases, by animations.

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