Sic. Building Syndrome

“If we are to discuss the faults of building and their correction, we ought first to consider the nature and type of the faults that may be corrected by the hand of man; as the physicians maintain that once a disease has been diagnosed it is largely cured.”
—Leon Battista Alberti

This studio is about visuality, or how vision changes from being a physical (or purely geometrical) behavior to becoming a social fact. Guided by an affinity for architecture to succeed something found—from an existing building with inherited social, economic, material, or drawn histories—we aim to study how different acts of revision—addition, subtraction, recycle, and reuse—are appraised by public perception.

When architecture works on an existing building, authorship is replaced with audience. Since the existing conditions will assume judgement on the architect’s ultimate work, the first act of revision is as simple as looking closely. And so, the pace of design is intentionally slowed down so that imperfections, occasional faults, or corrosive histories (i.e., sic) might be embellished or amended toward balancing truth with novelty.

The studio is bracketed by two parts: observation and projection. Part one will require students to produce an unconventional set of as-built drawings for an existing building situated within the American city of Tulsa, OK. The site offerings include five distinct building classifications: warehouse (Midwest Equitable Meter Building, 1929), mercantile (Guaranty Laundry Building, 1928), theater (Riverside Studio, 1929), office (Tulsa Club, 1927), and church (Boston Avenue Methodist Church, 1929). The context has been selected for its charged social history (oil economics, race riots, political conservatism) as well as its bounty of noncanonical buildings (by then-23-year-old architect Bruce Goff). Four distinct ways of looking—body (or naked perception), technology (or mediated perception), entertainment (or false perception), and politics (or public perception)—will be used to describe the existing building not as it is but as it is seen by the student. Part two will require the students to outline and implement strategies—through drawings, models, and small material assemblages (roughly one foot by one foot)—for making precise alterations to the existing building on view. The alterations will go beyond simple categories of preservation or renovation. Instead, the alterations will leverage visuality as architecture’s essential resource.

This studio has an irregular schedule. Thomas Kelley will be in residence on January 23, 24, and 30; February 20, 21; March 5, 6, 26, 27; April 9, 10, 23, 24; May 1, 4, 5, for Final Reviews. Carrie Norman will be in residence on January 23, 24; February 20, 21; March 5, 6 (TBD). The instructors also be available via Skype in the intervening weeks. This studio will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma.