2022 James Templeton Kelley Prize: Remi McClain’s “There Goes the Neighborhood”

Remy McClain Thesis #02 copy

by Remi McClain (MArch II ’22) — Recipient of the James Templeton Kelley Prize, Master in Architecture II.

How do we build consciousness? This thesis positions automatic attention, the cognitive method of our unconscious, as the vital mechanism within which architects can construct awareness for non-architects. If it is true that we are living through an “attention economy,” then to consider attention only through its “active” sense is futile. Though often associated with the instinctual, automatic attention is inherently learned. Continuously reinforced through associative signals, automatic attention reciprocally reinforces “normalcy” in our perceptual field. Therefore, the presence of familiarity in our built environment more or less guarantees a portion of our attention. This thinking positions the uncanny or the monster as powerful mechanisms for subversion. The inability of our discipline to work with, and against, the attention economy goes hand in hand with our lack of involvement with most building.

Architects are responsible for just 1 to 2 percent of the housing market in the United States. The resultant stock is plagued by homogeneity that supports equally homogenous communities. The developer home exists within a system of fixed base types and quantified ornamentation—a perfect breeding ground for the continual regurgitation of classicism, without material integrity and without architectural order. Situated within the Florida developer community, as exemplary of such perpetual pastiche, this thesis proposes an exaggeration of an already latent wrongness. Utilizing the fragment across four scales—development, street, house, and detail—an odd-normality becomes increasingly apparent the closer one zooms in. Despite its use of satire, this thesis is sincerely optimistic about what may come after our constructions of “normalcy” are interrupted by consciousness, built through a method of attention.