This studio investigates the architectural character of space and enclosure. It posits necessity as the ground of architectural invention and defines design as an exploration of the most elemental gestures of enclosure in response to the site and the requirements of use. The studio also explores ways of seeing and narrating spatial experience. In addition, it focuses on the development of a critical design process as one of the most fundamental skills in the discipline of architecture.
The foundation studios emphasize the importance of wholeness – spatially, materially and conceptually. Wholeness is dynamic, a balance of forces, and is constructed through proportion and the process of making. The main force for this studio is light, whose interaction with mass reveals void and interprets the character of site and space. Wholeness is the result of imagination and story, the narrative thread that guides design exploration and makes it meaningful.
Throughout the studio, Semper’s paradigm of wall, platform and roof – which protect and elevate the hearth and help maintain and represent the activities that gather around it. The hearth is not necessarily a literal fireplace, but may be understood metaphorically as a center – as the reason or idea for gathering and establishing enclosure. The wall, platform and roof may be articulated in terms of two contrasting orders of construction: stereometric and tectonic. Stereometric construction involves the stacking of load bearing elements such as blocks, timber or the more contemporary technique of cast-in-place concrete. The logic of this construction is heavy and fixed; space is construed as mass and there is a strong difference between the inside and outside, solid and void. Tectonic construction employs frame and cladding and is potentially lighter and more flexible. Spatial distinctions between inside and outside, solid and void are more ambiguous; space is understood as a field.
Once the poetic logic of these two systems is understood, the joining of space, materials and activities becomes the focus of the design process. Expressing the way in which these archetypal elements bear and resist gravity helps relate building to our bodies and narrate the drama of spatial experience. The emotion of making and storytelling form the foundation of the studio’s design explorations
A photographer has purchased a 50′ X 100′ lot at the corner of Shilshole Avenue NW and NW Vernon Place, thus realizing a lifelong dream of constructing a place to make and exhibit photographic work on one site. This building will foster the photographer’s exploration of ideas and techniques of a particular photographer whose work has been inspirational, and will present the artist’s idea of image making to the public.
Led only by my instincts I draw, not architectural syntheses, but sometimes even childish compositions, and via this route I eventually arrive at an abstract basis to the main concept, a kind of universal substance with whose help the numerous quarreling problems can be brought into harmony.
– Alvar Aalto, “The Trout in the Mountain Stream”
In the essay “The Trout in the Mountain Stream” Alvar Aalto describes how he begins the design process. He puts aside the site and program information – the “numerous quarreling problems” – and searches for a more abstract basis or foundation for the design. Aalto sees the process as essentially an artistic one. He typically began a project by drawing or making an abstract painting. Design investigation is non-linear and like the trout, involves a continuous iteration between beginnings and ends, mountain stream and sea. The trout is not a building and is more like a gesture or a game that dramatizes/presents the FORCES, EMOTION AND GRAIN of an idea.
In play we may move below the level of the serious, as a child does; but can also move above it – in the realm of the beautiful and the sacred.
– J. Huizinga, “homo ludens”
The trout begins with the childhood game of “rock/paper/scissors” in order to explore the nature of materials and their interaction. Rock has mass and will be made with stacked and glued cardboard and/or other paper. Scissors are made with binding wire and paper is trace. Paper and scissors are one material – wire sandwiched between trace. Like the game of “rock/paper/scissors,” the goal of the trout is lively interaction in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It contains all the elements of play: “order, tension, movement, change, solemnity, rhythm, rapture.”
Images 1-4: A Space for Sugimoto, Max Clairo
Images 5-11: Nevis Granum
Images 12-18: POS/NEG, Jeremy McGlone