Architectural Design, Level I: Perceptions and Processes

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 4.123 (Fall 2003)
Course Title: Architectural Design, Level I: Perceptions and Processes
Course Level: Graduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Department: Architecture
Course Instructor(s): Prof. Meejin Yoon
Course Introduction:
Syllabus "... In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guild drew a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, coinciding point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography saw the vast Map to be Useless and permitted it to decay and fray under the Sun and winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of the Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars."-- Borges

This studio explores the notion of in-between by engaging several relationships; the relationship between intervention and perception, between representation and notation and between the fixed and the temporal. In the Exactitude in Science, Jorge Luis Borges tells the perverse tale of the one to one scale map, where the desire for precision and power leads to the escalating production of larger and more accurate maps of the territory. For Jean Baudrillard, "The territory no longer precedes the map nor survives it. …it is the map that precedes the territory... and thus, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map." The map or the territory, left to ruin-shredding across the 'other', beautifully captures the tension between reality and representation. Mediating between collective desire and territorial surface, maps filter, create, frame, scale, orient, and project. A map has agency. It is not merely representational but operational, the experience and discursive potential of this process lies in the reciprocity between the representation and the real. It is in-between these specific sets of relationships that this studio positions itself.

The simple gesture of a line in the landscape - the trace of a moving point, inscribes a trajectory of experience. The line, then, becomes a tool to trace, reconstruct, and re-envision the world. Drawings are always already devices. The word to draw comes from the verb to pull, bear, carry or create traction. They inherently express the force of the body, and it's trajectories of movement. The studio will explore the notion of the drawing as a device through a short exercise of site specific acts of collective operational drawings, where each student will set in place a series of instructions for serial notation to be executed by their peers.

After exploring drawing as a device, we will then construct devices for drawing, constructing them at one to one scale. The studio will re-examine the notion of intervention and perception in marking a site. The relationship between representation, construction and perception will be further explored on a field trip to the DIA Beacon in upstate New York and the DIA Chelsea in New York City. At DIA Beacon we will examine the seminal works of various artists, labeled by art historians under the umbrella of minimalism. Our first studio problem will engage all these issues and be sited on the DIA Chelsea rooftop within the elevated urban landscape of Manhattan. Currently the site of Dan Graham's famous Two Way Mirror Cylinder Inside a Cube, the installation in 1981 was meant to be temporary but has in fact become permanent. The studio problem will be to displace Dan Graham's piece and propose a new architectural installation/ device to re-frame the contemporary urban experience through the program of perception.

The final studio project displaces these issues into a larger field to engage architecture as a perceptual instrument, specifically in relation to the measurement and marking of territory and time. Sited in a more ubiquitous and residual landscape, the end of Boston's Fort Point Channel, students will be asked to design a Landform Process Center on a marginal site that is in between city and landscape. The complex program will require an engagement with flux, transformation and multiple modes of occupation. We will unfold the territory for the potential to intervene in its seams.