LUNAR CRATER CULTURAL CENTER COMPETITION
Second Place — $800
Hirsuta Architectural Design and Research
Project Team: jason PAYNE and timothy CALLAN
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Hirsuta: On The Turning Away: Crater 308
There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.
—Pink Floyd, 1973
Daedalus Crater lies on the far side of Earth’s Moon at 5.9˚ S, 179.4˚ E, measuring 93 km in diameter and 3.0 kilometers in depth. Near its center lies the location on the Moon measuring the furthest point from Earth’s surface and, given the Moon’s synchronous orbit about Earth, firmly resists ever knowing its host planet. Despite this ambivalence mankind insists upon knowing Daedalus: first naming it after the distraught Greek mythological father of fallen Icarus, then measuring its dimensions according to humankind’s “universal” base-10 standards; endeavoring to photograph and map its details to increasing levels of detail, and finally, suggesting a short list of “purposeful” uses best suited to this potential site for human occupation. Were they not so tragically self-centered these efforts would seem comical in the face of the crater’s disinterest in our ever knowing anything about it. After all, the impulse toward humanizing Daedalus would suggest that someone might ask, at some point, “what does Daedalus think about all of this?” But of course Daedalus is dead, yes? So that would be preposterous. Best to labor forward with plans for his future role in mankind’s progress . . .
For all of this, we are skeptical of the urge to colonize Daedalus and its dark side environs and yet understand the impulse at the heart of this call for submissions. Indeed, we could not resist, hence our entry. But like Libeskind, Eisenman, Boullée, and other designers before us whose initial impulses were to question architecture’s first moves on a site charged with the politics of human occupation we ask that you forgive our refusal to engage the subject of normative programming. With due respect, we feel it presumptuous to promote the kind of colonial flag-planting championed by NASA with its muscular, focused agendas toward human progress and attendant quickness toward utilitarian practicalities. Darkside radio antennae, let alone lunar hotels (run by Virgin Galactic, we assume) are not for Daedalus or, as we prefer, Crater 308 (its original, pre-Greco-romantic nomenclature.) Instead, we propose a more ambivalent study of object in space . . .
As we know, craters are indexes of the impacts that create them. As it happens, Crater 308 is the largest crater on the Moon so it must be that whatever created it must surely have been fantastic. And yet, as with all craters, that original object was obliterated in the act of producing its remarkable signature upon the face of a surface. The act of imagining that original thing, then, is our charge, and since it could have been so many different things we feel free to propose that which most readily comes to our mind. So glamorous it must have been, we think . . . it probably sparkled like the best disco ball, but was surely irregular as all things are in the real world . . .
To trace the object from its index is not the game here. After all, that would be so 1990’s. Instead we propose something more optimistic, which is to say, not beholden to the specifics of site and what came before. We imagine a thing respectful of its place in the crater yet desirous of its own presence in the lunar landscape, a thing nearly as ambiguous as the site itself. Nevermind program, plan, and section. This object presents nothing but elevation, and even that seems obscure. Sometimes it appears in crystalline clarity, other times darkened by the shock-black of space. In the beginning, Joy Division did not know what they were after, so they left the back side of their Unknown Pleasures album cover mostly empty—white lines denoting categories of information surrounding the black space of content itself.
Despite the mystery we would venture to specify some things we think we know. This work is to do with nothing other than rendering: hence no program, plan, or section. Disciplinarily-speaking, the rendering seems to be the core of expertise as architecture waxes toward new horizons. This is why, in each image, sometimes the object’s exquisite facial qualities are presented with hard clarity and other times they are occluded by the blackness of their environment. Regarding the latter, the question to ask is “are they there at all?” We are not sure but we hope not because that would provide the object an unlimited array of potential figurations and postures, a libertine position regarding the architectural elevation. Shade and shadow regain lost status as the arbiters of elevational expertise: sometimes crisp, sometimes soft, but always there as vital to architecture’s presentation. Look closely and you see the role they play in extending the reach of the object and the relation of the thing to its background. This may sound old-school (read: phenomenology) but in contemporary discourse cast shadow plays a vital role in the continual re-figuration of the restlessness of things. Dismiss it at your peril.
Strange as it may seem, a study of the perceived nature of things in the clarifying dark and light of the Moon seems prescient at this time. A return to the rendering as sine qua non site of architectural speculation makes perfect sense in a discipline where imaging the presence (and, in our submission, absence) of things has risen again to preclude other forms of representation. This is nothing new, as in times past the image of architecture has been its theoretical anchor as well as its developmental pry-bar. So after at least fifty years of sublimation we relish the opportunity to explore again the unique power of the rendering to move our discipline toward novel positions. The harsh whites and depthless blacks of the Moon afford no better point to reengage the visage and thing-ness of architecture . . . it may be that here is the place where the unfinished technical work of phenomenology might be readdressed, in an entirely new way . . .
Friends say that they knew Syd Barrett had moved completely beyond human communication when the blacks of his pupils expanded to completely occlude the color of his irises . . .
sP: What or who influenced this project?
Hirsuta: See below for the most direct references. Further: on the renewed relevance of disco for architecture: Sylvia Lavin. On the continuing relevance of irregular objects for architectural form: Greg Lynn. On the powerful impulses found in strangeness of form: Joy Division and Factory Records, including designer David Saville. On the sublimation of glam: David Bowie (see Low.) On dark and creepy imagery and narrative: David Lynch. On autonomous objects: The Racetrack, Death Valley. On blankness: Jeff Kipnis. On the appreciation of extra-terrestrial subject matter and objects: Andrew Lantz and Finnian Payne. On the status of the contemporary rendering: Timothy Callan and David Ruy.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
Hirsuta: Reading: Graham Harmon’s Toward Speculative Realism, Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude, Mark Gage’s Aesthetic Theory, Sylvia Lavin’s Kissing Architecture, Chris Ott’s Unknown Pleasures, Hugo Wilcken’s Low, Pat Reid’s Morrissey, National Audubon Society’s Familiar Rocks & Minerals of North America, Dave Thompson’s Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell, and John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Listening: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, David Bowie’s Low, and all things shoegaze (especially Catherine Wheel and early Lush.) And as always since the early ’80’s, ‘Til Tuesday . . . what Debbie Harry did for undied roots Aimee Mann did for the ocular spectacle of glowing, teased platinum blonde a good five years prior to hair metal. Not to mention her flat, nasal delivery . . . architecture should be so courageous.
Watching: David Lynch’s Lost Highway, over and over.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
Hirsuta: Sylvia Lavin, Ruy Klein, IDEA Office, and Bittertang.
jimenez LAI: I enjoyed the sensibility and ambition of this project, as well as the sublime atmosphere it exudes. However, it feels a bit under-represented and I was unable to get more out of the project graphically.
david RUY: Though this misbehaving entry pretty much ignores most of the suggested requirements, it manages to set an appropriate tone as a response to the competition brief. The text, usually a throwaway boilerplate, outlines some provocative ideas and is one of the most interesting things I’ve read recently. Like the monolith in Kubrick’s 2001, this misshapen disco ball sits on the moon with absolutely nothing to say to the human being, and that’s interesting. The truly posthuman object is not the abject scary looking object; it’s the object that resists knowledge. I interpreted the competition brief as an opportunity to rethink some disciplinary assumptions of architecture and as an opportunity to observe through an absurd looking glass some of our contemporary habits of design. This entry succeeds where others fail. It’s like an ironic Boullée Cenotaph, striking an ambivalent pose.
john SZOT: I find the poetic quality of this entry to be very compelling; rather than speculate on the day-to-day of such a fantastic enterprise as colonizing the moon, this team saw what was really at stake: how establishing a dialog with the moon might sustain, and revel in, the romanticism that brought us there in the first place.