suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
clark THENHAUS / Endemic: Carr Castle and Ornamental Gardens was a proposal for the Pruitt Igoe Now Competition integrating an architectural solid, (Chapel), with an informal, ornamental berm garden. Given the multi-layered contextual complexity of both physical and virtual histories in North St. Louis, this proposal concentrated on the physical qualities of a topographic garden and carved solid as cultural and social mediums, rather then directly economic or political strategies. Landform and mass thus serve as both a strategy of erasure, yet simultaneously as a material residue of remembrance through object and field.
Organizational tendencies and topographic strategies were developed through materialist drawings using ink, dye, wax, salt, and water. The material behaviors emergent in the series of drawings provoke qualities of informality, idiosyncrasy, and coexistent formations activated through computational translations from drawing to building. In this way, the drawings become increasingly versatile and the digital is increasingly pliant as the drawings provided color, organizational, and textural fields with greater possibilities for the acquisition of geometry, mass, and surfaces tailored to physical boundaries. This is in opposition to the formality of past planning strategies on the site characterized by axial alignments and figure ground gestalt. The field of topographic berms rejects the formal conditions prevalent in the landscapes of modernism and classicism that characterized the Pruitt Igoe development, favoring instead a more libertine and opportunistic approach to material synthesis, information acquisition, and spatial and tectonic atmospheres. This field is a conceived as a topographic garden characterized by idiosyncratic and informal organizations with variable scales and indeterminate use. Though indeterminate in the assignment of function, the Berm Gardens address various scales appropriate for temporal community based activities such as play, market, or leisure. The Berm Gardens draws reference from historic mid-western landscapes, namely the Ohio Earth Works, however intentionally amplifies the figural or singular qualities of those landscapes into field conditions. The Berm Gardens are topographically formed using debris still on site from the demolition of Pruitt Igoe, as well as construction debris that has been informally dumped on site over the last 40 years, as sub-structural fill covered with soil and planting. The onsite debris is re-distributed in relation to the pseudo-plan learned through the material drawings requiring sensing over deciphering and dimensionality over calculable measure. In this way, the Berm Gardens bloom from out of existing and decayed historic matter in the form of debris from the past as a catalyst for the site’s communal future. The non-denominational chapel mass is carved by exploiting the topographic effects as an organizational strategy, thereby initiating a performative spatial integration between field and object over camouflaged or assimilated integration between landscape and architecture. The topography was used as an agent of carving of the architectural solid and through the process of mapping topographic zones coupled with desirable spatial qualities of carving, conditions of circulation, natural lighting, and programmatic organization became apparent. Upon entering the chapel one moves through two expansive meadows before descending into an courtyard fronting the chapel. By submersing into the landscape, Pruitt Igoe rubble is revealed around the courtyard walls as the chapel hovers above, appearing to be supported by the berms and amplifying the mass of the carved chapel. The prolonged entry to the chapel continues as one moves under the chapel and re-ascends into an inner court framing the St. Louis Arch between the Berm Gardens and the bottom of the Chapel mass. The prolonged entrance walk amplifies the reading of an object in a field, revealing its carved center upon passing under it. The Carr Castle and Ornamental Gardens is a public park and monument…A monument and ornamental garden that is at once about remembering as much as it is about forgetting serving as a public park, a multi-faith chapel, and community center as a seed garden for the larger urban renewal of North St. Louis.
sP: What or who influenced this project?:
cT: The Ohio Earth Works, decayed solids, demolition & rubble reuse, material drawing behaviors.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
cT: Listening to The Xx, The Middle East, Punch Brothers.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
cT: OUTR (Rosalea Monacella and Craig Douglas), eightyeight-west (Kyle Miller), Gillis (Matthew Gillis), !ndie Architecture (Paul Andersen)