The Possible Mediums Conference, which took place at The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture from February 07-10, 2013, brought together 18 designers, 120 students (from the four co-host schools: The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning and University of Kentucky College of Design), and special guests John McMorrough and Jeffrey Kipnis, to participate in design workshops and formal discussions surrounding the question of mediums in contemporary architecture.
Challenging the boundaries of architectural convention, the invited workshop leaders led students in exploratory processes rooted in mediums external to the discipline (such as film or comics) or developed from atypical applications of more conventional mediums (such as drawings or models). The conference results, both in design and discourse, demonstrate the profound potential of an expansion and diversification of architectural mediums as format, as material, and as a means of projection.
Figural Projections, one of the four themes around which the conference was structured, frames three designers, Angie Co (Studio Co), Thomas Kelley (Norman Kelley), and Jimenez Lai (Bureau Spectacular), who are engaged in the study of architectural legibility related to figural form and shape. Subverting (often subtly) the conventions of projective geometry, these designers employ narrative, optical deception, and ambiguously precise massing to craft imaginative worlds.
The designers selected to represent the theme of Figural Projections are united both by the method of their medium and the legibility of their outcomes. While some themes—namely Active Models and Tactile Objects—mine the potential of their medium from sources outside of the discipline such as technological or biological references, Figural Projections rests on a solid foundation of conventional architectural principles. These principles are adapted, exaggerated, subverted, and ultimately redefined within the context of the designer’s own work. The disciplinary issues that concern them (to name but a few) are figure, mass, character, material, scale, and representation. New takes on old issues are presented through narrative devices, literary references and pop cultural riffs. Angie plays games (workshop title: End-games), Thomas constructs riddles (workshop title: Eye-Con or: How I Learned to Draw Exactly Wrong), and Jimenez tells stories (workshop title: Ambiguously Misshapen). These new takes on conventional mediums, paired with a rereading of iconic architectural precedents produce an uncanny reading of the work–common objects are rendered foreign, foreign objects remind us of animals, inert everyday objects, and in some cases, our vey own bodies.