A.A. Washington University, The Bartlett UCL
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Margot KRASOJEVIC: ABSTRACTION /// Abstraction is the action of divorcing properties of physical objects and ideas from the objects and concepts themselves. Mathematics, once regarded and revered as the absolute in truth, saw an epiphany with the discovery of abstraction and non-Euclidean geometry. Abstraction has been a major theme in the development of mathematics, as those interested in the field have come up with ideas further and further divorced from their basis in the real world, and then sought ways to bring them back to inform us about the real world, which we might otherwise not have known.
Without abstraction, thought is limited to the particular.
The difference between applying technology and new software tools to architectural design processes compared to similar applications in mathematics, physics and engineering is that architecture has still not embraced abstract thought as part of a computational process. The difficulty lies with making a design thought process clear enough to communicate yet bold enough to interpret as a result of theoretical investigation. Could this process successfully involve abstraction? The last thing architecture needs is another complex descriptive sequence of a natural condition that does not adapt or create something new and, instead of using complexity, simply reiterates. The general belief that the success of a technology rests with how seamlessly it can mimic the real, from Hollywood special effects to architectural renderings, is an illusion that recreates reality in a redundant effort to predict the end outcome before investing money in it. This in itself is a misconception as it suggests that the only method we use to perceive reality is vision alone, a tunnel-like vision that ignores the fluidity of the eye and the intricacies of peripheral vision—not to mention the rest of the body—but more significantly it dismisses what has given architectural representation its particular power of conceptualisation, that of a necessary degree of abstraction, the distance between the thing and its representation. These anaesthetised rendered gestures create vacuums of lifeless representation that are certainly not descriptions of the building’s potential. As with urban planning and most architectural schemes, there is hardly any room for the individual to interpret, to breath uncertainty into the project, as all is always designed fully and completely with nothing to entertain interpretation.
The computational or functionalist analogy cannot answer the important questions about the nature of such mental states as belief, reasoning, rationality and knowledge that lie at the heart of the philosophy of mind. To be engaged, immersed and absorbed by your environment, you need to accept this sense of disbelief. When referring to the restrictions of representation, we face a similar situation: if we are confined, having only a mediated access to the real world, how can we distinguish the true reality from the fake? Could this help create new spaces to inhabit? The following project is described using light-level changes and projections as a way of determining the perception of its real formal configurations of the scheme.
All light gradients have the power to create depth, and gradients of brightness are among the most effective. The study of optics explains that when objects are evenly lit they appear flat, only becoming visible when light falls from one side, casting a shadow. By giving objects the tangible volume of things as we know them, we are able to extend the progression of visual experience to the limits of the organic and inorganic world.
The ozone detection pod attempts to dislocate the viewer from their context: the distribution of brightness helps to define the orientation of the object in its immediate environment, at the same time showing how various parts of a complex object relate to one another. The filtered light that is projected back into the city creates a series of spaces that, depending on the shadows and reflections cast, define continuously changing new territories. The moving ozone pod re-sequences our expectations of the context around it. We are made to reread the environment and the urban fabric because of this artificial light sequence, and the pod renders new views of the urban fabric, allowing for a more fluid appropriation because of the abstractions created, convincing us of reality by using light to generate a type of truth.
As Gilles Deleuze advocates in his 1969 essays, the simulacrum is never simply a weak reproduction of something else, but a creative effort: it acknowledges a founding difference, in the process creating something new. This creative simulacrum provokes new non-organic offspring, which in turn define other new conditions.
The Synthetic Sun project creates a climate-controlled pod that projects UVB light-filtered spaces within London’s urban fabric, altering our perceptions and interactions of the city. A flock of polycrystalline solar cells suspend the ozone detection pods over the city of London, taking off from the ground plane. The solar cells use photovoltaic energy to convert light into electrical voltage, which is stored in the carbon-fibre silicium-composite ozone detection pod’s frame. This triggers the pod’s motor, which controls parabolic mirrored bands that reflect light in through the pod’s holographic glass sphere, refracting it back out as a filtered source of sunlight with reduced harmful UVB radiation. The pod is made from strengthened high-density glass, whose shape allows for a rainbow effect through its ability to diffract light.
This projected artificial light source can be controlled to alter its luminance, mimicking summer sunlight. The pod acts as a public gathering space whereby the individual experiences the transition from real to virtual using natural-light projections. The pods’ design incorporates reflections and glimpses of the city and multiple horizon lines. This disorientation suggests a non-hierarchy through a continuously altering relationship with the changing physical context. The pods alter our perceptions of actual physical space by creating illusions using light projections. They also create mirages using temperature changes and light to diffract and reflect the city, redefining the environment into which we can re-appropriate, offering new design contexts and criteria into which to design.
The pods are suspended from existing buildings dotted around the River Thames. The pods simulate a flock of birds in orientation, which collectively gather enough light energy to choreograph the ozone detection pods and their parabolic mirror movements. The pods’ movement is controlled by an increase in harmful UVB light rays that trigger a sequence of reed switches within the pods, completing electrical circuits and in turn moving the mirrors in order to reflect, refract and filter as much natural light as possible. The environment in which the ozone pods sit dictates a new context. The projections alter our expectations of immediate context, affecting not only maps and prescribed routes through the city but also our perceptions, with reference to Baudrillard, who suggested that postmodern culture, as a concept of artificiality still requires some sense of reality against which to recognise the artifice. His point, rather, is that we have lost all ability to make sense of the distinction between nature and artifice. Baudrillard sees this as a negativism, which I feel overlooks the beauty and creative potential that these conditions have to offer, embracing the simulacra as Geilles Deleuze offers a plethora of design possibilities, environments and interactions.
This project offers sunbathers the opportunity to bask in a simulated UV-filtered artificial summer. This is an abstract concept within a very real environment.
Gilles Deleuze, “Plato and the Simulacrum,” JSTOR 27 ((October 1983): 52–53.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
MK: Gattaca; Solar farms, Mojave desert; Quentin Tarantino’s work as example of Hyperreality; Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacrum” and Grindhouse movies; Physics World review of California.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
MK: Reading E. H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion; Brian Massumi’s “Realer than Real: The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari. Watching A Scanner Darkly, Days of Heaven.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
MK: Mass Studies, ECDM Architects (RATP Bus Centre), anyone using optical mirror film; Enric Ruiz Geli.
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