• Contemporary Vernacular

    Contemporary Vernacular
    los angeles CALIFORNIA

    Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)
    advisor: Hernan DIAZ ALONSO

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Jason ORBE-SMITH: This thesis examines elements of vernacular architecture as a means to influence and generate contemporary form.

    As society moves towards a state of interconnectivity, heterogeneity and the globalization of politics, culture and economy, this thesis reinvestigates the discussion concerning the native, indigenous and local with notions of the cosmopolitan, global and foreign.

    In understanding the idea of locality, this thesis chooses to understand the vernacular through a contemporary material approach of abstraction where photographs of vernacular elements chosen for their textural, material and color attributes are combined, reconfigured and repurposed to create non-referential textured imagery.

    Hundreds of textural vernacular images were first taken in the country of Ecuador and then studied, selected and composited together. By doing so, false representations and reconstructions of the past can be avoided and the vernacular is allowed to present itself in new and unusual ways.

    In understanding the contemporary idea of globalization, this composite vernacular imagery is dislocated from its contextual origin and placed in the foreign environment of New York City. The ground then becomes the mediator between the two differing cultures.

    The project is a redesign of the New York Central Library. The design process begins by studying different methods of three-dimensionalizing the 2d vernacular texture. Inherent linework from the texture is extrapolated and then using layering, thickening and carving, the study models aim to visualize the colors and textures three-dimensionally. The use of shadow, depth and detailing are crucial to how they are perceived.

    The design drawings question the standard drawing process. These drawings acknowledge the limitations that traditional two-dimensional line drawings have in their ability to represent the spatial and experiential qualities of a project. By allowing them to become textural and engage depth, shadow and materiality, the drawings become experiential rather than solely descriptive. The layering of physical material allows for multiple plans and sections to be held within the same drawing.

    The colorful contemporary vernacular design sits in contrast to its New York City surroundings. The foreign textures, colors and form are intended to provoke acknowledgment from the people in the city before ultimately being allowed to reintegrate with its new environment. The same methods of massing are employed to create the ground plinth, with a sharp geologic uprising of earth creating the base for the library. As the mediator between the two cultures, the plinth is desaturated in color. It therefore carries the form derived from Ecuadorian vernacular elements but it begins to assimilate itself into the color-scape of New York.

    In this way the project is a reflection on the contemporary state of society. It questions the ideas of the local and global in an age of free travel and mobility and suggests a dialogue between the cultures that overlay the common thread of humanity. The inherent unusualness and specificity of one culture is allowed to influence and enrich others.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    JO-S: Hernan Diaz Alonso, Elena Manferdini.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    JO-S: “Let it Loose” by The Rolling Stones, “Im So Tired” by The Beatles.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    JO-S: Herzog & de Meuron, Juan O’Gorman, Hundertwasser, Enric Miralles.

    Additional credits and links:

    Special thanks to: Juan Baez, Heather Carreon, Timothy Harmon, Eric Lalone, Ryan Tyler Martinez, Ana Munoz, Jose Orbe, Jeremy Orbe-Smith, One Pound Club.

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    • Mark Says:

      Live trace extrusions with texture maps of the same imagery, interesting process. NYC and Ecuador share the same texture process it appears. How does that work as a library exactly?

    • Allen H Says:

      @ Mark: I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not…I don’t know, does the process have to be overly complex to have a satisfying result? I am rather tired of projects being “justified” by input numbers, graphs and data. It’s nice to see something a little more human. And I don’t think that a fully developed library was the intention of the thesis..I think that it actually addresses a current issue in an interesting way.

      I actually quite like it. The project has a geological feel, a novel use of color and seems to string little pieces together to create something unique.

    • Paul Says:

      Maybe read the description Mark… it’s all quite explicit there.

    • Mark Says:

      Don’t mean to be sarcastic. I actually like the result too. Cool drawings, not sure its a library at all, but whatever.

      I did a studio where we livetraced and created new pseudo map/diagrams from images of slums. The distillation process suffered from the sterilization of the original images by the tracing alghorythms we chose. I think I could have used two images from very different countries and extracted practically similar geometries. I was just seeing if anyone would argue the live trace methodology here.

    • Mark Says:

      ..or at least mention Deleuzian Diagrammatic Processes