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.