• Incongruous Monolith

    Constance VALE, "Incongruous Monolith."
    new haven CONNECTICUT

    Yale School of Architecture
    critics: Marcelo SPINA, Georgina HULJICH, & Nate HUME.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Constance VALE: In order to achieve monolithic qualities three primary formal strategies are employed, referencing those same qualities found in the bunkers of Paul Virilio located along the Atlantic Wall. . . .

    First, mass is made to appear “upturned” and “tilted,” as if weight displaces volume over time, reinforced in shadow distribution across the facade’s texture. Next, earth is seen as “no longer being good lodging” due to an apparent “dematerialization of the ground” through a formal insistence on verticality and in the shift of the predominant mass above the ground plane. Similarly, internal primitive volumes, over which saddle surfaces are arranged, rotate from the horizontal to the vertical, reinforcing this reading. Finally, the primitives are made to “interpenetrate” leading to a “confusion of the animate and inanimate.” Their forms are coincident and rotate around a hinge point, creating an internal sense of motion.

    The resultant monolith is in effect a slightly lifted pyramid, with its internal primitives acting as narrow tunnels. A figure-void relationship is created in which solid program acts as a thick poché, wrapping around the central void of the primitives. The convergence of these primitives results in an atrium that carries light to the interior, provides circulation space on the lower horizontal levels, and allows in views from the adjacent floor plates through the pores of a micro-texture in the more vertical forms above. These primitives can be read as a vestige of the monolith’s creation, but the intention of their being retained is to act as an unexpected inner-world, incongruous to its exterior. The monolith retains its status as such not only for its formal qualities, but in its “inward looking” attitude. It is in effect “a single object folding back on itself.”

    In addition to creating a false top-heaviness, the texture employed conveys a faux transparency of the figure in its multiple, overlaid offsets and rotations. It produces a multitude of small “firing slits,” unrelated to the original geometry. This strategy transfers to the interior in a field of moray-like columns that provide structure and suggests a thick transparent volume, further solidifying the poché space. Occupants sense the “incredible pressure” and “singular heaviness” of the surrounding monolithic interior. It is read in the proximity of its presence to its absence—through the juxtaposition of “two dissimilar realities.”*

    *Quotes indicate theoretical framework shared with Paul Virilio.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    CV: Paul Virilio (specifically his Bunker Archaeology and The Function of the Oblique), Thom Mayne, and Peter Eisenman.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    CV: Reading: Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion. Listening to: Brothers and The Black Keys. Watching: Luther.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    CV: Julia Köerner (especially her work with Iris van Herpen), Morphosis, Thomas Heatherwick, Michael Young, Mark Foster Gage

    Additional credits and links:
    Thanks to Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich, and Nate Hume for their insightful criticism and support throughout the semester.


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