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  • Urban Obscure

    Nathan WALKER, "Urban Obscure."
    ann arbor MICHIGAN

    University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
    critic: Adam FURE.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Nathan WALKER: This thesis explores the proposition put forth by philosopher Graham Harman that aesthetics is the tension between objects and their sensible qualities.

    For Harman, and other object-oriented ontologists, objects are always partially withdrawn. Human perception, as well as any object to object interaction, only accesses a limited set of an object’s sensible qualities, which never equates to the totality of that object. This thesis adapts Harman’s idea into an architectural aesthetic characterized by illusionistic appearances of buildings through dynamic plays between massing, texture, lighting, shade and shadow.

    Urban Obscure produces fleeting architectural images through form, texture, and light. Formally, the building is multi-facial; it has no privileged side. As one circles the building, vaguely recognizable silhouettes appear and disappear. Artificial texture is non-uniformly applied and exaggerated to blur the edges of the building’s prismatic form by creating deep shadows that obscure geometric profiles. Finally, directional lighting illuminates selective portions of the building, adding to the illusionistic character of the massing and texture.

    Urban Obscure is at home in urban environments like Detroit. In the average city, architectural exteriors welcome the free movement of environmental and pedestrian flows, mediated by the architectural envelope. Detroit, however, is a city divided up by physical and affective boundaries: boarded up doors and windows, barbed wire, and fencing, as well as darkness, hollowness, and dilapidation. Detroit’s buildings are most often avoided, closed off, inaccessible. Rather than view this as a sad state of a city that was once open and accessible, this thesis understands the closed-off nature of Detroit building’s as an inevitable affect of post-industrial cities, one that must be seriously considered. To this end, Urban Obscure designs objects that withdraw and elude more than invite and communicate, engaging Detroit’s blighted urbanity in an attempt to expand architecture’s aesthetic and affective range.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    NW: Graham Harman’s book Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy, Jason Payne’s “Ambivalent Object.”

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    NW: Reading: H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu and At the Mountains of Madness; Graham Harman, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy. Listening to Milk Carton Kids.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    NW: Adam Fure, Jason Payne, Andrew Atwood, Farzin Lofti-Jam, and David Ruy.

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