• Archaeology of the Superficial

    Dalia BUKHAMSIN, "World Trade Center."
    los angeles CALIFORNIA

    Woodbury University, School of Architecture
    critics: Mark ERICSON & Curt GAMBETTA.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Mark ERICSON & Curt GAMBETTA: The role of surface in the organization of architectural and urban space is increasingly mystified by images of continuity, openness and flexibility. . . .

    For at least 200 years, walls, floors, and ceilings comprised surfaces whose primary role has been the removal of unwanted stimuli from a given spatial unit, effectively limiting “the horizon of experience.”* Contemporary investigations of surface propose a critique of this paradigm: celebrating ambiguity between inside and outside and continuity of surface in place of older notions of environmental segregation. Nonetheless, spaces that appear to be continuous continue to rely on a hierarchy of corridors, cavities, plenums, rooms and infrastructural systems in order to segregate and compartmentalize architectural and urban space. Site, regardless of how much a building bends, shifts, or triangulates, remains as disconnected as the segregated spaces that comprise much of the architectural interior.

    In our definition, infrastructural surfaces gather, distribute, organize and connect material and space. Horizontal and vertical planes are not distinct spatial agendas to be blurred but rather one of many options between zero degrees and ninety that are selected not to obscure function but instead provide it. Infrastructural surfaces do not blend into the landscape. Rather, they control, organize, and distribute it as a distinct material form. Operating outside of architectural discourse but nonetheless disposing of space and material, infrastructural surfaces offer a point of departure for the revitalization of the architectural surface as the primary organizer and distributor of space.

    Using Bunker Hill in Los Angeles as a laboratory, the studio unpacked and critiqued the logic of existing infrastructural surfaces in downtown Los Angeles. It looked for opportunities in a historically segregated urban environment for new architectures of openness, connectivity and urban sociality. To do so, the studio asked students to question, examine, and analyze an array of surfaces that typically fall outside of the understanding of architecture in an attempt to develop novel means of organizing and disposing of spatial agendas. Surface was studied as a means of engaging both site and architectural space. Central to this task was the development of methodologies of representation specific to logics of infrastructural surfaces. Students developed intensive drawing practices that dissolved the substantial mass of Bunker Hill into the atmospheric, geometric, and programmatic surfaces. In doing so, the studio examined surface not as a means to blur the distinction between site and architecture, but rather to engage the organizational role of the latter.

    * Robin Evans, “Figures, Doors, and Passages” in Translations from Drawing to Building (London: AA, 1997), 55–91.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    ME & CG: Sean Lally, Vatanmyri Urban Planning, Plan (2007); Phillipe Rahm, Interior Gulf Stream, Plan (2008); Bernard Tschumi, Le Fresnoy, Lighting Plan (1997); OMA, La Villete, Plan (1982); SANAA, Rolex Learning Center, Plan (2010); FOA, Yokohama Ferry Terminal, Plan (2002); CERO 9, Town Hall, Plan and Section (2003); Herzog and De Meuron, Prada Tokyo, Elevation (2003); OMA, Jussieu Library, Plan (1992).

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    ME & CG: Reading: Rem Koolhass, “Arthur Erickson vs the ‘All Stars’: The Battle of Bunker Hill,” Trace 1, no. 3 (July-
    Sept. 1981): 09–15; Keller Easterling, “Floor.dwg,” Perspecta 42 (2010): 131–34.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    ME & CG: N/A.

    Additional credits and links:

    Studetns: Dalia Bukhamsin, Rebecca Fox, and Mojdeh Kazemi, Sam Sabzalijmaat, Nafiseh Salavatian, & Crystal Tan.

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