critic: Florencia PITA.
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
Julian Rui HUANG: This project is an examination of the relationship between two-dimensional patternmaking and three-dimensional formmaking.
I approach this question from two scales: the small scale of a suburban single family home and the large, urban scale of a district in Downtown L.A. The goal is to create a new DNA for architecture which combines patternmaking and formmaking into a single method that infiltrates and infects L.A. urbanism beyond its site.
The starting point is a conventional freestanding single-family home. Two conceptual precedents are used to manipulate the house, playing with concepts of flatness and part-to-whole relationships within the architectural form. The first precedent is David Hockney’s cubist photography, which broke down the subjects into numerous fragments then recomposed them to show multiple viewpoints, scales, and moments in time—all in a single still image. The second precedent is slit-scan photography, a technique in which a process of motion is captured in a still, photographic image and, like in Cubism, shows its subject from multiple viewpoints. Both of these techniques result in a distortion of the subject that is both visually compelling and within the limits of a static image frame.
In this single family home, the reading of typological elements such as doors, windows, porches, and so on is made ambiguous by three-dimensional distortions of form. These distortions are produced by a volumetric grid that fragments the original structure into modular parts that are then used to produce a new composition, one in contrast to the historicist rationalism of the original house. A second mode of transformation is an applied graphic pattern that further distorts the reading of the parts but unites it into a new whole. These operations of slicing, shifting, and stretching transform a single home in multiple groups of many housing units.
The principles and techniques used for slicing and recomposing a domestic house can be scaled up to operate at an urban scale. The manipulation of a single domestic house can grow into the DNA of larger projects for housing at small, medium, large, or other scales. One house has become a housing block, with no clear distinctions between the units; each house blends into the next one. The layer of graphic patterns also blurs the boundaries between each unit.
Locating this project in Downtown L.A., rather than an area typical of domestic houses, can enable the project to be a critique of L.A.’s typical six-story, mixed-use, wood-frame and stucco-clad, block-filling, and developer-driven buildings, hideous and yet evermore common in Downtown L.A. and its surrounding neighborhoods. My approach is to investigate the typology of housing common to Downtown L.A. and, through formal and surface manipulation, force a new approach to it.
The formal manipulations made to the domestic house are a way to begin to expand and multiply the house into a larger, increasingly urban entity. Surface patterns can also be considered as implying the same techniques, but at a different scale. The surface patterns begin as a similar idea to the faux-Italian surface treatment of the Medici villas in downtown L.A., but end up infecting the overall form and spatial arrangements of this project rather than remaining skin deep, as in the Medici projects.
Strong formal moves do not just affect the specific location of the move; they have a ripple effect that affects the rest of the project and affects the neighborhood and city far beyond the bounds of the project site. A good idea can spread and infect the city. A cubist view of the city in a single project can reflect the vibrant urban chaos and uncomfortable but productive adjacencies present in Downtown L.A. The urban conditions of Downtown L.A. informed the manipulations that make the project, which in turn influences the future of Downtown L.A.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
JRH: Andy Warhol, Andy Gilmore, David Hockney, eBOY and Simcity.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
JRH: Reading: Robin Evans, “Architectural Projection” and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Patterns, Fabrics, Prototypes, Tessellations. Listening to: Bjork; Blur; Green Day; Air; James Blake; Zedd; and Tycho. Watching: Her and TRON: Legacy.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
JRH: PITA & BLOOM; Servo; SO-IL; Only If; David Clovers; and Haas Brothers.
Additional credits and links:
Special thanks to my thesis advisor Florencia Pita, as well as Marcelyn Gow, James Schrader, Shemiki Petties, and Paul Krist for the outstanding advice and insights along the way.