University of Pennsylvania, PennDesign
critics: Ferda KOLATAN with Hart MARLOW.
For the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, Rem Koolhaas raised some eyebrows when he declared that the Biennale entitled “Fundamentals” would be about “architecture, not architects. . . .”
students: Jae AHN, Dunbee CHOI, Irina DUKHNEVICH, Joseph GIAMPIETRO, Yuhang HE, Lyly HUYEN, Hyemi KANG, Aidan KIM, Tanuja MANOHAR, Karen MARTIN, Alex TAHINOS, & Andrea YOAS.
Consequently the exhibition “Elements” featured not buildings but groupings of typical architectural components that have constituted buildings throughout architecture history. These elements were displayed separate from the context of building as individual artifacts and drew attention to the evolution from craft-based expressions to what Koolhaas calls a “single modern language,” a universal aesthetic driven by global manufacturing standards and international markets, rules, and regulations.
However, quite possibly as an unintended consequence, the Elements exhibition also hit another contemporary nerve. By emphasizing individual architectural elements and estranging them from their building context (through separation and rearrangement), the exhibition called attention to the objects themselves, independent of their function or their subservient role within the compositional totality of the building itself.
This studio interpreted this approach of object-components as a distinct departure from well-established part-to-whole principles such as Alberti’s interdependency, the Modernist’s compositional abstraction, or recent computer driven techniques of cellularity and “graduality.” The “Museum of Useless Things” thus explores alternatives in which building components—trivial as well as sophisticated ones—form constellations of irreducible objects, rejecting any clear or preconceived relations in regards to content, form, and performance.