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  • Leitmotif

    Austin TSAI & Heidi WONG, "Lietmotif."
    ann arbor MICHIGAN

    University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
    critics: Ellie ABRONS & Adam FURE.

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    Austin TSAI & Heidi WONG: Leitmotif engages contemporary formal conversations concerning figure and character through the conceptual lens of the motif.

    The motif—a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary work—guides a composition by rhythmically tying together disparate elements, allowing for both continuous change and repetition. In this project, the motif is used as a device to drive physical form. A building is produced through the aggregation of a system of elements that we call our “creatures,” a series of anthropomorphic forms with bulbous appendages. Alone, these creatures are discrete entities, distinct in their postures. However, their consistent geometric proportions allow them to efficiently stack, rotate, and nest within one another. Thus, the creatures exist both as singular entities that stand alone to evoke human bodies, and as a system of elements that can aggregate to form larger entities.

    The experience of the creatures as a motif is regulated by a division between the interior and exterior. On the exterior, the creatures are visible as whole bodies. Upon entry, inhabitants experience continuous fragments of the creatures, but never confront them in their entirety. This produces a near-motif on the interior that never gets resolved, its recurrence rendering the spaces strangely familiar, yet continuously unsettling.

    Leitmotif is a contemporary opera house. Together, the creatures of the opera regulate the grouping and collective movement of bodies through their interiors. Large collective spaces are fragmented into smaller ones through formal and scalar explorations of the motif of the creatures’ parts. The creatures themselves echo human bodies, soliciting strange projections of animate subjectivity despite being inanimate, static objects.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    AT & HW: Thing Theory, Object-oriented Ontology (OOO), Reversible Destiny.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    AT & HW: Reading: Graham Harman; Bill Brown; Jason Payne; David Ruy; Sylvia Lavin; Greg Lynn; and Shusaku Arakawa + Madeline Gins.
    AT: Listening to: Beach House; Luomo; The War on Drugs; and Slowdive. Watching Portlandia.
    HW: Listening to: Sylvan Esso; Chvrches; Lorde; and Yelle. Watching Broad City.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    AT & HW: Bittertang; Ernesto Neto; Jimenez Lai; Young & Ayata; Nick Cave; EADO; and Sift Studio.

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