Almost Familiar Forms was a series of events convened by Clark Thenhaus (CCA) at CCA’s Architecture Division consisting of 50 participants in two concurrent weekend workshops led by Kristy Balliet (Knowlton School at the Ohio State University) and Andrew Holder (Harvard GSD). . . .
Dora Epstein Jones (SCI-Arc) delivered a closing keynote lecture, available for viewing on CCA’s YouTube Channel. The ambitions for this event arise from an interest in considering alternative conceptualizations of typology. If we consider the name of this event, Almost Familiar Forms, in reverse order we find that forms are one of the more debated topics in architecture with regard to aesthetics, ideologies, and form-making techniques. Yet forms also provide a set of qualifiers in that we can point to things and say it has this kind of form or that, or we can categorize things as a virtue of their formal properties and/or associations. There are those among us, however, who claim that the pluralizing of form into forms is already a misstep and that forms do not exist, but that there is only form. Nevertheless, we come next to familiar. This we can understand as the conditioning of an observer or occupant towards known experiences, thus rendering the current situation, object, material, or thing within a set of known relations. The implied metric of the familiar can be both comforting and monotonous. Perhaps this, then, is not the best qualifier for architectural work and therefore requires a modification.
As a modifier to familiarity, the word almost falls short of being quantitative enough to classify forms or things it relates, yet nor is it qualitative enough to imply aesthetic registers or experiences while simultaneously evading any technique specificity or procedural biases. So perhaps what it yields is an alternative to explicit typological classifications, and instead suggests an altogether different set of architectural terms that enable corollaries across previously fixed positions.
Thus, terms like volume, character, posture, objects, elements, or association are open enough to instantiate relationships that combine multiple techniques and that encourage novel readings of things once familiar, yet bracketed enough so as to establish alternative architectural lexicons that are specific to particular sensibilities recurrent over time and across diverse interest groups. In other words, the events of the weekend were approached with a sneaking suspicion that the disciplinary grounds underfoot are shifting . . . perhaps even realigning previously unrelated techniques, concepts, materials, technologies, and objectives and we approach them in this moment as almost familiar.
“Puppet Pile, or, Animate Form” Workshop by Andrew Holder:
“Puppet Pile, or, Animate Form” was a workshop run at the CCA as a kind of love letter to Greg Lynn’s “Animate Form,” proposing an alternate future for architectural applications of the book’s ideas, that, while at the time of publication may have seemed repugnant, now seem plausible or maybe even inevitable. The written brief to students began with the charge, “We are going to build scale models of the Maison Dom-ino out of puppets. These puppets will probably not be like any puppet you have encountered before. Some of them will be architectural elements animated by the human hand, like a floor slab that moves. Other puppets in the house will not literally move, but will be shaped in ways that are animated by architectural elements, as though a stair or a fireplace were inserted inside the puppet instead of a hand.”
“Possible Volumes” Workshop by Kristy Balliet:
It is important for architecture to define volume. While volume exists in all architecture, it is often an overlooked starting point. This workshop focused on the design and representation of volume. Volume, unlike space, is measurable and authored. Space is elusive. Theorists, historians and architects vary on how to define its vast scope. A collection of these accounts uncovers that space can be infinite, contained, occupied, objectified, atmospheric, tactile— contradictions abound. Rather than tangle with these definitions of space, a renewed interest in volume is an attempt to offer a productive alternative to a familiar problem: the problem of connectivity.
The workshop focused on defining volumetric primitives or forms. The forms were modified by progressively adding volume, adjoining niches that expand along a three-dimensional coordinate system. The workshop flow biased a digital-manual method that only in concept engaged the parametric, incremental linked adjustments that allowed alterations to be evaluated. The designs introduced stages of spatial complexity beyond multiplication and subtraction by introducing shearing and scale shifts; expanding the options for the comprehension of spatial multiplicity.
Brian McKinney, Mitchel Price, Sofia Anastasi, Janice Kim, Ernesto Preciado, Jennifer Ashman, Pedram Haghighi, Aravind Kumar, Frederico Goncalves, Ania Burlinska, Jared Clifton, Ka Ki Yam, Nicholas Scribner, Zsofia Gutvill, Clare Hacko, Eric Fura, Gina Bugiada, Andrew Ku, Carlos Sabogal, Sitou Akolly, Julian Menne, Antonio de Quadros, Mariana Mijangos, Claire Kristoff, Elaheh Gorji, Xiaoxue Guo, Stephany Rattner, Samantha Villasenor, Madeline Cunningham, Mitch Sweibel, Justine Humble, Bella Mang, Myrna Erlich, Taylor Metcalf, Antuanette Holder, Omar Soliman, Georgia Came, Jared Vallair, Sarah Khaitan, Keith Edwards, Mengie Shen, Haonan Jia, Mai Duellman, Nicole Van Malder, Tommy Sutanto, Joaquin Tobar, Talitha D’Couto, Taina Paredes, Sabri Gopakumar, Patrick Monte, Rajah Bose