Five Things to Note about Best Sandwiches . . .
I. Problem of the extrusion
Architects have recently talked about mountains, candy and puppets.1 They used to talk about sheds, blobs and fields.2 We are interested in talking about sandwiches.3 Or is the sandwich merely a stand-in to generate a discourse in architecture around the problem of the extrusion? Borrowing from past and recent history’s best practices for assembling sandwich architecture, Best Sandwiches is a design and research project by Jennifer Bonner (MALL) in search of novel spatial stacks. Awkward middle levels are piled up and squeezed together resulting in messy figures between two slices of architectural bread. Extrusion is not entirely off-limits, but used sparingly.
II. A sandwich that caught our eye
MVRDV’s Dutch Pavilion at the Hanover Expo (2000) presents the most didactic stratification of non-extrusion architecture—a Best Sandwiches true exemplar. Cheese is rendered as a simple yellow slab. Red, porous, and figural, the tomato is squeezed between the cheese slab and the lettuce level filled with live trees. Beyond the Dutch Pavilion, sandwich architecture is most productive when it announces distinguishable layers of the building. One outcome of this approach is a subversion of the conventional building/ground relationship. In architectural sandwiches, there is no longer a single ground upon which a unified figure sits. Instead, these stratified buildings propose a multiplicity of grounds, which slice the elevations into a series of horizontal figures.
III. Best Colors
The nine sandwiches on display present a close reading of several classic sandwich types: the grilled cheese, the BLT, the hamburger, the Dagwood, and the submarine, to name a few. Color and the deployment of many types of apertures are intentional. They promote the legibility of repeating layers found in a high-stack Dagwood sandwich or suggest the vaguely familiar melting cheddar found in a grilled cheese sandwich. Color is a necessity for reading Best Sandwiches. Whether it is displayed in the picnic scene, served up in a single elevation or distributed in physical models, color is part of the recipe.
IV. A Picnic Blanket
Visionary architecture has a long history of being rendered on top of recognizable grounds. In the postwar era, numerous architects depicted their utopian speculations against the backdrop of ubiquitous urban or rural landscapes.4 Best Sandwiches has its own familiar ground plane: the picnic blanket. On one hand, the picnic blanket is a traditional, known accompaniment. On the other hand, its checkered, iconic pattern is not a likely ground for a cluster of buildings. Its thin and wrinkled surface connotes whimsy and delight, rather than firmness and weight. After all, the picnic blanket is a temporary ground. Once the sandwiches are consumed, the blanket can be picked up, shaken off and easily moved. The picnic blanket is not a representation of the city grid or another Super Surface—it is merely a picnic blanket. As such, it is more closely linked to contemporary culture’s obsession with what we eat and how it is displayed.
V. Faux chromium-plated steel cruciform pedestals
If Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s use of the chromium-plated steel cruciform column in the Barcelona Pavilion was about reflection or spatial effects, then the faux chrome column sited in the architectural gallery represents something else. First, the chrome column is chopped off—a deliberate nod to a shifting paradigm—from extrusion, to stacking. Secondly, sandwich architecture just doesn’t feel right located on the white box pedestal, it is better suited to faux finishing associated with other narratives.
Additional credits and links:
Research and design assistants: Justin Jiang and John Going
Rendering: Kenneth Robin
1. Mountains = First Office, Candy = SPORTS, Puppets = The LADG. ↩
2. Sheds = Venturi Scott Brown, Blobs = Greg Lynn FORM, Fields = Stan Allen. ↩
3. Sandwiches = MALL. ↩
4. See Hans Hollein, Aircraft-Carrier-City in the Landscape, 1964; Ron Herron, Archigram, Walking City, 1964; Arata Isozaki, Clusters in the Air, 1962; or Yona Friedman, Spatial City, 1958 for a group of architects who render visionary architecture into traditional images of city and landscape. ↩