This past Wednesday, Hilary Sample of New York-based MOS architects, Associate Professor at Columbia GSAPP, and visiting Professor at the Knowlton School, presented a lecture on the Big Stairs. Consisting of work done with partner Michael Meredith, who lectured at the school last fall, the presentation explained some of the firm’s design experiments and built projects.
Sample began the lecture by describing the set of guiding principles that govern their design process. MOS aims to be different and always changing by designing the “horizontal and fuzzy” rather than the “vertical and shiny”. The office doesn’t strictly practice architecture, they write software, create videos, design gallery spaces and installations, but most of all, treat their profession as a sort of “serious play”.
One project she highlighted was House No. 11 (Corridor House), which was built at full scale and presented at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennal. Sample explained that corridors have become an afterthought; something overused to connect spaces designed with intent. The Corridor House measures at 500 square feet; the size of corridors in many suburban single family houses, with each space approximating the dimensions of a standard 5’ x 10’ corridor. These spaces are big enough to inhabit, and even program with a bed or bathroom fixtures. The result creates a procession of familiar modules that "compare to the openness of a Miesian courtyard house."
In a world where architects seem to make their statement by turning their back on the recognizable to form a new "cool" archetype (ZHA comes to mind), MOS works with the familiarity of the vernacular to aid in their design process.
"Have I seen that before?" was a frequent question asked among students after analyzing the geometric forms, drawing patterns, and materiality of projects during Sample's lecture.
"Well, you have, and you haven't."
MOS proves time and time again that good design doesn't need to be a shockingly new idea pulled from thin air. Their projects take the sometimes hackneyed ideas about architecture and turn them into something incredibly interesting. In my opinion, it's one of the great strengths of the practice, and perhaps why the firm has been gaining international traction over the years, adding impressive projects and prestigious awards to their portfolio.
Their designs are simple; never overthought, never overworked, and represented by their identifiable style of beautifully flat drawings. John Yurchyk, a Knowlton School alumni and designer at MOS, later explained to Sample's G3 studio that every detail in the representation of a project is carefully thought out. He further confirmed the rumor that even the trees are generated with a complicated grasshopper script; a detail other architects typically show no attention to.
Immediately following the lecture, Sample’s gallery show, titled “Screenshots, Photographs, Videos, Totes, Rocks, Stools, candles, Soap, Vases, Blocks, Quilts,…” opened to the public.
The show includes furniture, “artifacts” derived from fictional narratives about architects, tile experiments, drawings, and collections of the firm’s work presented at the Chicago and Venice Biennale, among other objects.
This blog will be a feeder for recent news, events and student work occurring at the Knowlton School at The Ohio State University. Posts will typically center around updates from the school's lecture series, exciting projects from recent student reviews and updates from other school events.