An Architecture of the Territory
That was the title of a recently completed pilot program at TCAUP. The program is tentatively called "Visiting Experts" and consisted of an intensive week-long workshop effort lead by an outside guest and involving, at least this time around, the entire 2nd year graduate student body. For the program's first workshop the school invited Alexander D'Hooghe, Associate Professor in Architectural Urbanism at MIT.
Here are some of the workshops goals and ambitions:
"This Masterclass assigns to the field of Architecture the responsibility of ordering a generic American landscape. By ordering is meant a durable, civic structure composed of hard objects that are unambiguous about their potential to orient citizens, order the space into legible sectors and define the most important moments of intermodal transition.
This Masterclass aims to achieve: FIRST and most important - we try to objectify infrastructure: that is, we do not treat it as systems but as architectural elements. The result of which should be a language of 3D-hieroglyphs, elements of a post-urban typology for America. We re-define elements of architectural language so that they can re-gain their confident role as elements to structure our cities.
SECOND, we deal with aging America: its landscape has lost its innocence. We address the aging of such landscape and realize that every bold move is just another layer, liberating our work to become more formally extreme and urbanistically definitive for the current moment."
After hitting the pause button on all other classes for the week, all 96 students were broken up into 14 teams of about 7 and given a 1-square mile plot of land in a "generic american landscape." Each plot had to negotiate various layers of infrastructure including highways, railroads, canals and the Jeffersonian 1x1 road grid. In addition, each group was given an "infrastructural object" to work with (Interchange, Big Box Urban Center, Plants and assembly lines, Cemetery, and Blue/Green Energy as Spectacle). At the end of the week, all plots would be stitched together to create the new american landscape.
Project team: Adrian Avilez, Charles Gurrey, Dieneke Alicia Kniffin, Xiang Liu, Christian Newman, Ho Man Ting, Harold-Sprague Solie (me)
My group was given "Blue/Green Energy as Spectacle" which we translated into a series of windmill farms. Responding to Alexander's encouragement to make "big" gestures and create "monuments" out of infrastructure, we designed a massive wind tunnel which would harvest all surrounding wind into it and through to our windmill farms. The wind tunnel itself was given enough thickness to allow for program to exist on its periphery. A tower was also added as a vertical element to counter-balance the long horizontal, but also to allow for viewing platforms to lookout across the new american landscape. These elements all congregated around a highway infrastructure which ran through our site.
Lastly, in thinking about a physical manifestation of wind and the energy created through its harvesting, we created a series of bubble structures which would either inflate or deflate based on the availibility of excess energy. The idea was that the availability of program and event space (within the bubbles) would be directly associated with how much energy was being harvested...
more energy = more inflated structures = more programmable space
These structures would in essence be "living batteries" for the storage of excess wind energy, while at the same time using that energy to generate program.
"The aim of this project is energy generation through wind. The grid of wind turbines reflects the existing infrastructure; they are further informed by the wind tunnel sited to prevailing winds. The thickness of the tunnel provides program space for education and research. The observation tower is itself a series of horizontal wind turbines. It captures visitors directly from the interstate and provides parking for all users. The excess energy generated by the turbines inflates bubble structures scattered throughout the landscape. These spaces are dynamic, occupiable, and always changing."
- Project brief written by Dieneke Kniffin
_photo credits to Brittany Gacsy
I am a graduate student and an entrepreneur at the University of Michigan Taubman College where my studies are focused on leveraging design ideas across multiple scales and platforms. Meeting at the intersection between design, tectonics and fabrication, I am continually exploring how a design idea can navigate complex material and production systems and evolve into fully realized architectural artifacts.