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Here is a project from Jason Mould in my studio ARCH 552. This project was also chosen for the Year End Show.
— University of Illinois Chicago (Matthew)
Although intriguing, I still question why there is such an obvious disregard for fire code and environmental systems. This is not intended as an 'old man' comment, but is the crux of the design problem for generic building plans, no? Does this project offer a solution, or at least a loophole? I'd genuinely like to know, and at the risk of sounding incredibly boring, I find taking these parameters on as a rigorous design study incredibly interesting.
I think that "intriguing" is being polite. It's one thing to bend a couple of rules to allow a student to explore an idea but this plan is fundamentally unusable. The project description suggests:
"This new office plan brings circulation, program, and structure into single coherent whole yet provides great difference and diversity."
Imagine arriving at a floor on one of the elevators and attempting to get to one of the rooms at the perimeter. Trace your finger through this plan and imagine the path, think of asking for directions three or four times along the way. This is not a new idea- it is called a maze! Great if you need to keep a minotaur in check but not so good for office workers. I would hope that this project is just a tongue-in-cheek exercise, rather than a serious proposal to re-imagine the open office. Based on the current disregard for human occupancy in schools of architecture, I fear that this project may be the latter.
i agree with you archimus... this isn't new...and if it is it doesn't work.
-imagine that any of these spaces require security? isn't possible since the space is needed as a corridor. i guess the only way this works is a full floor tenant? but these floor plates are HUGE.
-the walls that cut through on an angle also seem kind of arbitrary. why are they are where they are? they create a ton of unusable spaces.
-what kind of structure does it have? i would say the walls are what create it, but they're often not continuous and often at an angle...this may not be a big deal, but if i'm seeing things right..this thing is suspended over some kind of valley in section? so this whole thing is supposed to act as a giant truss?
i'm glad that he is at least thinking of fire codes and such in school...that would never really have crossed my mind..although i did have corridors and lobbies and staircases in my projects. it seems more like a project that is trying to solve some problems by creating some new ones...while taking successful parts of concrete projects like herzog de meuron's parking garage in miami and some of rem's old art museums (in section)...or mvrdv and zaha's bmw museum (the structural 'pods' supporting the floors)
i guess what is disturbing to me is that this project was allowed to gestate/proceed at all.. what prof is sitting there and letting it all happen? is it even a valid course of inquiry? the corridorless office building? isn't this like trying to reinvent the wheel by making it stone again? there are very basic (legal) reasons we need corridors and why you wouldn't want to integrate them into and between spaces of different uses. reasons why you wouldn't want to have all of your rooms open...reasons for doors for instance. and they don't really need to be tested..or at least aren't be tested in a way that is moving the idea of office forward here..or at least i don't think so.
where's the minotaur at?
wow. The project calls to mind 'game theory.' Perhaps the kid spends to much time in the UIC SoA building. To harp about the fire code is a moot point though, since the project is clearly a conceptual one. In fashion they call high fashion that one could actually wear on the street as 'wearable design.' It's like watching fashion week and saying, "no one could ever wear that so the design has no merit." While I think they have a valid point in their assessment, using the argument of 'you could never build that' (i.e. fire code in this instance) is SUCH a tired way of critiquing a project. Sure the student could have developed some parameters/rules early in the process to use the fire code as an interesting constraint/design determinant blah blah blah, but that's a different project and you can't please everybody all the time, especially in the realm of an architectural critique.
Either embrace as many real world constraints as you possibly can or go completely in the opposite direction and do something really radical. I find this project uncomfortably stuck somewhere in the middle.
actually 'why so serious'..i don't think it's really anything like that at all. fashion on the runway still has constraints..it has to fit a human form, still has to be recognizable as potentially being clothing, is made of some kind of material...etc.
i could agree with you if his thesis wasn't essentially taking an office building and eliminating corridors and claiming that somehow this was a system that allowed for greater efficiency or something.
if it were a true idea or thesis based on less specific/restraint based construction then i would say go crazy and design!... but the idea is to create a better office building (as i understand it) and as such needs to either get REALLY crazy like Noah says..or has to make some statements within the restraints of the real world. I think it would have been more interesting if the idea didn't seem arbitrary and answered more of the questions of how this system actually... you know.. works.
the whole 'fire code' thing was brought up by the student in his critique (if you read the blog) as someting he thought about...so it's not arbitrary criticism here.
i think the questions being asked of this project are very valid critique.. isn't the point of our profession to design things that can be built? (even if you threw away things like fire codes, building codes...maybe even limitations of what steel or concrete can actually do?)
i'm interested..what conceptual idea is this project about that we as architects separated form academia don't understand that you somehow do?
The bottom line is that there are things you learn at school, and there are very different things that you learn by working. The pragmatics are never really addressed at a good conceptual school, because they can be easily learned during IDP.
I can't speak for the quality of this project compared the others in the studio, as I was not on the review, but it did seem that most "worked" better.
I'll pontificate that it was chosen for the year end show because it didn't "work". The glitched matrix is the most direct critique of spec office space there is. "Here's a grid; let's peel away the walls to mess that grid up". Breaking convention is one of lessons learned in that year at UIC. Seems like a good idea to me.
This project was on that precarious edge of limits of the paper modeling technique that was used to produce the form, the drawings produced a clear signifier of the process without an explanation, and the model was quite nice. One-two-three knockout punch in an academic studio: you guys remember what it was like, you just forgot.
there is no art without a system. the issue here is simple to me. you can't really explore a new office floor plan dynamic without understanding what can and cannot be done in a real world setting. a project like this when shown to some office who works on interior remodels or t.i.s will take one look at it and ask, what are your distances from the furthest desk to the egress? did you know that you can't exit from one room to another? where are the illuminated exit signs going to go? practical mundane boring health and safety issues that raise their dull heads when they encounter projects like this. better to keep it conceptual and design your cenotaph for walter benjamin or an ennui museum.
Why so serious? - not all school projects should be critiqued on the basis of fire code, but my point is THIS project should. You can't take on the generic office plan without addressing this. I say own it, and really study how these parameters drive the typology, not just disregard it.
i have built a mousetrap that improves on all others that have come before it. i focused more on the aesthetics instead of actually worrying about whether it traps mice...in fact i ignored that problem entirely...but i did make a nice model and drawings.
i remember what studio was like...i don't remember anyone designing an office building though....and what's precarious about using chipboard to make straight walls?
This project is caught between vision and reality...
I'm not sure this is an entirely pointless experiment... it reminds me of some of Toyo Ito's more recent explorations into abstract formal and structural systems... the Tama Library, or Taichung Opera House are good examples of projects where abstract systems are explored, and eventually elaborated to the point where they support egress code requirements, fire code, etc...
I think this project follows the same path: exploring an abstract system- the "glitched" grid- and working through programmatic constraints to arrive at the project. I agree that at this point, the system is not fully resolved with regard to some practical constraints, but I don't think the inclusion of those constraints would preclude the use of this system. Some of the walls might get narrow enough to create a corridor of sorts, and some cells may be small enough to include escape stairs... this inclusion of these considerations in addition to typological ones as factors that distort the grid might make for a richer project even.
i think this project answers the question: what manipulations could you perform on a spec office building to make it as inefficient, inflexible, and expensive as possible - but trade the efficiency, flexibility, and affordability for potentially beguiling spaces never otherwise found in an office building?
basically this undermines everything important about the spec office typology which is, in itself, a pretty compelling thing to take on. it's an exercise worth taking on in school - no matter whether it's translatable to practice.
School is what you make of it. Obviously this guy is trying to be creative while still fulfilling the assignment. This comes with varying level of difficulty, depending on your institution. We have no idea what his professors are like or how much time he had to put this together. It's just student work, don't get too excited.
I think the success of this project is simply in the communication of the building form.
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