Taking Shape

Life and Design in the Graduate School of Architecture at UIC

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    Programmatic Invention Through Gradients

    Eugene Murphy
    Feb 3, '16 12:10 PM EST

    In a recent studio assignment, the second year spring graduate studio (taught by Sarah Dunn and Sean Lally) looked at using gradients between various extremes (public/private, inside/outside, water, health, etc…) as a way of organizing and even generating program. For me, this exercise prompted a reconsideration of architecture’s ability to influence a project.

    Some see the three Vitruvian principles of architecture as referring to three separate roles: engineer (firmitas), client (utilitas), and architect (venustas). Many architects make engineering considerations a primary aspect of their designs, or even blur the two roles, but fewer make program (the domain of the client, normally) a major focus. The most notable exception here, of course, would be Bernard Tschumi. While he was a proponent of unusual programmatic intersections, however, much of his work was motivated only by form or typology. For example, he suggested pole-vaulting in a church, because the shape of the latter accommodated the action of the former.

    An example of his work toward which our studio seems more inclined would be his project for the National Library of France, which involved a library taking its shape from a rooftop running track, and which seemed to be an attempt to create a hybrid athlete/scholar. Our current studio approach differs from this in that it combines programs without a polemic, merely based on how much water they use, or how much light conditioning they require. The programmatic intersections produced become less intentional, and therefore, at least in theory, more unexpected.

    Whatever the differences, however, one can see that merely by arranging the requested programs according to her own logic, the architect can create, and fill, new programmatic niches of her own, expanding into the role traditionally occupied by the client. Whether this is done intentionally to create better people, or accidentally happened upon in pursuit of a new organization, it gives us, as a discipline, more room to operate. 

    • 1 Comment

    • interesting!  post more!  also, Koolhaas is Tschumi's contemporary in programmatic weaving, no?

      Feb 7, 16 6:32 pm  · 

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This blog will document the projects and discourse that come out of UIC's graduate studio, from the perspective of a first year graduate student.

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