t. joseph surjan

t. joseph surjan

Chicago, IL, US


The Secret Life of Buildings (SLoB)

Snell’s Window 2.0

Center of American Architecture and Design

Winning entry for Secret Life of Buildings (SLoB), Objects competition.

Snell's window is a phenomenon similar to a fisheye view by which an underwater spectator sees an ultra-wide hemispherical scene of what is beyond the surface of the water.
Snell's window opens onto a mythological space in which we have built our body of work as an autonomous practice. The objects/imagery use Snell's window as a device by which to portray the impermanence of architecture. The series of renderings contained within are fragments of timeless pieces of architecture, which can only be assembled by the viewer of these selected moments. These moments collected and catalogued are stills in a flip book animating what is a seemingly static physical structure into a kaleidoscopic experience, a temporary, virtual condition. Snell's window, as a liquid medium, embodies the merging of the virtual and the actual, thus this work is always in a fluctuating, impermanent state. Each object's aperture is framed within a historical context, which serves as the ground to produce the factors required for the amalgamation of architectural silhouettes. The silhouettes are distorted to an extreme to reflect viewpoints lasting as long as one's attention span in today's society. The objects are not an essay in distraction, but one with a cadence bending light as a fleeting device portraying time's nature of passing without notice. Each object within will only last as long as Snell's window is open to capture the light seen in a world beneath the sea of the endlessly transitory.


The object represents multiple views describing Snell’s Window as a device through which to witness architecture. The object proposed for the Secret Life of Buildings (SLoB) are pitch contours of mythical natural composites. The geometries of these pitch contours vary between interior and exterior conditions per structural support as required. The pitch contour of the object can only be perceived over time and heard through Snell’s Window.

NOTE: ALL representations of the object are distorted via Snell’s Window. The orthographic drawings in this proposal are for reference only. 

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Center of American Architecture and Design - Austin, Texas
My Role: design scientist & writer
Additional Credits: S. Hjelte Fumanelli - project architect & digital modeling