FOLLY Design Competition, 2015

Collaborators: Hiroshi Jacobs, OP-AL, John Paul Rysavy

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To folly is to foil, to critically and didactically address cultural concerns at stake in architectural practice.  The Anamorphic Hut is positioned against and between two overarching assumptions prevalent in contemporary architectural production — of architectural form emerging from autonomous concerns, and from the externalities of surrounding fields.  The proposal considers an architecture emerging from both: from outside-in and inside-out.  The folly arises from a formal and experiential strategy that is “both-and” in pursuit of a paradigm we refer to as the “Quasi-Object,” or “ Situated Object” or “Ambiguous Object.”

“An Architecture which includes varying levels of meaning breeds ambiguity and tension. Most of the examples will be difficult to ‘read,’ but abstruse architecture is valid when it reflects the complexities and contradictions of content and meaning. Simultaneous perception of a multiplicity of levels involves struggles and hesitations for the observer, and makes his perception more vivid (Venturi 23).”

The Anamorphic Hut arises from a desire for complex double-readings, wherein architectural form “doubly functions” to exist in its own autonomous system and simultaneously within the system of its site.

Anamorphosis is the distortion of a perspective wherein the perception of an image is reconstituted into expected normality from a specific vantage point. The form of the hut is borrowed both for its silhouette, which is firmly embedded within our consciousness, and for its resonance with Marc Antoine-Laugier’s reading of the primitive hut as a form that arose from its natural surroundings ( Laugier 12).  The iconic form of the hut is thrust into the ground depriving the viewer of its full silhouette, complicating the reading of its object-hood. Through perspectival Anamorphosis, the ground is inscribed with the projection of the submerged geometry of the Hut, completing its recognizable form from specific points of view. Geometrically, this is accomplished by finding the intersection of ground with the extension of the lines of its hidden geometry to a specific vantage point of the site. The CMYK color mechanism was developed to perceive color via pixel separation, the process of separating colors into half-tone ranges in order to perceive the actual color. In a similar logic the four full saturation colors in the CMYK range are each assigned to the four principle elevations of the hut, working together to assist the viewer in reconstituting the totality of the form in his or her mind.

The Quasi Object
The concept of the ambiguity of object-hood has its roots in several philosophers before and after the turn of the twenty-first century, most notably, Graham Harman and Michel Serres. Harman in his book, The Quadruple Object, issued his “Object Oriented Ontology” as a subset of “speculative realism”, wherein he describes a reading of objects as neither things comprised of an underlying substance or system, as in Monism (under-mining ), nor as things read only for their causality and surface-level affects (over-mining ) . The ‘quasi-object’ is described by Michel Serres to be the token, the object that is both here and everywhere. At a very different scale, Serres discusses the city of Rome itself, as an object that both internalizes the citizen and deprives him/her of the world, ‘To think the city, one must leave it and see it as a part of the world.’ In his essay on Serres, Marcel Henaff questions whether we can think of new scales of the city or a continuous city world, in which we merge the ideas of city and world together ( Henaff 59).   Each of these philosopher’s is unpacking more ambiguous readings of the objects we add to our world, mandating an understanding of these objects both in terms of their own internal system and simultaneously within their integration of the larger external system of the world. This internal and external object discussion, has correlations to Architecture in relationship to the city and the landscape.

The Foil
The Situated Object sits between two concurrent paradigms of architectural thought; the concepts of “Landform building” and “Siteless form.” The former is discussed by Stan Allen in his book the The Landform Building: Architecture’s New Terrain, and follows a long critical tradition from Marc-Antoine Laugier’s Primitive Hut to Kenneth Frampton’s Mega-form as Urban Landscape. Landform Buildings categorically accept that an object of a virtual system, specifically of the city and surrounding landscape, use cues and indexes, such as the continuity of ground, or the emulation of natural forms, as legible signifiers of meaning that the building exists within a larger geological or nature bound framework . The second paradigm is illustrated by Francois Blanciak in his book 1001 Siteless Forms within which he states, “The traditional sequence of ‘program plus site equals form’ is intentionally inverted.  As in ancient column order, schemes are conceived prior to site insertion and subsequent relationships or adaptations ( Blanciak ix ) .”  Blanciak’s examples are named and created such that they are aimed at reducing architecture to objects conceived devoid of context, and autonomous from their surroundings in shape and form. The siteless paradigm could also be demonstrated holistically by the now ubiquitous program diagram, which is used as the primary generator of architectural form  by the Dutch school, OMA and its derivatives.

Between these two prevalent modes of production, our folly is foil, an architectural paradigm existing within the experienced tension, and ambiguously between both. The Anamorphic Hut, serves to open a new discussion of architectural formal production framing a re-evaluation of our understanding of the building in relationship to itself and the outside world of the landscape and the city.

Construction Approach
Construction of the folly will proceed with full intent to execute the conceptual diagram with as little visual interruption as possible.  To that end, we do not propose to introduce any novel, complex, or untried materials or fabrication techniques.  The folly will be constructed of pressure-treated lumber, and finished with a hearty exterior-grade paint.  Connections between structural members will be fitted with embedded steel plates, bolted through the timber.  Footings will be reinforced cast-in-place spread footings, with embedded steel connectors.  The ground plane expression will also be precision cut painted pressure-treated lumber, laid in a bed of gravel designed to parry away excess moisture.  Preliminary construction details are included with the submission materials.

1. Venturi, Robert. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2011. p. 23
2. Laugier, Marc-Antoine. An Essay on Architecture. Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, (1977), p 12.
3. Harman, Graham. The Quadruple Object. Winchester, U.K.: Zero, 2011.
4. Hénaff, Marcel; Of Stones, Angels and Humans: Michel Serres and the Global City. Vol. 26, No. 2, Issue 83: An Ecology of Knowledge: Michel Serres: A Special Issue (1997), pp. 59-80
5. Allen, Stan, and Marc McQuade. Landform Building: Architecture’s New Terrain. Baden, Switzerland: Lars Müller, 2011.
6. Blanciak, François. Siteless: 1001 Building Forms. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008. p. IX