Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unorthodox statements: 4 degrees of separation

eero sarrinen. superwoman. the truman show. “slow motion” artist: third eye blind.

While tying these 4 unrelated subjects together, I found the common thread to be originality. These subjects all make bold statements that are either unexpected or unaccepted rising some degree of controversy. Sarrinen was a revolutionary architect of his time that took risks and challenged boundaries. His works of architecture were innovative in comparison to the tradition pure forms of that time which rose controversy. This can also be said about the lady disguising herself as superwoman. Her physical appearance in this costume is making a bold statement, in which can be considered “socially unacceptable”. This is not your ‘picturesque’ image of superwoman. Same idea goes for the Truman show. The Truman show unveils the truth of a small town guy’s life as “not so typical as it seems.” The day to day life of this ‘perfect’ man with the ‘perfect’ house, ‘perfect’ wife, and ‘perfect’ job was broadcasted for everyone in the world to see where strange realities were revealed in his behavior. This T.V. show shares a parallel storyline to Third Eye Blind’s song “Slow Motion”. The song “Slow Motion” is about a corrupted domestic household where the façade conceals an unexpected reality. This reveals the life of a mentally unstable teenager in the suburbs experiencing domestic abuse; addressing a problem in many American households. Third Eye Blind received a lot of controversy for the level of violence and drug abuse illustrated in their song being unacceptable for their audience of listeners.

How do these subjects tie back into architecture? There is a point where they all intersect; forming an idea, theory, or an opinion related to architecture. The process in connecting all of these unrelated subjects is very similar to the process of architecture. Architects are problem solvers who are able to take various ideas and draw connections and relationships; whether these ideas work in harmony or opposition to one another. The architect is then able to transform these ideas into a concrete form. In David Pye’s essay “The nature of design” he states, “All manner of different consideration will influence an architect’s decisions about the shape of the space he is to enclose, but the chief of them will always be the probable activities of the people who will enjoy the weather in the space.” There are many external influences in shaping space, but the internal main focus will always be on the user’s experience. Architecture is not successful without a strong idea creditable of discourse to constantly reference and play off of. The spatial experience becomes all the more profound for the user if the idea is well thought through and considered. Therefore, architecture should preserve its curiosity. Innovative architecture is one that is bold, one that challenges the norm, creates controversial dialogue, and serves as an infinite learning device. Where have you experienced innovative architecture that left you with a strong unorthodox memory of space?


  1. Some of the most memorable spaces are not actually architecturally designed, meaning that the experience was not intentional. When these experiences become understood and used by the architect, places that evoke these feelings can be designed with intention. One structure in particular that has always appealed to me is the lake Claiborne spillway. Out of a curiosity of what I had heard from several people about is awesomeness, a few friends and I decided to go out and take a look at it. With a pizza and enough gas to get out there and barley back, we took the 30 minute night drive. At the time we went it had just rained that afternoon, making the atmosphere seem eerie. As you drive down the dirt road that you take to get to the spillway you arrive at a levee, heightening your curiosity. As you walk up the levee, your sight of the lake and the spillway becomes slowly revealed. Fog was heavy on the lake and the reflection of the spillway seemed to make it appear spherical. From a distance you can see a catwalk leading to a circular catwalk allowing one to walk around the spillway. Lake Claiborne’s spillway is different from most, mainly because it is funneled into a tunnel, rather than just spilling over a horizontal edge. The walk towards the spillway is quite experiential in many ways. At the gate, vegetation has overgrown causing you understanding of entry to become very distinct. As you walk further down, the sound of the water rushing towards this tunnel grows louder and louder. The power of this water rushing down can be felt by the mist. End.

    What spaces have you experienced that are not technically architectural? Are they or are they not architecture?

  2. I have a very distinct memory from my childhood that I can compare to your experience. Mine is more of a mobile experience of space rather than a threshold experience walking up to a place...I grew up as a young child going to visit my dad at the farm every summer day of picking season. My mom always took my older sister and I up to the cotton farm when my dad was getting ready to take a trailer full of cotton up the gin. I can vividly remember the scene of the cotton field upon our arrival. The scene was an open dusty field of continuous repetitive dirt rows of fresh picked cotton. The cotton pickers were going back and forth the long rows, slowly picking away. As I watched the cotton pickers steadily stir up dust behind their enormous tires and filling up their large baskets of fresh picked cotton, I began to notice the distinct difference between the picked and unpicked rows of cotton. The picked side of the crop had been stripped bare of its beautiful white bloomed cotton bulbs, leaving nothing but the roots and stems and some flatten cotton bulbs against the dirt roads. One cotton picker began to come closer and closer to my sister and I standing next to my mom, dad, and the cotton trailer. The cotton picker then stopped right next to the trailer and lifted its basket up and out of its place where it tipped over to dump the batch of cotton out. I then remember my dad lifting my sister and I up to the bottom step on the outside of the trailer. We slowly climbed to the top to where we would jump into a large pile of fresh picked cotton. The smell, warmth, and texture of the cotton was very ordinary. It was like playing in the balls at Mc Donalds play pin but only way cooler. The cotton was so soft, but still in its natural condition with its dry open shell still attached and seeds deeply embedded within each bulb. The smell was natural as well; it is almost indescribable; but it always reminded me of the farm. After it had been sucked up through the large pipe at the gin and processed through machinery, the natural smell was lost. Before we arrived at the gin, my sister and I would dig tunnels throughout the pile of cotton and try to find our way to the base of the trailer. We would run around and loose our legs in the soft field of cotton pillows before we could reach the other end. It was a fun memory that I will never forget. I believe the best part about it is the imprint is has left on my life; where I could never forget how it made me feel, the taste of the air, the smell of the fresh cotton, the soft tough against my skin, and the loud sound of the cotton pickers lifting up the basket and dumping the cotton into the trailers. Any architecture that has a profound experience like this will leave an everlasting imprint as well.