ΑΑ First Year Studio – Term 2, Brief 1
Tutor: Ryan Neiheiser

Napat Chayochaichana, Marion Beatrice Edmee Delaporte, Minju Kim, Tanya Lee-Monteiro, Chak Hin Leung, Tzu-hsiang (Andy) Lin, Ananya Nevatia, Natalia Pereverzina, Jonas Phillip Simon Popp, Jocelyn Patricia Tang, Zi Ken Toh, Xiaohan (Sharon) Yin, Alix Marie Biehler

How do we make sense of the public spaces of our city? How do we comprehend the shape of a space with no exterior, an inside with no outside?

If public space is understood as a kind of void (whether urban voids in the form of a public square or park, literal voids in the earth as with a tube station, spatial voids in extra-large works of architecture, or simply public voids in the increasingly privatized built environment), how does the public spectator conceptualize (and therefore stake ownership in) this type of formless interiorized space? The challenge is that there is no way to get any distance from these void spaces, no exterior vantage from which to “take it all in.” The single gestalt or plan view denied, the public spectator is forced to move through the space in time, comparing current views to previous ones and then assembling these collected memories together, with the hope that comprehension will emerge from a sort of parallax of spatial observations.

Yve-Alain Bois has traced the emergence and evolution of this radical concept of space, one legible only to the moving spectator. In his article “A Picturesque Stroll Around Clara-Clara” of 1983, Bois identifies a strand of thought working against the classical notion of a unified, a priori sense of space and suggests in its place what he calls a modern picturesque space. He writes, “this space, from Rodin to Serra, is one of passage and displacement from the center, a space interrupted by the discontinuous time of involuntary memory, a slender space whose divergences it is up to the spectator to explore, while eventually connecting its threads for himself.” Legibility in this case demands an active engagement between spectator and space – a desire to participate in the making of one’s surroundings, a willingness to operate on the boundary between sense and non-sense.

This past spring, thirteen first year students tried to make sense of six well-known public voids in London – The Tube: Oxford Circus Station, The Garden: Barbican Centre Gardens, The Square: Trafalgar Square, The Market: Borough Market, The Street: Regent Street at Piccadilly Circus, and The Public Institution: The British Museum – using a range of mapping and representational strategies. All started from experience, looking and moving and thinking and looking again. These spatial observations were then translated into plans, films, unfolded elevations, written descriptions, and models. Colored by our wandering minds and inflected by the particular capacities of our individual bodies, the shapes we described were often unexpected; fleeting, discontinuous, and sometimes jarring projections of our participation in the city.

The Measured Territory: physical movement as drawing.
The Cinematic Gaze: visual sequence as experience.
The Elusive Object: digitally modeled and 3d printed volumes of the void.