1.1: SounD; Word; PLan
4.023, FALL 2019
Our first exercise in studio was to develop a narrative based off a 13 minute, 45 second soundscape. The sounds were both unusual yet hauntingly familiar — the sounds of everyday life, but disembodied; echoing in spaces I didn’t know. In a way, I felt blind, despite the images that filled my head with increasing clarity the more I listened to the audio track.
I deeply appreciated this way of beginning a studio project. It was quite unexpected, yet questions the fundamental assumptions we make about architecture and architecture education. First, a visual medium must not necessarily draw inspiration from another visual medium. So much of what we experience is absorbed through our ears, noses, and taste buds, yet is pushed aside when it comes to inspiring the very spaces we inhabit.
The impression the sounds made on me was less literal than sentimental. I experienced loneliness listening to that recording, the singular loneliness of being surrounded by other people doing similar things, but not sharing their camaraderie or their affection. The loneliness of an outsider. Gradually, as images of a construction site appeared in my mind, this sentiment suffused the space with a particular gloom, informed the size of its rooms and the length of passages between them.
In order to summarise all these thoughts, I broke the recording up into acts and analysed each in its own powerpoint slide. This is my interpretation of what I heard, it may well be that you hear something else. (Amusingly, one sound most of the class interpreted as a blender I envision as being a circular saw. In fact, I am 99.95% sure it is a circular saw. We shall see once all is revealed later in the semester. If all is ever revealed. Perhaps it will remain a mystery?)
To make a long story short… I got entirely carried away by this and wrote a dystopian narrative set in an underground cavern, excavated and inhabited by a steampunk machine of implied sentience, and shared by the human equivalent of worker bees (it makes more sense when you read it!). Notwithstanding this unnecessary worldbuilding, I proceeded to design a cavern system that could house this narrative.
My primary design constraint turned out to be the scale of the drawing. At ¼” scale (¼” = 1’), a 11”x17” piece of paper suddenly becomes a very small canvas on which to map out a vision for a dystopian world. This troubled me greatly, and my machines turned out much smaller than I would have liked (2’ diameter as opposed to 6' or so), but in another respect, this emphasised the nature of the space as one in which humans are convenient assets and therefore tolerated, but not primarily accommodated for.
One of the purposes of the assignment was to familiarise ourselves and experiment with the conventions of drawing plans. It was illuminating that the more I researched convention, the better I was able to express my thoughts in the diagram.
One of my favourite additions was Chris’ (my instructor's) suggestion to draw the plan on vellum. This allowed me to import the basic geometries into photoshop, and block out the three levels of my plan in different colours. By placing this second image under my plan, I was able to significantly increase its legibility as a series of underground spaces.
A series of contextualisation sketches and thoughts
Ultimate concept sketch
Tracing paper drafts
As I was explaining my diagram in the review, I recognised a couple of aspects that I could improve in the next iteration:
For the purposes of my drawing, I chose to focus more on the materiality of the walls than what they contained. I was especially interested in showing how they were formed progressively refined (tunnels becoming orthogonal rooms) than the actual objects in the spaces. While this exploration was present, the transition as I depicted it could have been more gradual.
In order to represent the machined nature of the space, I used repeating geometries e.g. circles, tunnels. In the lower right corner of my diagram, however, a space I called the “atrium” broke this rule. The fractal nature of the tunnels would have been enhanced if I had been more consistent.
Further considerations for the future of this project build on how I made the material of the building almost a character in the story: it affects the soundscape by echoing and insulating in different ways. In addition to there being a visual transition, there would be an audible transition between cleared zones and rougher zones. It will be interesting to experiment with how they assemble and relate to each other.
Image highlighting construction lines and lower layer