SHUFFLE / LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
CLIENT: Southern California Institute of Architecture
SITE: SCI-Arc Gallery—concrete and GWB walls and waxed concrete floor
SIZE: 1,500 ft2 (gallery)
COMPLETION: Fall 2004
NOTES: mobile acrylic column forms individually suspended from steel bridge cranes; data and power supplied by festoon system (bridgecrane) and conductor rails (columns)
PROJECT TEXT: from the wall text: “Architecture could be understood as the reification of space, the transformation of the volume of building into the space of architecture. To architects, space is not simply enclosed and can never be adequately explained by its strict boundaries. It is independent of programmatic and functional issues. What concerns the architect is spatial affect, which is the feeling of the immediate experience of space.
Consciousness of spatial affect is not new. It is the Architecture that is handed to architects by other architects. It can be found in the rhythm of the columns that comprise the outer edges of the Parthenon. It can be felt in the pressure of the elliptical plan on the exterior walls of Borromini’s San Carlino. It can be experienced from the mezzanine of Schinkel’s Altes Museum, where the city permeates the interior, and the interior collects the city.
Spatial affect is not simply given as space, and far from easy. As the physical condition of architecture, so it also forms the basis of its critique. When Colin Rowe described Le Corbusier’s Villa Stein at Garches as a “permanent tension between the organized and the apparently fortuitous, …all is clear; but sensuously, all is deeply perplexing,” he referred to its differentiation from the Classical as “spatially audacious.” When John Hejduk built his vocabulary of point-line-plane-volume in the Wall House, he recognized these as “first principles” of architecture—seeing space as a living element and its demarcations as the “possibility for argumentation.” The recognition of spatial affect as a primary condition for architecture drove Peter Eisenman to search out the potential departure from the 9-square in Terragni, and to continuously draw out new formations in Houses I – X.
Recently, the form of critique has turned. Through claims of the supposed dissolution of space, the power of affect has been transferred from the dynamism of the relationship of form to space to that of the object alone. Left to its own devices, the object is supposedly shaped in the vacuum of the virtual. However, to suggest that the virtual eclipses spatial affect is erroneous—space is in fact, alive and well. And to diminish its power is to diminish the power of architecture itself, to imperil that which architecture does.
In this installation, the spatial influence of the column is dramatized. An overhead framework of bridge cranes repositions three simple columns within the gallery to produce different spatial arrangements—among the columns, and between them and the surrounding walls of the space. The column’s traditional structural role is suppressed in this demonstration/experiment, isolating its space-defining nature as the sole variable. In deference to the purity of the experience of their spatial affect, the movement of the columns is not featured despite the clearly expressed means for effecting it. This restraint will be relaxed at the end of the exhibit period, though, in an exuberant performance choreographed for the columns, accompanied by a string quartet.