DSGN4200/6100: Advanced Studio Elective

Trans/cross/dis-programming: virtue of indeterminacy and contamination in urban architecture


"If architecture is both concept and experience, space and use, structure and superficial image —non-hierarchically—then architecture should cease to separate these categories and instead merge them into unprecedented combinations of programs and spaces.”

Bernard Tschumi, “Architecture and Disjunction”

In his influential book Architecture and Disjunction, Bernard Tschumi points out the historical and philosophical dilemma of architecture by referring to Walter Benjamin’s analysis in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility. According to Benjamin, the esthetic experience consists of keeping the sense of de-familiarization alive, as contrasted to its opposite; familiarization and security. Tschumi asks: “Is the experience of architecture something that is meant to defamiliarize —let’s say, a form of “art”— or, on the contrary, is it something that is meant to be comforting, heimlich, homely: something that protects?”

This studio will aim to examine this seemingly contradictory role architecture plays in the large urban context by leveraging participation in the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition. This competition is the Institute’s ongoing effort to raise interest among young professionals in creating better communities, improving development patterns and increasing awareness for multidisciplinary solutions to development and design challenges in our cities.

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The first two weeks of the semester will be dedicated to design preparation and submission for the competition in conjunction/collaboration with the MSRED students led by Professor Chris Calotte and LSU Landscape Architecture students led by Professor Elizabeth Mossop. It provides the opportunity for architecture students to become acquainted with the pro-forma driven, pragmatic and “secure” approach to urban design, a perfect backdrop in exploring the architecture’s esthetic potential.

For the remainder of the semester the studio will investigate opportunities to mine this esthetic potential through the idea of “indeterminacy” and “contamination” in architectural programing. The concept will then be developed into a design proposal and will be tested against the contextual framework provided by the competition.

Design performance is an empirical process of improvisation and adjustment through trial and error, which is a process of self-discovery. “Student Performance” in the studio is evaluated as such. Disciplined, self-directed recovery from a spectacular error is valued over mediocre success via merely following the instructions.

Michigan Theater Parking Garage - Historic Theater converted into a parking structure

Photo: Robert Polidori / http://www.mbart.com

Triple Bridge Gateways / Port Authority Bus Terminal 

Photo: Tsubaki ©