SEMESTER II: Entering a New Dimension

14.01.18 Machine-03

Kinetic Sculpture and the Fourth Dimension

A new semester means a slew of new thesis discoveries. In meeting with Marc last week, we decided that my main interests were in creativity and the imagination, and the utopia that exists within those. I’m interested in promoting creativity and the imagination through education, so Marc suggested that I examine the programmatic layout of the Bauhaus and refigure its pedagogical structure in order to create a utopian architecture school.

In diagramming the Bauhaus, I realized that the program could be simplified into these categories: learning, administering, assembling, making, and living. My first instinct in refiguring the program toward utopia was the idea of system, where each activity is influential to the next and all operate in perfect harmony, like a well-oiled machine. Nate said that this sounded like a very socialist ideal, but I began to think about systems or machines of architecture.

I remembered one machine I saw in Germany, which consists of 6 arms holding yellow pieces, that orbit around each other to bring the yellow pieces into the center, and form a little yellow chair. I tried to remember why I was so drawn to this work, and I realized in the moments that the arms are outstretched, there’s wonder as to what the yellow pieces are and if they form anything. It is a disrupted object that stimulates imagination in its fragments.

I further researched this machine from Germany and found that it is by Arthur Ganson, a kinetic sculptor or gestural engineer. He makes machines that do nothing, but feels that once the machine is perceived and someone brings it into their own mind, it can be anything. It turns out all of Arthur’s kinetic sculptures are on display at the MIT Museum, so I went there on Tuesday and interacted with them.

I realized also that my fixation with these machines relates back to my fixation with Constructivism and Suprematism. Constructivists and Suprematists were both interested in kinetic sculpture because it embodied the fourth dimension. Many say that the fourth dimension is time, but it actually just allows the third dimension to change and move, as in space-time. An example of this is in Rodchenko’s spatial constructions, where the form perpetually changes. In physics, the fourth dimension is described as any space that is perpendicular to a cube, but most of us cannot visualize this concept. Thus in art, it exists in kinetic sculpture. From a 2012 article in Universitas, “This ever-changing sculpture illustrates a major fourth dimensional concept, which was that the fourth dimension was completely beyond all possible imagination and one could only ever envision fragments of that dimension.”

To bring this back to the Bauhaus, much of this theory was happening during the time of Kandinsky’s teaching there, which sought the reconstruction of “form” in arts such as painting, sculpting, music, and theater. A spatial fourth dimension had already worked its way into popular literature, such as H.G. Well’s The Time Machine (coincidentally, a dystopian novel). Because the concepts of the fourth dimension have been so influential to the arts, I changed the program of the Bauhaus to a Performing Arts center, with the idea that each art can influence the others. In terms of site, I was thinking this project could exist in a scaleless wormhole within the Bauhaus, or another institutional building like the Carpenter Center. I think this whole time I’ve been using utopia as an imagined place, but I think instead the fourth dimension is a more accurate term. “Utopia” means “imagined place” and in this case, the imagined place is the fourth dimension.

PART I: Designing from the Inside Out

IMG_9814b

My view within the Pantheon, experiencing the interplay between both light and dark spaces.

Interplay and Interpretation: a response to the in-between

Interplay, interaction, interpretation: all words that etymologically imply a coming together, or an in-between. The class Architecture from the Inside Out has already begun to heighten my awareness of the importance of an interior/exterior relationship in architectural design. From readings by authors like Henri Lefebvre, Siegfried Geidion, and Bruno Zevi to name a few, and Workshop I, I am interested in furthering this awareness. It is easy to look at these inside/outside spaces as two separate entities, perhaps different environmentally or volumetrically. But easy is boring. Instead, consider the excitement of the intermediate space, the experience of being in two spaces at once, and the interplay of one space communicating with another.

Architecture is such interplay between forces. To Le Corbusier, it was a confrontation between geometric and organic forms (Geideon 54). To Giacometti, the sculptor, it was the play between primitive forms and space (47). Interplay is not merely the way in which these forces have an effect on each other, but the result of such an interaction. Le Corbusier did not choose either form, but found non-hierarchical reconciliation between the rational and the organic, as exhibited in La Tourette (55). The same can be applied to our perception of inside and outside, combatting an either/or relationship with a question of the in-between.

Interplay in architecture can be described in many ways. “The whole history of life has been characterized by an incessant diversification and intensification of the interaction between inside and outside,” according to The Production of Space (Lefebvre 176). The idea that the interior and the exterior are both spaces that should be in constant communication with each other is important, because it seems humans are unable to spend as much time outside as we do inside. The result of interplay here, suggests a transition, spatial or objective. A window is one such instance, “as a transitional object, it has two senses, two orientations: from inside to outside, and from outside to inside” (209). The oculus of the Pantheon is a strong example of the transitional object, as a space is found within the light of the oculus and the dark of the dome that is neither in nor out. The Modern Language of Architecture explains the concept of interplay as, “the idea of continuous flow between inner and outer space,” made concrete in the Gothic Cathedrals (Zevi 49). In Space, Time and Architecture, Siegfried Geidion describes the interplay between volumes and space as the first stage of architectural development (Geidion 55). Interpreting these philosophies as my own, I find architectural development should consider “spatial volumes” and “volumetric spaces”. For example, in Workshop I, my design centered around the concept of a spatial shelf, which not only used volume to divide the service program from the public program, but also provided spaces within the volume for seating.

Architecture is also interpretive. These interpretations of interplay provide architecture with diverse methods of design. Having a blurred understanding of inside and outside allows for unexpected experiences by the user. My interest in interpretation developed through my initial thesis research, which looked into artworks that are devoid of scale and context. Suprematism is a multi-interpretive art and wavers between image and object. This wavering creates interplay between dimensions, where an object sometimes appears two-dimensionally and an image other times three-dimensionally. By providing multi-interpretive designs, interplay is stimulating to the imagination. My thesis currently takes interest in stimulating the imagination; therefore using interplay to create blurred space is a technique I can venture this semester.

Using these concepts of interplay and interpretation in my future processes of design can influence unexpected results. Designing from the inside out is important because it provides the user with the most functional interior environment to fit his/her needs. Conversely, designing from the outside in is important also, because it provides the user with a form, one that houses the necessary program or solves external issues like solar orientation. Unlike Louis Sullivan’s commandment that form ever follows function, architectural design should use the interplay between form and function to generate an architecture that is both practical and beautiful, or imaginative and pragmatic.


 

Geidion, Sigfried. Space, Time and Architecture: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (1969), 5th Edition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2009.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space (1974), translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith,Basil Blackwell Inc., Cambridge, MA, 1991.

Zevi, Bruno. The Modern Language of Architecture, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA, 1978.