- Absurd Machine: Project on the National Mall
Speculative research for a public space and forum, conducted at MIT 2012
- America’s symbols of governance, such as the ubiquitous state capitols and state capitol malls, are classically inspired European architecture and planning of reason and nature, adopted in America by Jefferson in 18th century as symbols of democratic institutions. These symbols are in contradiction to our evolving dialogue with democracy that are subject to laws of ‘proper’ use and extreme security. The National Mall as a symbol of democratic values, has been reduced to a synthetic image of stability built upon a preserved image that masks the underlying issues of a compromised territory of, unstable boundaries governed by ad-hoc laws, and privatized overtones that distort the otherwise democratic message embodied by these symbols of governance. Throughout American cities these same conditions are stifling otherwise democratic public spaces.
This thesis articulates the representation of the last democratic space in America, post 9-11, as a critique based proposal that challenges our current and future negotiations with power in the built environment. Recognizing the challenge of a formal intervention upon a contradictory site, the National Mall will serve as the stage for testing a democratic space that communicates the asymmetrical relationships of public’s dialogue with governance in ‘public’ spaces.
While the Mall cannot be upheld as an egalitarian field, objects however can substantiate or infuse a democratic field within. This thesis justifies a form necessary to represent such a space, investigating compromised symbols that can be appropriated and redefined to provide functions and representation of conditions the National Mall distorts. The proposal infuses within the program responses to all major impositions of public spaces as a method of exposing the unstable conditions of democratic values residing on comprised fields. The purpose is not to render an ideal democratic space, but an independently operating machinelike space that highlights the context’s incongruous relationships.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Architecture + Urbanism 2012ADVISORS
Alexander D’Hooghe, MAUD, PhD
Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism
Arindam Dutta, PhD
Associate Professor of the History of Architecture
Julian Beinart, MCP, MArch
Professor of Architecture
- LOCATION FOR A VIEWING MACHINE:BEAUX ARTS AXIS TWISTThe proposed space is located in a prominent place, anchoring itself through framed views to powerful symbols of governance on the Mall. An extension of the beaux arts axis and classical attention to vieLOCATION FOR A VIEWING MACHINE:
- APPROPRIATING AND REDEFINING SYMBOLS: FORMAL MOVES AS CRITIQUE
Recognizable Classical Symbols and Orders are appropriated and redefined as they no longer represent their original intent as democratic institutions. These formal moves then offer a new meaning, to provide functions and representation of conditions the National Mall distorts. A major component in redefining these symbols is taking the most recognizable and repeated facade of governance, and having each abstraction, with classical order and its meaning in mind, serving as a critique of current power relations.
- COMMUNICATION OF ABSTRACTED SYMBOLS AT SCALE OF THE NATIONAL MALL:
The body of the machine from a distance communicates a formal critique residing on a filed that leverages monumental forms and long distances as a display of power. The large field is expansive but the form operates within that field, residing in opposition to the undemocratic conditions, offering just enough abstraction appropriate for the scale of the field and its monuments. A closer view reveals of its difference through use of materials, details and construction.
- COMMUNICATION OF MACHINE TO THE CITY:The new space resides at the intersection of two major streets on the Mall that continue deeper into L’Enfant’s planned city. This location allows for any functions this space offers to be highly visible and accessible, while creating opportunities for unexpected disturbances with everyday drivers and pedestrians. The building is visible not just from the Mall but also from the city as a 24 hour operating machine that could allow for a dialogue with the city’s inhabitants.
- SITE MANIPULATIONS FOR COMPROMISED FIELD (NOT SHOW/EXPLAINED HERE)The intent of the proposal is not focused on rendering an ideal democratic space, but one that questions public’s evolving dialogue with governance and power in open spaces while exposing their asymmetrical relationships. The management and use of the building is focused on responding to those conditions, while creatively subverting and leveraging restrictions imposed by codes and regulations that defy democratic values.
- DIALOGUE CONSTRUCTED THROUGH SPACE:The machine includes certain functions that are resilient overtime and necessary for various uses of the space, such as assembly halls and open meeting spaces. The building is also equipped with programs and functions such as plumbing for restrooms and kitchen, storage, structure to pitch cover and elevators.
- COMMUNICATION OF ABSTRACTED SYMBOLS THROUGH MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTIONA critique of what existing Classical Symbols represent on the Mall is further communicated through the use of materials and construction as a response to the compromised democratic conditions that currently reside on the Mall. The form and use of space, from materials, structure, and program, are redefined to communicate the asymmetrical relationships of public’s dialogue with governance in open democratic spaces.