Home for One

Studio project at The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), instructor Betty Kassis, 2012

This project involved the creation of a small living space within a 9' by 18' by 12' tall site. Inspired by the Box Man, by Kobo Abe, it dealt with the way we interact within a confined space. Sources were drawn from various scopes, spanning from Marc-Antoine Laugier’s “Primitive Hut” to Greg Lynn’s Embryological House.

At a conceptual level, the design evoked an abstraction of an icon. The form interplayed between two sources: a heavily curved interior into which function was inscribed in folds and a rigid exterior derived from the abstraction of the iconic pitched roof, chimney-topped home of suburbia à la America.

Though not required, writing became a massive part of the design process throughout this project. Attached throughout the following pages are some of the writings which contributed to progressing the conceptual bearings around which the project emerged.

On the Abstraction of Architectural Icons

Initial massing models began to explore the abstraction of the iconic form. From the beginning, truncation emerged as an efficient option for handling the representation of the figure without direct, messy iconographic reference. The abstraction of the icon began took on an intentional discourse with the otherwise postmodern approach of using the icon. Instead of interpreting literal architectural elements, such features were treated purely as geometry. In this way, a venturian argument was undermined by a more contemporary approach.

As the form rotates within its confines, its sides are truncated by the boundaries of the lot. These truncations reveal sectional properties of the iconic form. This direct imposition of relation to the environment forces the “house” to interact with its surroundings. It gains viable correlation to its site. Another result of this method of transformation is the form’s new relationship to the ground. While the host, the archetypal figure, has absolute dependency on the ground, the new form has dynamic properties. From different perspectives, it reveals various stances. The form becomes a child of the transformational process taken to create it. It both inherits and exposes the method as well as the relations inherent in the paradigm.

Required in the assignment was the pretense that a work of art be displayed within the home. Instead of singling this piece of art, the small home turned to complete abstraction, much in the same pretenses laid down around the transformation of the iconic form to produce the massing.

Thus, applied to the façade was an abstraction of an iconic image. This was purely for representation purposes. In reality, this would consist of an LED array. The inhabitant would, in turn, be able to update the artwork to his or her please. Perhaps, in another scenario, it could be made to capture a screenshot of the user’s Internet activity. Naughty or nice, this would begin to invert the relationship between the private space of the interior and the public realm of the façade.

On the Abstraction of an Image

Like the archetypal form of the house, the image is also abstracted. In the same way that the final form inherits the “DNA”, an underlying hint of the host geometry, from the figure, the abstracted artwork holds traces of its original. By the choice of the inhabitant, the image takes on a secondary role to relate further the user to the outside world. The image effectively ties the exterior to the interior of the building.

Within the image, a part to whole relationship is created. Additionally, artifacts left behind in the process of abstraction bring new interpretations to the composition as a whole. This interplay between representation and abstraction parallels the aesthetic considerations undergone throughout the form as a whole.

Right: examples of image abstraction, image abstractions applied to the façades of the home, next page: diagram of rotational iterations resulting in various truncations of the icon, following pages: plans and sections, model photos and exploded axonometric

On Our Relationship to the Home

The Western notion of the homestead has been architecturally culminated in the timeless archetype of a pitched-roof, chimney-topped dwelling. This idealistic image has been propagated across the suburbias of our psyche. It fills row beyond row of cloned boxes in the cul-de-sacs of of minds. It numbs us.

Along these suburban streets of our thoughts, hundreds of nuclear families reside within these endless instances. We envy the idealism of their existence, free of the trivial qualities of a real life. All too often, this notion translates poorly into reality. Our suburbs are filled with people too busy, too stressed or too disagreeable to adhere to this false perfection. Why then do our homes continue to resemble the form of a gone hope superficially? Should not our dwellings reflect the suffering which all too often fills them? At least in that case, our environments and our emotions could commiserate.

If we choose not to reembody the annoyances life brings us physically into our built world, then how can we alter what we have? The interjection of a sharp foil to the archetypal form could serve to validate our disappointments. In short, the failure of the conventional form to compensate our emotional requirements necessitates a new dichotomy.

We stand then with two distinct circumstances for the slight salvation of this idealistic mess we have created. First, we may choose to embody our own foibles in the form of our dwelling. Perhaps, in this case, we can seek comfort in knowing that both we and our surroundings feel the same pains. In a more optimistic option, we may abstract the archetype, breaking it from the pitfalls it has collected over the decades. Whichever route we choose, the intrinsic form of the original host figure is changed. At what point do we retain the “DNA” of the form in order to forward a philosophic stance on the issue?

Elevation at Entrance and Sections

On Foibles of the Home

A house cannot mirror the emotions of those living within it. It feels no sympathy to them in that it is not flexible in interpretation. Each room is overly defined by a long cultural epoch, slowly eroding our ability to abstract their functions without guilt.

While its rooms are rarely used for their proper intentions (eating in the bedroom [we’ve all done it], reading in the bathroom or sleeping in the living room), the rigid composition of the interior forces too much upon the user in demands of specific functions. This form rests around a single-surfaced interior. While hinting as to what the user may do, it has no specific demands. In another side of its dynamicism, it hopes to dictate how the user may interact by enveloping him in free-flowing curves.

On another side, she traditional house offers the user a place to compile his collections. In doing so, he sulks away from the world. He builds a world for himself, feigning away from the collectivity of society. He can, if he decides to do so, become a recluse. His personal collections become an egotistical exploration of self-fulfillment. Collections are impossible within the surface. It offers no flat areas on which to accumulate escapes. The user must face only himself once he has entered. Because the surface offers no direct connotations towards its proper use, the choices made by the user reflect for him his own psyche. He has no excuse for his behavior outside his own interactions. The interior functions as a metaphysical mirror.

Perhaps worst, all too often, acting as an oasis from the world, the house has too little relation to anything valid.

So, we truncate the edges of the form to the boundaries of the site. The form is directly forced into a relation with its environment. Doing so, new geometrical properties of the original host are revealed. In particular, diagonally sectional qualities of the form are put forth for discussion.