Paseo Penasco House

Studio project at The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), instructor Ramiro Diaz-Granados, 2015

Our relationship with the architecture of the home has often been one of self-affirmation. Man becomes master of his domain, his property, his home. It is with more than a mere etymological bond that entangles architecture (the “domus”) domesticity. Domesticity is an explicit problem of Architecture. It’s about time that architecture decenter, destabilize and decouple the numbly comfortable proximity between our expectations of a space and its realization through material, form and content.

This is an argument for an architecture which prolongs the sensorial exposure between the subject and a space, which draws out our comprehension of what’s before us in order to suspend the complacencies we have come to expect of a home. More than the mere quest for an unfamiliar building, this excavates the possibility of a space that challenges domesticity and the presumptions, malices and addictions that come along with it.

We sometimes presume that a house exists to attend to us. We subordinate the architecture to a certain kind of servitude to our latent cultural expectations. Foyers are for collecting the many shoes we’ve bought for our family, bay windows are for gazing across the lawn onto our colleagues, who by chance inhabit an identical but differently painted version of our dream. We are Behr Premium Plus #M270-3 Cream Custard, they are Benjamin Moore Opal Essence 680 – no more, no less. Perhaps, a house might aspire not be the backdrop to our homely fantasies but to engage us as people, subjects capable to thinking as they establish independent, experience-driven positions within the world.

This is therefore a problem of displacing the centrality of a space and our anticipations for it. This is about creating a space for living that protracts the immediacy of what we expect. Edges, corners and cusps draw back just as they capture our attention to invert the affinity in legibility between a form and its contours.

In the domestic space of the house, this articulation of geometry becomes increasingly important to be understood in contrast to those areas left more abstract, more clearly un-transformed. The outermost peripheries of the building harbor few formal manipulations, suggesting the basic principle forms from which they derived.

Axonometric diagram detailing the primary tightly controlled tangencies of an intersecting set of conical geometries employed to bend the space of the central entry point into the home

Their combination at the center of the house into a singular, multipolar space of intense formal manipulation is constantly set in juxtaposition to these comparatively austere peripheries. In so doing, the conic distortions that define the form of the house not only create spaces of interesting architectural expression but directly index the transformational language, or rather grammar, that constitutes the overall character of the building.

At many moments, their superimposition with the banal requirements of architecture, be those the rise-over-run of a staircase or the necessity to provide daylight light into interior spaces, provides opportunities to reconsider the everyday elements of building. In lieu of entirely redefining the nature of a step or window, the house proposes to envision them at a slight adjacency to the complacency with which we typically pass them by without note.

While a clear, geometric foundation provides a framework for us to nurture an understanding of what we encounter, the rules of the game quickly unravel at the very moment we presume they have exhausted their explanatory potential – a wall torts into a ceiling and then into a floor, a rectangular opening on one side of a partition squirms around into a figural yet ambiguous slice along the other.

Axonometric process diagrams detailing the multi-step process of transfiguring standard architectural elements (here a wall with a window) through the subtle imposition of conical geometries

The typical repertoire of architectural elements defy obedience in order to confront the form-function connotations we have confined them to.

Every moment of this house is calibrated to its ability at performing these tasks. A winding driveway cuts slowly between an artificial ground and an existing topography, prolonging the full perception of the building’s tilted bars and supple tangencies. The individual perspective is constantly made incapable of gathering the totality of what we encounter.

Even once we do manage to confront the it, a series of tightly choreographed moves fracture our capacity to understand the house in its whole from any one angle.

The alignment of windows across masses, the conic stitching of their intersections and unexpected seam languages these produce all obscure concrete readings.

Model photographs, large scale paper model made to study the geometries of the core, particularly in the case of calibrating the tangencies of surface and edge that give the space the relentless restlessness which beguiles its understanding as the homogenous static center we might otherwise expect of the typical American household

What appears to be two bars from one perspective dissolves into two in another. Where we thought we found an edge, we move only slightly to reveal that it is actually a smooth transition along two faces.

Axonometrics, principle structural, skin and finish layers constituting the house

In doing so, this project posits that the line between form and shape is not tensile and crisp but swerving and blurred. The legibility of any “proper” shape is thoroughly withheld to the extent that we never manage to assemble a singular reading. Clearly defined bars entangle with one another such that we are incapable of enumerating exactly how many bars there are. On the interior, rectangular voids slice through deep poché to emerge as figural profiles.

The encounter between the subject and the house becomes a cinematic experience. One is provoked to reorient oneself, to crosscheck constantly a fluid understanding of the house’s nature, and thus also of the nature of its modes of inhabitation and its content. In the place of social center like the fireplace or the living room, one instead finds circulation.

The home becomes a realm of withheld expectations, a space which continually displaces itself at the very moment we believe we have come truly to perceive it.

Model photographs, various moments around the relatively straightforward steel structural system

These methods recast the typified roles of a house and thus liberate its inhabitants from the overwrought narrative that domesticity asserts on the home.

We explore a space of uprooted expectations, uneasy forms and non-conventional programming in the hopes that we productively disorient ourselves, that when we do come to realize what our home might be, we see anew its resistance to be defined, its refusal to be dogmatized.