The title of my Talk : Silence, Lines, Woven Operations, and Fractals. These are operations that make architecture. Lines and fractals speak to mathematics. Mathematics is basic to Architecture. In the Medieval Era, Architects participated in guilds. Guilds passed knowledge about building, based on sacred geometries, from generation to generation. They used knowledge about geometry and stone to build structures – Cathedrals - that we would be unable to build as stone-masonry today.
Silence and Woven Operations - speak to my Philosophical position of design. I prefer to be ‘Silent’, but thoughtful, in my use of materials, mathematics, and form. I foster ‘silence’ in my work by using ‘woven operations’ to make buildings that blend into environments.
SEMPER: In order to achieve Mathematical and philosophical Goals as architects hMa uses a series of Tools: I am presenting 6 Tools, represented by the letters : S E M P E R.
Design Tools Represented by SEMPER:
Systems - refers to mathematics and numerical concepts.
Energy - contemporary Architecture deals directly with Energy in ways that buildings in the past did not. Today - Energy and Energy Systems Drive Programs.
Materiality – how we relate buildings to sites.
Program - how a building ‘speaks’ to its users -
- by creating ‘Silence’ at Won Buddhist Retreat;
- By creating open conversations through concrete tube connectors between floors - at Infinity Chapel.
Education – Architecture is ‘Education’. Medieval cathedrals were historical chronicles of towns where they were built. Contemporary architecture is, likewise, a chronicle of modern life.
Research - In a fast changing world - it requires constant research for architects to maintain a relevant Practice.
I want to go into Greater Detail about Each of these Operations
Infinity Chapel - Geometrically formed series of surfaces designed to frame light. The surfaces reference an idea about the 4th Dimension (time) through ts form (hyper-cube), and through the movement of daylight. The Chapel is a series of spherical shapes set within a rectangular building envelop.
The Chapel design includes ‘Sound and Light Wells’ - concrete boxes - that connect a street-level Chapel and Reading Room to a Basement Sunday School below. They also mark a path - from MacDougal Street, through a Reading Room, to the Chapel.
‘Sound and light wells’ cut through the floor of the building, and connect the entire compound visually, and through sound.
In contrast to the Dynamic nature of Infinity Chapel hMa’s Won Buddhist Meditation Hall is designed for stillness, underlined by Silence. The Won Buddhists requested a program of Silence for a simple rectangular building for Meditation.
On the same site, hMa designed four dynamic buildings with fractal roofs where architecture uses the dynamism of fractal form to sponsor walking meditation through landscape.
‘Systems’ – can include Game Theory. Games sponsor movement.
This shows John Cage a Composer, and Marcel Duchamp, a Visual Artist, possibly the two most important Artists of the 20th Century - playing chess. Duchamp and Cage saw Chess as a way of understanding the world through an aesthetic system – a series of decisions related to program - governed by the cartesian grid –
Chess, like architecture, demands that whoever plays has the ability to calculate the ramifications of movement through space, several steps ahead. I love the work of Duchamp also because I love his concept of ‘Infrathin’, and its application to Space and Spatial systems of Design. I love Cage’s sound creations - a body of work based on a counter-point to the idea of ‘Silence’.
These 2 concepts – Infrathin - or Infinitely thin space;and Silence - have reverberated through my work as an architect.
Contemporary artists use systems to generate algorithmic interpretations of materials and space. At MIT, Skylar Tibbitts and his SJET Lab - create self-Assembling- programmable objects with the potential to redefine our concept of sculpture, materials, and construction. Tibbits is stretching the limits of art and space - to include infinite variations of program and materiality through his application of mobility and movement to materials
This is a Project I will return to in Greater Detail: ‘Contains Real Hard Won Insight’ - a Text-based Sculpture to be built out of laser-cut steel and a collaboration between hMa and Bruce Pearson. Bruce is an Artist whose paintings embed hidden text within complex, fractal forms.
In our collaboration, the Text is constructed as an 8’ high steel spiral in the landscape. You walk a dynamic double spiral path and the experience is activated, simultaneously, by reading, and being embedded within, a text. In addition, the text itself – is embedded within a system of fractal shapes and the fractals have an equivalent importance to the text.
Movement through the piece is active through the dynamic shape of the walk ; the fractal form of Bruce’s art; and the text itself.
The spiral is in contrast to the horizontal, static nature of a Line, demonstrated by another project I will return to: Bridge - Studio. In this case a Linear Wood Frame building is a linear bridge, used as a writing and painting studio. The concept was to fabricate a Line or Plane in landscape.
A line is ‘zero’ - because it has no thickness - but is also Infinite – because it extends in both directions without end.