Marco Ginex and I taught a unit at this year's Architectural Association Visiting School at Tel Aviv university -a 10day workshop- with a brief whose starting point was a found drawing -a large ice-flow survey map of Alexander Island in Antarctica- which was cut into a grid of smaller maps for the students to use as a starting point for their projects. The students were not told what the map was representing, but its rich layers of information necessarily implied the presence of some sort of organising legend, and they were invited to invent their own, but of a twofold kind: first a mythic legend that described a scenario, at a given scale, in the place they imagined to be defined by the various lines on the drawing, and only secondly a quantitative legend that elaborated the form and delineations of that places contents. A process of manual and digital collaging and layering, together with story-writing helped them to enrich their given square in their own way, as well as developing techniques that were immediately taken up in 3d models and larger drawings, culminating in their final, conclusive Souvenirs.
The Intro to the brief is below.
^ before and after the "storm" by Dori Sagan
EXQUISITE SOUVENIRS: GATEWAYS TO THE PLACES BEHIND THE MAPS
“After a tumultuous night traversing strange lands full of wondrous halls, bedecked both with maidens and vaults in equal profusion, as well as terrifying precipices criss‐crossed by folding bridges and twisted towers, David awoke to the sight of the ancient and inscrutable map he kept across from his bed, and about which he had always wondered as to its referents, realising that once again he must have been speculating in his sleep as to the worlds contained therein, until as he rolled over to sleep again, he found a strange object under his sheets which had not been there before, a white confection of forms that could only have come from where he had just awakened. ”
Maps, scientific surveys, even the most pedestrian ones, contain legends and myths. It is in their perfect abstract clarity, their utter extraction of detail and digression that they stimulate our instinct to embellish, elaborate, imagine. And so as contemporary archaeologists of the map, the story, and the machine, we will construct architectural souvenirs of the worlds that we see existing in the interstices of representational abstraction. We will create strange physical artefacts that summarise an imagined hinterland, and which together act as a gateway to a lost/just‐discovered world.
Above are Dori's three stages. The colourful model was his interpretive stage, leading to the black and white drawing that became the map of his storm-space, a detritus laden landscape watched over by huge rusting watch-towers, of indeterminate occupancy, that was drawn up in the two first drawings (and others not shown that depict a full sequence), and modeled through the folded and laser-cut model above.
Noga Smerkowitz's project, which is also the purple-and-yellow model at the bottom, repeated a set of motifs, including a rotated oval, extruded sine and cosine waves, and the curvilenear profiles of topography, across three scales simultaneously: that of the ritual cultic object, that of a building, and that of the landscape. So that her legend was defined by intermingling and cross-referencing objects like the one above which was both a religious object, as well as a vast architectural intervention (purple and yellow model below), and the shape of the ground on which all of these sit.
This colourful beast is Yasmin Schmidt's psychedelic cavern of lurid melancholy, which she navigated through by creating a comic strip that follows the journey of a prototypical subject of this over saturated enviroment, who begins high up surveying the lay of the land, but who unfortunately ends up tumbling helplessly, and endlessly, through the fractal-like fronds of yellow perspex.
Nitzan Sharon produced one piece of a larger game that he was designing on his computer, a three dimensional puzzle garden consisting of grottoes, waterfalls, follies, avenues, and paddocks contained within various cubes whose sides rotate to match up with the sides of their adjacent element, becoming something different depending on which way up they are.
The six images above are of Noa Kedar's exploration of how images and models can simultaneously be seen to be of a vast scale, whilst also being apparently tiny, a bit like the strange scenes one sometimes sees under the microscope where it is not only palpable that there are whole worlds within the head of a pin, but that they look very similar to lunar landscapes, forests, cities...
Below is the intermediate scale of Noga's rotated oval, where the landscale penetrates the interior of what was once able to fit in the plam of a hand, and creates a cascade of iconographic terraces.
A big thank you to all the students, to Chris Pierce for organising the programme, Chris Matthews and Aaron Sprecher for their support, Ruth Kedar and Arthur Mamou-Mani for being so much fun and such inspirations, and to Eran Neuman for bringing the AA in.