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understanding dissonance and the translation to an architectural tool




puncture climax









table of contents abstract




program analysis


thesis studio (first semester)


final drawings thesis studio (second semester) final drawings


30 48 52

acknowledgements I would like to thank my family for the support and love they have given me through my whole career here at Auburn, and also all of my classmates. The memories with APT. 5 will stay with me for the rest of my days. And, also to my professors that have given me the inspiration and much needed criticism to shape who i am as a designer. Thank you.



the goal of understanding how to use dissonance as an architectural tool is to is to exploit the relationships built on tension between two objects. there are typically two ways to understand a building in context. it either fades into the context, be it historical, material, or spacial in manner. or, to stand out amongst others in order to spark tension or conflict that can produce from that a beauty that would not have otherwise been possible. the basis for both of my thesis semesters is to experience both of these through the use of dissonance.



an exploration of dissonance”

Montgomery, Alabama can be described as a static city; one that has been cast into place, not to move or change since its last significant event. It settles quietly and without commotion. My thesis is an exploration of how the introduction of an architecture unfamiliar can begin to chisel away at the cast block turning static mass into a city, place, or building with direction, interest, and emotion. The current urban condition in Montgomery is problematic in that it is a perpetually motionless container. It contains habits of a disinterested public. People drive to work for the usual nine to five, eat lunch, and then go home. The experience of the city for most is their walk from the parking deck to work. Events do take place within the city, such as concerts under the river venue, symphony performances, and Biscuits baseball games. But, all at once the city empties again. The interest and commotion lasts for only for a moment. So then, a question arises about the difference between the architecture and the content. If there are events and concerts and jobs to attract the public into the city, is it the architecture that lets them leave?

1. Kamien, Roger (2008). Music: An Appreciation, 6th Brief Edition, p.41


The architecture in Montgomery is a visual time line. It starts around the 1890s along Dexter Avenue and sort of skips to the mid-seventies at the end with the court house and civic building. There is charm all through these buildings, but is instantly lost due to the width of the streets. Scale and distances are awkward, and buildings do not invite you in along their ground floors. The vacant buildings seem to offer more than the rest at some points due to their lack of content. One is able to imagine multiple uses (contents) within an enclosure versus pairing one with the other. Now separated, each holds its own importance. I believe this disconnect can be used in an advantageous way. So, if it is about establishing strategic disconnects, there needs to be a structure to it all. There needs to be dissonance. I’ll start by defining dissonance in its typical use. “An unstable tone combination is a dissonance; its tension demands an onward motion to a stable chord. Thus dissonant chords are ‘active’; traditionally they have been considered harsh and have expressed pain, grief, and conflict.” 1 Dissonance often carries negative connotations with it, but it really shouldn’t.

It should be understood as a tool used for adding a level of complexity to what it was applied to. It gives what came before it and what came after it a new level of importance or significance. Be it an augmented fifth or a complementary color, it provides a spatial tension between two things that were previously considered flat. Dissonance though, is not unmeasured or imprecise. It holds a measurable value and therefore is used strategically and with calculation. In music, the distance between notes and chords are measured in intervals or steps. This distance is what dictates the dissonance or consonance. Much like in music, color theory also has measurable dissonance based on the difference between two colors’ lightness, saturation, hue, tint, and shade. The question then became about how to apply my understanding of dissonance into an architectural strategy. Now that I’ve defined dissonance in its common use, I’m going to extract three elements that are inherently applicable to architecture and Montgomery. These elements are simple in their definitions, but complex in their relation to one another and architecture: reduce the static nature of the city,

provide “event” architecture, and have an emphasis on complexity and relation. Note that these elements are sequential in a way in how one element corresponds with the previous one. Dissonance reduces static due to its inherent propelling nature. Along a static melody or chord, the introduction of a dissonant element breaks monotony just as it might in any architecturally static condition. “Event” can be understood as any moment that causes additional thought about a previous experience and can be the literal sense of the word in which an “event” would physically take place.¬ “Event” is also directly related to static in the in the sense that it is a form of static reduction simply though its occurrence. And finally, having an emphasis on complexity and relation is to say that there exists relationships between spaces or architectural elements that become complex due to their individual state and their juxtapositions with one another. “There is no architecture without action, no architecture without events, no architecture without program. By extension, there is no architecture without violence” (Tschumi) 2. Montgomery is missing these elements, therefore Montgomery is missing dissonance.

2. Bernard Tschumi, “Architecture and Disjunction” (1994), p.121


I will now speak to each tier of dissonance in relation to architecture and Montgomery with other architectural topics I find synonymous with the related tier. [Static]: lacking movement, development, or vitality. Static has become an accepted norm in Montgomery. Common are still streets and empty buildings, in yet it is our state capitol and site to many profound events such as the start of the civil war. It is caught in a stasis, meaning it is caught between its history and ideals (the master plan). Montgomery is built upon already proven thoughts and architectural concepts that have forced the continuation of the static state. Instead of expanding the wall outward, they built up. To build a wall outward, there has to be a break or disruption and then a point of mending, while building up requires no new technology or methodology, just a taller ladder. “Architecture must remain experimental and open to new ideas and aspirations in the face of conservative forces that constantly push it toward the already proven, already built, and already thought. Architects must explore the not yet felt” (Holl). 3

3. Steven Holl, “Idea, Phenomenon, and Material” The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century, (2003) p.27


When speaking to dissonance, this quote inspired a rhetoric to begin exploring the methodology of reducing static. “Already proven, built, and thought,” I began to understand as a brick wall. I think the brick wall is a perfect metaphor for the city of Montgomery. It is old, strong, beautiful, simple, heavy, and local. But, it has been rehashed and cheapened over the years. A new brick wall hardly resembles any of these adjectives. It became a hollow attempt at resurrecting the city’s vibrant past. So then, it became static. To reduce the static of this “already built,” new concepts and ideas should be implemented to produce a new condition. Puncture, overlap, and occupy are all conditions that do not naturally occur when discussing a brick wall. Puncture for example deals with creating an opening in the brick wall. Not in the sense as a window though, a window has nothing to do with the brick wall, it only is in relation to the space directly behind the wall. Puncture in the sense of reducing static has to take into account the wall itself. It is now about creating a reveal between yourself, the wall, and the event that can be experienced from either interior or exterior. It is dissonance as subtraction.

Overlap, then becomes about addition. The addition of physical materials or the overlapping of micro intensities that are only understood or experienced at the level of a detail can blur the static. Blur being a way to alter static. As in music, where scales can be overlapped to create new harmonic possibilities that spawn new genres, scale and material can be overlapped to create new spatial qualities. To further break down the static nature of the brick wall, “occupy” can be introduced. Occupy represents the physical presence of people amongst this wall. The visible circulation in-between spaces, the visible pause, the physical occupation of poché all create dissonance that transform a once static wall into an active and dynamic architectural element. I like to think of these three elements in the same sense that Thom Mayne speaks about “connected isolation.”


coherent whole. Time and movement become the subject of visual analysis. The use of multiple objects places value on the in-between.” 4

“The more systematic elements of the project provide a background for accidents and the exploitation of chance, there is a relationship between the insistence of repetition and the notion of simultaneous visual motion. A series of isolated phenomena are integrated into a

The brick wall is systematic in its understanding of force and construction, just as Montgomery is systematic in its operation as a city. Therefore the city should strive to create moments of tension between elements; forcing out these “isolated phenomena” and producing a staticless relationship between them that binds them into a new whole. [Event]: in relativity, an occurrence that is sharply localized in space and instant of time. “Event” is meant to be understood in the literal sense of the word, but also in the sense of “event of thought”. Studying Tschumi, architecture cannot exist without events. It is to be seen as an accumulation of movement, space, and event. I think that there is a realization that the physical architecture and the program, or what happens behind the façade, are becoming increasingly dissociated. So what does that make “event architecture”? It is architecture that provides a moment of realization, or as Tschumi calls it, “shock”. 5

4. Thom Mayne, “Connected Isolation”, Architecture in Transition, Between Deconstruction and New Urbanism (1991) p. 84

5. Tschumi’s vocabulary. I believe stemming from his essays on violent architecture.

It is when the architecture and content part to encourage a rethinking or formulation of thought that transcends current and pushes you forward. It is not logical in sequence just as the chord progression in “Giant Steps” is not logical. 6 Each chord substitution in the melody came about as events. As Tschumi tells us,

“Foucault says an event is not simply a logical sequence of words, but rather “the moment of erosion, collapse, questioning or problematization of the very assumptions of the setting within which a drama may take place – occasioning the chance or possibility of another different setting.” 7

So again, “event” can be a moment of realization, shock, thought, or invention. It can be profound, such as entering the Pantheon and witnessing that volume being pierced by light, or as profound as leaning along a wall that’s been raised off of the ground with shadows dancing past your feet. Both moments provide a collision of space and event and light that throw out any notion of linearity of time and yourself. In respect to a city

6.The changes are substituted to add harmonic values ii | * | * V | I* | ii |* | * V | I* | | Em7 F7 | BbM7 Db7 | GbM7 A7 | DM7 | Dm7 Eb7 | AbM7 B7 | EM7 G7 | CM7


such as Montgomery, the goal should not be to focus the condition of construction, but rather focus on constructing these conditions that will “dislocate” traditional and common and static aspects of the society and then reorganize or redistribute these elements so that our experience becomes the events themselves, strategically placed through architecture. 8 [Complex]ity: a group of obviously related units of which the degree and nature of the relationship is imperfectly known. Complexity is easily a byproduct of dissonance due to its nature. Music is a complex relationship of time (the meter and tempo) and space (the intervals between each note or chord); but yet, any “old pro” will say “you just have to feel it man”, when asked about the manner in which to play a hard lick. It can be calculated and then written in a universal language, but must be “felt” in order to play. Architecturally though, the notion of complexity becomes increasingly harder to describe the longer I’ve been in school. I thought it was about form. I would say, “Thom Mayne creates complex forms, thus complex architecture.” Then it became about material and structure. So, in my mind I had already started to 7. Bernard Tschumi, “Event Architecture”, Architecture in Transition, Between Deconstruction and New Urbanism (1991), p.127 8. Bernard Tschumi, “Event Architecture”, Architecture in Transition, Between Deconstruction and New Urbanism (1991), p.130

So, in my mind I had already started to fragment architecture itself. Form separate from material, separate from structure. Now, after countless hours...or minutes… listening to YouTube clips, and rereading the same paragraph about Derrida over and over, I would say that it becomes about what I had mentioned in the beginning of the paper. It is about the separation of the physical architecture and the content. Before, complex form denoted complex content or event. But really it is the relationship between the two that creates complexity. “When the level of complexity is such, we can no longer differentiate ourselves from the thing that we are looking at. We have become emotional about it, further blurring the line between inside and outside, between us and the world.” - Mark Wigley 9 It is relationship based, so they varying degree of emotion then becomes the varying degree of complexity between a space and content or a building and self. I argue that Montgomery needs this complexity in its architecture to ensure the public’s emotional tie to the city. People can have their emotional ties to the history of the city but then where


9. CriticalThoughtTV, “Mark Wigley | Architectural Theory: A Room by Any Other Name?”, YouTube.

does that leave the physical material? It should be about having an emotional tie to an experience brought about through architecture. And so, I would note that complexity is maybe the relationship of the first two elements, “reducing static” and “event”. “Reducing static” representing the sort of physical aspect. It is the envelope being punctured. “Event” represents the content or experience. “Complexity” then, is the emotion joining the two. To that, I would have to say, “you just have to feel it man.” In closing, I reiterate that in this paper, “dissonnance” has been broken down into a three tier approach to architecture and the city of Montgomery. I say tier because each element works with the others. At all times, static exists; therefore, needs to be broken. Once broken, opportunities and accidents arise to create “event”; and then, complexity is created due to the very existaance of the first two. That moment of complexity and emotion are what I want to understand as “dissonant architecture”. Relationships based on opposition and experience that strive to explore endless harmonic possibilities. Where, “tonic” is the city viewed as a foundation with nothing built upon it, and the “7th” being that complex or emotional architecture with no ground in which to sink or float above. Dissonance is needed.

Bibliography Consonance and dissonance. December 4, 2012. http:// (accessed November 9, 2012). CriticalThoughtTV. “Mark Wigley | Architectural Theory: A Room by Any Other Name?” YouTube. july 9, 2012. L5Bos0gXzCNIjj5QErYcK0w. Holl, Steven. “Idea, Phenomenon, and Material.” In The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century, by Bernard Tschumi ed., 26. New York: The Monacelli Press, 2003. Mayne, Thom. “Connected Isolation.” In Architecture in Transition Between Deconstructionism and New Modernism, by P. Noever ed., 73-89. Munich: Prestel, 1991. Tschumi, Bernard. Architecture and Disjunction. Boston: MIT Press, 1994. Tschumi, Bernard. “Event Architecture.” In Architecture in Transition Between Deconstrutivism and New Modernism, by P. Noever ed., 125-131. Munich: Prestel, 1991. Tschumi, Bernard. “Vectors and Envelopes.” In The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century, by Bernard Tschumi ed., 64. New York: The Monacelli Press, 2003.



program analysis precedent studies site documentation

building type research tabular diagram

2000 seats 14


% totals 7.5

theatre lobby

8258 sq ft

first level stalls

9710 sq ft

second level stalls

3600 sq ft

third level stalls

3300 sq ft


4158 sq ft


back/side stage



loading bay

4472 sq ft


front offices/ticket kiosk

1200 sq ft





sound and lighting rooms



mechanical space



building footprint


site totals

115,000 sq ft 110,000 sq ft



building type research Grand Canal Theatre


section diagram


thesis site analysis zoning



thesis site analysis wind diagrams


thesis site analysis sun path diagram


S 20

thesis site analysis important sites


programming diagram

exterior space parking

theatre lobby public seating

mechanical electrical

cafe/shop ticketing

theatre seating

lighting sound rooms

offices kitchen

stage support dressing rooms

loading bay work shop 22


workrooms circulation


thesis studio first semester work


analysis: Comparing the vacancy of montgomery to the poverty level, there is a stark correlation between the two. And, after all having been there, these maps confirm that sense of “deadness� to down town.


concepts and sketches



old site


new site


final drawings











the reduction of an exploration of dissonance:









providing an exploration of dissonance:





now you are here looking at where you were

you are here



emphasis on an exploration of dissonance:



complexity and relation









thesis studio second semester


this is where the project became more about how i could translate dissonance into the building itself. it is now less about tension between the exterior for and its context and more about tension between spaces in the building that can actually be felt. the first semester drawings were of a more graphic representation of dissonance whereas this semester’s drawings are try to display dissonance and tension in a more standard architectural manner; thickness, puncture, and tension become the inspiration.

beginning sketch of outdoor space


fireplace idea. large enough to occupy



final images 1: fountain 2: train station 3: federal court 4: biscuits 5: strange parking deck



2 5


locus plan of montgomery 52

site plan 53



section 55

event level floor plan


balcony level floor plan





the image to the left shows what became the most critical space in the building. i’m calling this space an out door room/ urban street. it is situated on the second level and is meant to be the center of an event held in the auditorium. there is a complexity of relation ships from one side to the other. it is solid vs void - immovable vs occupied - brick vs steel - heavy vs light .





Thesis Book