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“Each building has a history created by its own fiction and need to demonstrate its philosophy of existence. That fiction is part of the debris of history.� - Anselm Kiefer, Heaven and Earth (2005)

SPECIAL THANKS: Terry Berk (City of Des Moines) Candace Biddle (City of Des Moines) Leslie Forehand (Lecturer | Iowa State University) Danielle Hermann (OPN Architects) Khalid Khan (NeumannMunson Architects) Kevin Lair (Lecturer | Iowa State University) Ross Miller (FormGrey Studio | Mapple Street Construct) Mike Nesbit (Mike Nesbit Studio | LA Artist/Architect) Gregory Palermo (Professor Emeritus | Iowa State University) Ulrike Passe (Associate Professor | Iowa State University) Thomas Prinz (Omaha Artist) Douglas Spencer (Associate Professor - Director of Graduate Education | Iowa State University) Brad Stork (Saul Engineering) Anna Squire (Moddsm)



BRIEF “Air is the primordial element in which spatial productions are founded and contained. It is the site of deliberate and spontaneous transformation, as well as constative and performative relation between a people. Architecture is about constructing the event as much as it is about accommodating and facilitating social formations via the design of specific spatial environments. The air, and its consequent atmosphere, procures and obscures forgotten pasts while eliciting future mediations as a medium that we inhabit and that, likewise, inhabits us. Taking inspiration from Death in Venice, a novel written by German author Thomas Mann, this integrative investigation will delve into issues of beauty and obsession through the development spatial logics in the production of a metaphysical archive and waiting room to be conceived in the context of the Venetian Arsenal (a shipyard founded in early 12th century). The word Metaphysics comes from Ancient Greece and is a combination of two words: Meta meaning over or beyond and physics meaning the physical, material world. By definition (Merriam-Webster), it is a division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology. The project will require an integrative approach to the development of a land/water use plan and the incorporation of various programmatic elements. The initial required text for this studio is Gernot Böhme’s “The Concept of Body as the Nature We Ourselves Are” and “Atmosphere as the Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics” and Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice.” Subsequently we will consider Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” (Beacon Press Books, 1994) - a non-fiction work whereby Bachelard affirms his focus on phenomenology in architecture basing his analysis on the lived experience of architecture. The intersection of self and world may well be the fundamental objective – shifting our focus to include the crafting of a composite realm as well as mastering its various material components of human making. The premise of this project is to position questions about latent desires within contemporary design practices as it relates to aesthetics on a universal scale from an intensely local point of view in addition to producing an innovative architectural practice/proposal. Venice Architecture Biennale (Sep 11-18). This section of Arch 403/603 is designated to represent ISU.CºD.DºA at La Biennale Architettura 2018 – The 15th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice Italy. In Venice, we will form a partnership with the other designated studio, Arch 401 taught by Mikesch Muecke, and with the seminar work of Andrea Wheeler and Firat Erdim and Chair Deborah Hauptmann, and engage the ISU.CºD.DºA Biennale Session. This featured session will consist of two parts: a two-day student workshop that addresses the Biennale theme Freespace; and a one-day colloquium of invited speakers that will address air and atmosphere.”


WAIT Through explorations on the notion that as the self develops, the body deteriorates, we began to question the possible mediums through which the self can exist pertaining to the metaphysical realm. In attempting to combine our ideas into a single drawing, our drawing encompases the notion that “Entropy is intangible, but its effect is very real�. We attempted to portray the energies of decay through the interaction of plaster and water. These experiments were done through three different mediums and are represented in the drawing as the different layers of a Venetian facade. The white lines depict entropy in a physical form which penetrates these layers, causing deterioration to emanate from its touch.

SITE While visiting Venice, we discovered a heterogeneous fabric of urban space reflected in the characteristic of Venice through a layering of historical periods. As a result, Venice has become witness to a layered urban fabric, patching itself up and tearing itself down as time passes. The deterioration that has enacted itself upon the architecture of Venice causes the buildings to inevitably alter over an extended period of time. This change of state not only happens gradually, but also chaotically, where the energy builds upon itself, making the change irreversible. Entropy portrays the metaphysical realm by existing as an energy whose effects are visible but the energy itself is untraced. The city of Venice embodies these forces through the deterioration and rebirth of its architecture, which can easily be seen in the Venetian plaster. Our concept of entropy as a metaphysical energy derives from our observations of the Venetian architecture. Nearly every building showed signs of decay, including revealed structural elements, cracked plaster and stains, and the juxtaposition of the existing with the new. We also observed how Venice treats the decay of the physical city, by “patching� its architecture rather than demolishing and rebuilding it. An intriguing part about this restoration is its spontaneity, where the repairs are unplanned and an array of materials are utilized. The clash of existing and added materials creates an abstract appearance easily disguised to the body as it moves throughout the streets. The deterioration reveals the composition of the existing walls; plaster is cracked, exposing the structural brick along with the reinforcements. The restoration of the architecture is intriguing when the added materials show signs of decay; one cannot determine the restoration from that which has already existed. This assemblage of materials overtakes the original state of the building; gradual and random alterations cause the building to resurface as a new form, while still showcasing its history.

In order to visualize this relationship between entropy and the history of Venice, we constructed a timeline that represents its decay through various events and histories. In our timeline, we combined the history of Venice, the Arsenale, and the levels of deterioration which happened inside these spaces. The level of deterioration strongly impacted by the developmental process which happened inside the city of Venice and the Arsenale can be seen through the various layers of demolition and expansion that the city has undergone. This continual resettlement occurred over the many centuries which followed, causing a layering of both architectural and political history. The Arsenale itself has been witness to some of the most intensive layering of history, housing not only the worlds first weapons factory, but also the stronghold of the military and navy at the time. Situating itself in the Venetian Arsenale, the archive plays off the post-industrial decay which can be seen throughout the site. The architecture in its appearance and function, therefore, would alter the perception of the surrounding deterioration, putting value into the mundane phenomenons that are otherwise unnoticed.

ANALYSIS To push our definition of drawing further and to explore it as a means of learning, we began material explorations which allowed us to further investigate the spatial and textural effects that entropy produces. Through the means of casting various objects and disrupting them in a chaotic manner, we were able to procure spatial atmospheres that aided us in a very material, architectonic understanding of what an entropic architecture could be. These models were taken further through an exploration of their negatives, which was achieved through the posterizing of model image scans in order to read and interrogate them in a new way. Incorporating this new perception of the beauty in deterioration to the site causes the viewer to alter their perception by adding value to their surroundings.

PROCESS Our building began as an archival exhibition of the entropic state in which the buildings of Venice have succumbed to, as well as a space for contemplation and exhibition of the direct immaterial affect that entropy has on the built realm and the history it portrays. The visible evidence of the deterioration and restoration of Venetian architecture reminds us of the city’s continuous transformation. The reflection and meditation that occurs throughout this space enables the metaphysical realm to be reached through the spatial atmospheres produced. The circulation of the archive plays off the streets of Venice which are not only entropic themselves, but also create spatial sequences that allow for unexpected spaces. The architecture we proposed at the time attempted to showcase the very metaphysical nature of entropy, forcing the user to realize the immaterial and material affect of chaos and decay firsthand. The scaffolding serves as a mediator for the entropic space, allowing a relationship which creates spatial sequences that blur the line between interior and exterior. These spaces allow for entropy to be represented as a tangible abstraction through the ephemeral spatial atmospheres produced.

PROPOSAL Atmospheric conditions are amongst the key causes of deterioration of Venice’s built environment. Air, light, and water, act as the primordial mediums through which atmosphere presents itself spatially, all contributing to the ongoing decay. The role of architecture therefore becomes a medium through which the ongoing performative nature of atmospheric deterioration presents itself materially. Atmosphere is the means whereby architecture can become a tool to procure and obscure what we see as commonplace within the built environment. At the same time, it provides a place within which one can meditate on weathering as a condition. While many obsess over the deterioration of Venice for its beauty, an architecture which presents a new perspective on deterioration as part of its life cycle becomes essential in a time that views the loss of Venice as imminent. Architecture, therefore, is an armature for sheltered function: it is an intellectual framework through which spatial logics can be produced that allows one the ability to enter a metaphysical relationship between the material and immaterial. Vestige, then, posits architecture as an essentialized occasion, or waiting room, whereby the occupant, upon entry, perceives atmosphere differently, providing a series of spaces wherein one is able to experience the latent nature of light and air immersed in an auditory percussion of the Adriatic Sea colliding with its earthen floor. Our consequent atmospheric archive and corresponding buoyant passage offers the occupant an occasion in which to attune oneself with that which is immaterial, the lunar tidal rhythm, through the material logics and spatial distribution of the architecture. In doing so, the spatial production implicates the body in an awareness of atmospheric drama. This phenomenological aspect of the architecture allows a lived experience to define the way that users are able to perceive the immateriality of air as their existential envelope. Acting as the new nautical gateway to the Venice Biennale and Arsenale, the architecture becomes that upon which one is able to question their being in relation to the material and immaterial. Vestige, therefore, is the physical manifestation of an intense, and ongoing, investigation aimed at understanding the role of deterioration in the built environment specific to the relationship between mind and matter.

Profile for Chris Perez


A book documenting the final comprehensive architecture studio at Iowa State University. Students: Colleen de Matta, Christopher Perez, Zh...


A book documenting the final comprehensive architecture studio at Iowa State University. Students: Colleen de Matta, Christopher Perez, Zh...