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Cover Image: Brodsky and Utkin.Paper Architecture




EDWIN CHO Thesis Proposal 2014-2015



primary advisors


secondary advisors




jeremey Bentham.Plan of the Panopticon


Architecture of Darkness seeks to explore the heterotopic conditions of space and architecture in relation to our vision or the lack thereof. This thesis investigates a state of heterotopia, where the architecture seeks to achieve a visually enamoring if not monumental state through spatial and temporal expressions, but can only exist as a “real” place when denied of its true visual existence. By fabricating a spatial heterotopia with the given parameters, this thesis seeks to uncover the physical and psychological analogy between sight and spatial perception. Through a creative exploration of how the degradation of sight exposes the realities of built space, this thesis aspires to translate the paradox of this heterotopia into a meaningful appreciation for spatial realities. This project provides a conductive realm of new inquiry and psychological discovery while acting as a productive means to find the heterotopias or the “other place” in our practice of architecture.

“ The perceptual spirit and metaphysical strength of architecture are driven by the quality of light and shadow shaped by solids and voids, by opacities, transparencies, and translucencies “ - Steven Holl

Boris Tellegen.Untitled

“ In an environmental experience, there is an unconscious bodily identification with the object, a projection of body pattern onto what is experienced, or a physical mimesis, an unconscious mimicry � -Juhani Pallasmaa


Perception is most often the key to the full-bodied experience of space. As a society, we have developed an ocular-centric culture where industrial alienation and the homogeneity of space have clouded the works of architecture. Though not necessarily a negative trait to our practice, our obsession of vision has made us oblivious to the realities of space that can coexist, not as utopias nor as dystopias, but as heteropias. Architecture of Darkness attempts to reverse the static imagery and the illusive nature of space and form by reconnecting spatial design and experience back to its “real space” through a heterotopic scenario. To properly create a heterotopic condition where visual perception becomes non-hegemonic in relation to it’s space, this thesis is predicated on creating a new typology that represents the reality of space based on the abstraction and mutilation of sight. As vision plays a major role in this thesis, the lack of sight as well as its obstruction and abstraction will serve as an important parameter for creating the proposed heterotopic situation. As a result of the given parameter, an underground setting seems appropriate where “the passage of time, light, shadow, transparency, color phenomena, texture, material and detail all participate in the complete experience of architecture” 1 . This thesis is not predicated on the urban development of an underground utopian or dystopian city nor is it predicated on the basis of creating a “building”, but about detaching the user from an “architecture of the eye” and in turn exposing a new reality of spatial understanding: the heterotopia.


Holl, Steven. Phenomenology of Architecture


To be blinded by light Means to see the very particles that make up the physical air you touch and breathe

To be bereft of visual clarity Means to understand the movement of space around your still body

To see repetition Means to understand the pulsating rhythm of space

To see partially Means to imagine and dream the missing pieces

To live in visual heterotopia Means to truly understand timelessness as well as the transformation of space

“ The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the Glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.� - Michel Foucault


“Vivo entre formas luminosas y vagas, que no son aĂşn la tiniebla...â€? (I live among vague, luminous shapes that are not darkness yet)

- Barbara Hertiman


The thesis will explore an adaptive process of applying medical and psychological conditions such as “illusory anonymity” (the inability to identify), “myopic focus” (the inability to perceive more than what is directly in front), and apperceptive and associative agnosia as conditional methods to develop and create a perceptive heterotopia of architecture. As sight degrades, the abstraction of spatial perception can derive from elements such as light and its ability to exist as a physical manifestation. As the non-existence of sight concretizes as a given condition, the thesis will take on a psychological approach to spatial perception where architectural qualities of orientation, scale, form, and time are questioned and shifted towards a new understanding. These elements, as they change meaning and form to shape this heterotopia, will adapt as major spatial personalities and develop into provocative design parameters.

Ad Reinhardt.Abstract Painting 1966

Vincent J. Stoker.Heterotopia: The Tragic Downfall


Though early to define, the main influence for the formal qualities of the space would derive from the “paradox” of a heterotopia. Being underground, the formal possibilities are limitless. Earth as a natural element can easily undergo aggregation, erosion, as well as suffer from the brutal forces of time. The main focus in this thesis is not to identify the feasibility and the technicality of such processes, but to explore the iterative process of space making and space ruination to eventually derive at what we can define as a working heterotopia. The lack of vision plays a strong role in the derivation of an architectural typology. As mentioned by Pallasmaa and Aalto, sight and vision places us in the present tense where a singular image of an experience is presented, but the sensory and cinematic experiences taken by moving through a space “evokes the experience of a temporal continuum.” 2 3 The lack of vision brings into light other important sensory applications: existential microcosms, embodied representations, multi-dimensional surfaces and materials, variant luminosity, and micro-climatic differences. With limited vision, light becomes a tangible object with soft and hard edges, design sprawls from the power of memory and “material imagination,” 4 and the spatialization of time becomes a reality.

2. 3. 4.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. Hapticity and Time: Notes on Fragile Architecture Aalto, Alvar. From Doorstep to the Living Room Bachelard, Gaston. Poetics of Space

Felipe de Souza Silva Rodriques&Julia JaburZemella&Giselle Boaznin Martins&Karina Korich Big Apple

Architects often “frustrate nature by creating ascending shapes [and] strive to overcome the forces of nature which tend to flatten everything� - Vincent J. Stoker

“ Architecture should never be contemplated directly and made an object of pure knowledge, but rather…experienced “ - Alberto Perez-Gomez Vincent J. Stoker.Heterotopia: The Tragic Downfall


Without sight, architectural values are redefined as actions and experiences rather than an object. A door or a window now functions not necessary as a physical architectural element, but rather as a ceremonial monument where the act of entering or exiting through a “door” or being able to look beyond the immediate shelter through a “frame” becomes important and relevant. As mentioned by Tanizaki’s writing, In Praise of Shadows, darkness brings into focus the forgotten qualities of space. In this thesis, the forgotten qualities of space and the tragic inability to appreciate the newfound discoveries of spatial beauty will act to strengthen the paradox of the heterotopia. The memory of “place” and the imagination of orientation will begin to glorify scale and spatial organization. Shifted perceptions due to darkness contribute to the mystery and depth of forgotten space where the effect of gravity, touch, decay, and erosion will strengthen the experience of time, causality, and reality In conclusion, the heightened awareness of space as well as the inevitable reminiscence of what is visually in existence (physically and mentally) will complete the paradox this heterotopia implores.


Antoniades, Anthony C. Poetics of Architecture: Theory of Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990. Print.

Bachelard, Gaston, and M. Jolas. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon, 1994. Print. Bruce, Vicki, Patrick R. Green, and Mark A. Georgeson. Visual Perception, Physiolog y, Psycholog y, and Ecolog y. London: L. Erlbaum, 1985. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization; a History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Pantheon, 1965. Print.

Govan, Michael, Christine Y. Kim, Alison De Lima. Greene, E. C. Krupp, Florian Holzherr, and James Turrell. James Turrell: A Retrospective. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013. Print.

Heidegger, Martin. Building, Dwelling, Thinking. New York: Harper Colophon, 1971. Print.

Heidegger, Martin, John Macquarrie, and Edward Robinson. Being and Time. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. Print.

Holl, Steven, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Alberto Pテゥrez-Gテウmez. Questions of Perception: Phenomenolog y of Architecture. Tokyo: U, 1994. Print.

Holl, Steven. Luminosity/porosity. Tokyo: Toto,japan, 2006. Print. Lefebvre, Henri. Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.

Lefebvre, Henri, ナ「kasz Stanek, Robert Bononno, and Henri Lefebvre. Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2014. Print.

Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1960. Print. Merikle, Philip M. Perception Without Awareness. Waterloo, Ontario: Elsevier Science B.V, 2001. Print.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenolog y of Perception. Charleston: Nabu, 2011. Print. Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Architecture: Presence, Language, and Place. Milan: Skira, 2000. Print.

Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenolog y of Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 1980. Print.

Pallasmaa, Juhani, and Peter B. MacKeith. Encounters: Architectural Essays. Helsinki, Finland: Rakennustieto Oy, 2005. Print.

Pentland, Alexander. Shape Information from Shading: A Theory about Human Perception. Cambridge, MA: Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988. Print.

Sinnreich, Ursula, and James Turrell. James Turrell - Geometrie Des Lichts, Geometry of Light. Ostfildern, Deutschland: Hatje Cantz, 2009. Print.

Tanizaki, Jun’ichirō. In Praise of Shadows. New Haven, CT: Leete’s Island, 1977. Print. Tuan, Yi-fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1977. Print.

Turrell, James, Richard Bright, and Paul Schütze. James Turrell Eclipse. London: Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art, 1999. Print.

Wells, H. G., and Patrick Parrinder. The Country of the Blind and Other Selected Stories. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.


The entirety of the summer was spent doing research on the topics relevant to this thesis. This includes physical interviews with psychologists/professionals as well as web research. An in depth analysis of the relevant topics (heterotopia, spatial perception, space v. architecture, architecture theory of sight and space) was conducted. This was followed up with extensive conversations, discussions, and consultation with my main advisors (as well as secondary outside advisors). In addition, there were some sight visits relevant to the project. In addition, preliminary data mining and research on the psychology of “blindness” and visual abstraction was carried through (mental/physical space). The majority of the summer was spent as a critical period for synthesizing precedents and gathering important and supplemental information for the “official” start of the thesis in the fall. On a design scale, basic sketches and interpretative diagrams of ideas and concepts were done in order to maintain a productive workflow and train of thought, but most work was done in a written format that were translated from an extensive selection of readings (theory, philosophy, psychology, and architectural).


One of the first steps, now that the topic and direction of my thesis has been solidified is to coordinate and concentrate research, readings, and product towards a fully relevant workflow. This includes several agendas: Ps y c h o l o g i c a l / Me d i c a l : Hone interviews and research towards the specified parameters of the thesis in order to provide the thesis with a solid scientific supplement of visual perception and our understanding of space. I am in the process of adding a neuroscientist, philosopher, and psychologist to the thesis team to act as primary “advisors” in the given field. I plan to attend the Brain Symposium so enrich my research. Arc h i t e c t u ra l T h e o r y a n d Re s e a rc h : Now not the main focus, it is still crucial to indulge myself in architectural theory and philosophy of space, perception, and heterotopia in order to develop and deliver a strong and coherent end product when it comes down to the written literature of the thesis. Though the act of reading has lost its place as top priority, a good amount of time will be spent synthesizing theory and philosophy as a parallel supplement to the product of the thesis. As for research, it will mostly consist of site visits as they become opportune: Allegheny Mines, Penn’s Cave, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, Anthony McCall exhibitions, Walter de Maria Exhibitions, and possibly others Pr o d u c t : In the earlier stages, the initial goal is to begin to develop working drawings, diagrams, and maybe even spatial prototypes that begin to express charateristics of the proposed heterotopia and its phenomenal tragedy related to sight, but it is too early in the stage to determine whether or not this thesis will lead to a “built building” in reference to a specific site.


// Network data and Space Making (+biomimicry) // Subway mappings // Catacombs (and mines) // Ant Colonies // Prairie Dogs // Bunkers // Psychological data // Darkness + Human Behavior // Darkness + Perception // Light/Dark Adaptation // Cognitive Psychology + Awareness // Perception (sound, touch) + Optical illusion // Medical Conditions that Alter Perception // Heterotopia // Psychological Qualities // Spatial/Physical Qualities // Existing Heterotopias


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Vincent J. Stoker Barbara Hertiman (film) Teinosuke Kinugasa (film) Darryl Chen: Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today Michael Heizer: Double Negative Walter de Maria: Earth Room James Turrell Anthony McCall: You and I, Horizontal Richard Serra Frederick Kiesler: Endless House MATSYS: Sietch Nevsada Maria Aiolova (Terreform ONE) Dominique Perrault Michael Reynolds: Earthships Paolo Soleri: Arcosanti Magnus Larson: DUNE, Arenaceous Anti-desertification Architecture Anne Holtrop: Floating Gardens Hollwich Kushner LLC: Skygrove IwamotoScott Architecture: Hydro-Net SF 2108 David A Garcia: Sustainable Iceberg Living Station MVRDV: Galije Resort Hugh Broughton: Arctic Stations Buckmeister Fuller: Geodesic Domes/Shelters Derinkuyu: Underground City Marlene Behrmann (Psychology Professor CMU) David Eagleman (Neuroscientist)

Architecture of Darkness: Heterotopia of Sight  

Edwin Cho Carnegie Mellon University Thesis Proposal