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MADCrit Portfolio

by Jasen Domanico

Index City of Boundaries - Spring 2018


Learning from Mexico City - Architectural Urbanism Critic : Alexander Eisenschmidt

The Grid - Spring 2017

7 - 14

Ten Genealogies in Contemporary Theory and Practice Critic : Zehra Ahmed

Space - Spring 2016

15 - 18

Surface - Spring 2016

19 - 24

Modernity in the Making - The Project of Architectural Culture Critic : Alexander Eisenschmidt

Modernity in the Making - The Project of Architectural Culture Critic : Alexander Eisenschmidt

The district of Santa Fe. 1

City of Boundaries:

Urban Islands and Their Formal Identies If one observes Mexico City from above, one sees an urban fabric of roughly 17,400,000 people plagued by the organizational consequences of its social, economic and programmatic divides. On the one hand, Mexico City, like other major cities, have a number of stark boundary conditions. This specific kind of boundary condition demarcates the parks, highways, and civic centers that can be easily located on a map. These observable zones are constructed by Mexico City because of its need to plan for such amenities. However, there is another type of boundary that cannot be located on a map and despite its inherently negative connotation, produces a plethora of unique relationships that I intend to accelerate in my proposal. Due to its vast size and undefined edges, Mexico City’s population density is roughly 8,400 people per square kilometer. The context for which these other urban boundaries spawn out of is a result of Mexico City’s inability to adequately respond to such a staggering amount of people. As a result, Mexico City experiences a range in social, economic and programmatic divides that act as catalyst for this other urban boundary. Now, unlike the stark boundary condition, this boundary is observable at more than one scale. The built-up environment and the city’s infrastructure are the two ranges of scale at which these are found. In addition, the intended program, social structure and economic potential of an area can cause the neighborhoods to experience a range of these urban boundaries and due to the undefined border of the city, rarely repeat their forms of representation in the exact same way. Despite these vast ranges in scale, each share similar techniques when driving a noticeable wedge into the urban fabric. These wedges are their individual uses of form, material and program. The first example that begins to illustrate this other


urban boundary is located in the district of Santa Fe. As one of Mexico City’s major business districts, Santa Fe has become infected by new housing developments that have radically different forms and are deployed using up to date construction methods. Now, by themselves these qualities do no harm, however, Santa Fe is not a socially or economically strong district. This is represented through its pre-existing built environment and when compared to the surrounding buildings they create a clear contrast to their surroundings. The first of these observable differences is the form and orientation of the new built forms compared to the old. The older buildings are rectilinear and are parallel with each other. For this reason, the older buildings amass together into a sort of clump of housing, while the newer buildings are more individualized due to each home being made up of various shapes and angles. This distinction visually represents the gross economic

Drawing of the Industrial Valley. 3

inequality of Santa Fe by the poor (i.e the clumpy mass) having to huddle together in order to stand out while the rich are able to stand-alone. The next distinction is the color of the buildings. The vibrant exterior cladding methods of the new building developments clash against the outdated and dull cladding techniques of the surrounding buildings. In addition to both the form and color, the developers even added a wall around the new homes to further express the new buildings as a boundary for the surrounding inhabitants. The next example of this other boundary condition is Mexico City’s railroad. This overpowering programmatic force carves and imposes itself throughout Mexico City with its seemingly indestructible rail lines. As a result of this unflinching presence throughout Mexico City, the rest of the city’s elements seem to succumb to it. The buildings directly adjacent to the rail begin to mimic its shape while in other moments when two or more rail lines converge an urban void is created. One area in particular, The Industrial Valley, is where one can observe this other boundary condition. Here warehouses, truck yards, and even roads start to curve with the railroad disrupting the regularity of their construction. In addition there is a moment where more than one rail line converge creating a concave triangular void. The surrounding businesses recognize the void and use it to park their cars. By inserting their cars into that space, they understand the imposing nature of the rail line as sort of fortification. Now, because of this other urban boundary, Mexico City’s urban identity changes. The walled housing developments become islands of vibrant isolation within a sea of amalgamated grey clumps and the carved building with the adjacent voids further fragment already program stricken areas. However, at the same time, with this other layer of information the inhabitants are able to experience vastly different situations


when moving through the city. It is here, between the people’s experiences and the built-environment, that my project is able to situate itself. Located roughly 45 min south of Mexico City just north of San Gregorio, a large preserve of marshy farming land is succumbing to the encroaching city and its inhabitants needs. By adopting the characteristics from the two aforementioned examples, my project takes the form of an exaggerated wall, bounding in and out of the surrounding cityscape effectively protecting the area. Standing 100 ft high by 100 ft deep this new boundary, like the train tracks of Mexico City, snakes through the area acting as a buffer between the city and this once rural area. With each unique bend and jolt, the infringed cityscape changes along with this new boundaries’ interior program. Contained within its thickened mass, carved out portions contain the needs of the surrounding population (i.e., schools, markets, churches, etc) while at the same time this same thickness protects the newly bounded environment. By recognizing the consequences of Mexico Cities inability to cope with its overarching social, economic and programmatic divides due to its overly dense population, this project adapts to the cities strifes by adopting the negative outcomes (i.e. a wall and unflinching form) and making them work for the city rather than working with. It is the goal of this new urban boundary to create a positive juxtaposition between its two sides rather than an inside or outside.


Urban Bounding taking shape. 6

Diamond House A by John Hejduk 7

The Grid:

An Exploration of Stacking and Voids An intersection of lines across a scheme is a grid and within this basic logic of intersections, a variety of deviation can occur. Two examples of this deviation are John Hejduk’s Diamond House A and OMA’s Tres Grande Bibliotheque. Despite each projects initial design intensions, both architects superimpose a simplistic three-by-three grid (not including Hejduk’s central columns) on to their projects. It is because of this simplistic grid that allows each of the projects to be so flexible. Without this grid, both the Diamond House A and OMA’s Tres Grande Bibliotheque would have not been able to explore the formal operations of stacking and voids, which elicits each of the projects separate similarities and differences, while at the same time creating a similar shape. At first glance, it is apparent that each of the projects are a set of stacked platforms. This operation of stacking is a byproduct of the rigid grid housed in each of the projects. It allows for each of these structures to not only grow vertically, but it also allows for the movement or passage between levels to be effortless. Now, considering just the Diamond House A, Hejduk used round columns in a three-by-three grid with central columns in its midpoints. He also decided to represent the project as a series of plans and axons rather than sections. The power of representing the project in this way reaffirms the effectiveness of stacking using a grid. In addition, by using round columns the project creates a stronger argument for what Hejduk describes as “centrifugal force and multi-directional whirl.” Then, as the project grows vertically, the rigid logic of the grid makes the transitioning between floors easy. Through a grid the transitional elements of a building can be easily consolidate to specific areas, like the area between Hejduk’s round columns, while at the same time making them a structural element to the project. In retrospect, a grid in addition to its simplistic structural


footprint has the added benefit of always acting as a reference point for the rest of project when it is being stacked. These referential points in a project become increasingly more important when the stacking becomes more intricate. One example of a complex stacking method that is in need of these reference points while being constrained by the logic of a grid would be OMA’s Tres Grande Bibliotheque. In this particular project, unlike Hejduk’s Diamond House A, the stacking of horizontal planes moved away from a simple two-dimensional operation and transitioned into a more complex of dialogue of what happens when a plane meets a void. In this project, the stacking of the horizontal planes comes after the development of the various voids and in doing so, it becomes hard to associate a specific orientation with the boundary of the project. However, by allowing these spaces to flow in and around a rigid grid, each of the voids can be located with easy. Not to mention the accessibility to these spaces becomes increasingly easy because of OMA’s decision to insert elevators into the separate cores, which like Hejduk’s Diamond House A, ties the entire building back into its structure. This connection back to the structure is important because each of the projects engage the concept of void and without the grid both the Diamond House A and the Tres Grande Bibliotheque would have had a harder time making the projects essentially flow. The Diamond House A tackles the concept of void by introducing partition and “oblique walls” into the plans. This creates a contrast between what is poched and what is the boundary of the project. It is because of this contrast that the void of Hejduk’s project reveals itself. Again, by implementing round columns and ensuring that there was always a column at the center of each floor; Hejduk consistently establishes his effect of whirl. By abstracting each floor as a separate plane, the physical space between each of the round columns


Model of OMA’s Tres Grande Bibliotheque. 10

Diagramatic section of the Tres Grande Bibliotheque. 11

(or grid) becomes an instance of void that can be explored through the implementation of partition or oblique walls. In this instance by extruding these specific walls up, Hejduk subtracts from the total area of that plane-giving context to the negative space (void). In addition, the graphic sensibility of the partition walls or poche is repeated throughout the second and third floor within the screen-covered windows. In this instance, Hejduk was able to reuse his method of void and create a new agitated screen of directional light by separating them into smaller pieces, which adds to the overall effect of centrifugal flow. In retrospect, this subtraction and extrusion again reaffirms Hejduk’s choice of visually representing his body of work through plan and axon by understanding the power of a grid when composing a building. Now, by understanding how the grid influenced the placement of voids in the Diamond House A, OMA was able to reference those ideas but in a more three-dimensional way. To reiterate, the Tres Grande Bibliotheque first focused on its series of induvial voids then stacking. This order of operations allowed the voids to act as their own space or as OMA states an “absence floating in memory.” These spaces are able to float because of the three-by-three grid that runs vertically through the entire project. The voids of the Tres Grande Bibliotheque become unbounded by the constraints of a structural plane or floor and start to be lifted and held up by the cores of the building. In addition, these somewhat autonomous voids are able to engage the boundary of the project by penetrating it in specific moments that begin to call out their individuality in respects to the overall form. Much like how Diamond House A is represented in plan and axon, the Tres Grande Bibliotheque is consistently represented through model and computerized three-dimensional views to establish the key moments of how the grid complement its formal operations of stacking and void.


The grid in both the Diamond House A and the Tres Grande Bibliotheque allowed for a certain amount of flexibility as well as a clear rigidity to each project. By composing their designs around a similar three-by-three grid, John Hejduk and OMA were able to create a strikingly similar form despite their differences in stacking and voids. This almost identical form is perhaps the downfall of such a rigid system. However, it is because of the grid that OMA was able to reference Hejduk and then build upon the simplistic form through means of technology and innovation. Rather than just an extruded box with agitated windows, OMA created moments of translucency using materials and light. In short, despite their induvial differences of implementation, each of the projects formal operations of stacking and voids was possible because of the grid they used.



Lucarelli, Fosco. “John Hejduk’s Diamond House A (1963-1967).” SOCKS. July 01, 2016. Accessed March 02, 2017. Figure 1. Lucarelli, Fosco. “OMA’s Très Grande Bibliothèque – (More).” SOCKS. January 28, 2014. Accessed March 03, 2017. omas-tres-grande-bibliotheque-more/. “Très Grande Bibliothèque.” OMA. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://oma. eu/projects/tres-grande-bibliotheque. Figure 2.

Axon of Diamond House A. 14

Plan of David Greene’s “Living Pod.” 15


The Influential Power of Function with Zaha Hadid and David Greene The outline of an area or figure, in conjunction with understanding its external form, represents an object’s shape. Shape is important to the discipline of architecture because it initiates visual conversations between projects. This conversation is obtained through the careful implementation of a projects function, in correspondence to its shape. Architects like Zaha Hadid and David Green of Archigram, with respects to their own ideologies, allow the influential power of function to manipulate the shape of their projects. Both Hadid and Greene, use simplistic graphic standards to represent how functions influence their work. Through various mediums such as her paintings and sketches, Hadid was able to “explore possible organizations” through lines that could “be developed into plans, sections, and three-dimensional forms” (Mertins 35). These lines, despite their lack of depth, outline Hadid’s ability to “translate figures and patterns from two to three dimensions” allowing for the intended function of the project to be implemented at any point (Mertins 35). In addition to this abstract approach of dimensionality, Hadid was able to delineate conditioned spaces from non-conditioned ones, again, through her use of lines. Similarly, Greene implements a comparable technique when representing the formal influences of function on his “Living Pods” shape (Archigram 52). With a simple contouring line, represented in both plan and section, the Living Pods masterfully articulate an almost delicate shell while at the same time serving as a boundary. This delicate boundary line morphs and fluctuates in order to encapsulate the various uses and functions taking place within it. In addition to the similarities in both of the aforementioned architects work, the differences between them still clearly illustrate the supremacy that function possesses in their projects. Hadid, using the Suprematists as a mediator, became involved in “the social vision” as a collective by intertwining multiple


functions to better accommodate a building’s change in use over time (Mertins 38). For example, the BMW Central Building expresses her ideology by serving various functions all at once (Mertins 35). Here, an office and a factory collide creating a multitude of intersecting points that attracts the public to the buildings elaborate and extensive guided tour. Now with that in mind, the scale of Hadid’s work and Greene’s differ immensely. This is because of Greene’s, and in retrospect Archigram’s, fascination with technology and the idea of an “all-in-one living environment pertaining to the individual” (Archigram, 7). With this in mind, David Greene’s Living Pod focused on “ergonomics” (Archigram, 52). Therefore, the personalized functions of the individual influenced the contours of his Living Pods. Both architects, considering their similarities and differences, are able to achieve powerful shape in all of their projects because of the influential power of their projects

Interior image of the BMW Central Building. 17

function. Considering the ways at which function directly influenced the formal shape of both Hadid and Greene’s work, the effects that each of the architects achieve are different. Hadid’s work “supports a vision of life as an art-lived intensely and expansively, with imagination and style” through various “form-generating techniques” (Mertins 38,35). In doing so, her projects are able to “organize perception” and cultivate an active response as a reaction to the inhabitants (Mertins 35). Her work transcends the constraint of time through its “multivalent and multifunctional” shape. Congruently, Greene’s Living Pod adopts similar multifunctional aspects. Due to its intensely ergonomic shape, the Living Pod thrives upon the individual experiences. In addition, the Living Pod is an “appliance for carrying” and essentially plugs into the city (Archigram 52). This allows the user to decide whether or not to take part in the collective, unlike Hadid’s BMW Central Building which is an intentional mixing pot. The collective, as opposed to the individual, elegantly articulate the ideologies of both Hadid and Greene with respects to their groups. Using the influential power of function as an instigator for manipulating their projects’ shape, a visual conversation can be established to the users. After all, it is only after an external form is recognized that the area of a figure can be outlined and defined.

Bibliography Archigram, “Boys at Heart,” “Archigram 1,” “Living-Pod,” “Living 1990,” “Comfort,” “Hard-Soft,” “Exchange and Response,” “Suitaloon,” in Archigram (London: Studio Vista, 1972, reprinted New York: Princeton Architectual Press, 1999), 2-3, 8-9, 52-53, 62-63, 76-77, 80-81. Mertins Detlef, “The Modernity of Zaha Hadid,” in Zaha Hadid (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2006), p. 33-38. 18

Exterior image of Newton’s Cenotaph by Boullee. 19


Containing Boullee and Herzog & De Meuron In order to define objects in space there needs to be an outermost most layer separating the negative space from the implied space. In other words, this limit of an object is its surface. This important characteristic is in a direct relationship with an objects contained volume and its surrounding environment. This is a crucial architectural element because only after defining an objects volume in space, is it then able to take on a specific form. To elaborate on the importance of surface Boullee theorized on this ideology through his descriptions of Newton’s Cenotaph. In addition, Herzog & De Meuron projects continue to challenge this ideology of surface. To begin, Boullee’s descriptions of Newton’s Cenotaph along with Herzog & De Meurons specific Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building advocate the importance of surface through their respective similarities and differences. One of the key similarities is that without a boundary, no matter the architectect(s), the structure would be lost in space. There becomes a need for a juxtaposition of space when there is a longing to stand out. Similarly, it is just as important when struggling to blend in to the surrounding environment. Thus, just like the lines in a plan drawing, a structures surface act as a literal poche differentiating the interior volumes from the vastness of space. However, even though both the Cenotaph and Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building use surface to define their respective interior volumes, they each begin to define what a surface is in their own way. For instance, Boullee’s description of Newton’s Cenotaph treats the ideology of surface more so as a barrier separating the inside experiences from the exterior experiences. This again reaffirms the concept of surface acting as a poched line in a plan drawing and acts as the first difference between the two architects when defining surface. The next difference is apparent when considering the Ricola Europa Production and


Storage Building. Herzog & De Meuron’s “sublimation of the antithesis between ornamentalism and minimalism” begins to blur the hard lines that once separated the inside from outside (Kipnis 106-107). The Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building design, as a result, begins to redefine the visual representation of a literal limit, or in other words a wall. This is different from the Cenotaph because unlike the surface of Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building, the Cenotaph is bound by the strict “regularity and symmetry” of its shape (Boullee 86). Through the explanation of surface, both Boullee’s description of Newton’s Cenotaph and Herzog & De Meuron’s Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building, achieves different effects. For Boullee, the main effect that he achieved using surface is that while in the interior there is a vast sense of space with no boundaries because of the constrained form. Since the Cenotaph is a sphere, there is no edge, thus the surface disappears. Therefore, there is an absence of navigation direction or clues. This inability to navigate allows the various illusions to take place within the space. For example, if this space contained happened to be in the form of a polygon the illusion of a night’s sky during the day would never work. Boullee’s description of Newton’s Cenotaph was not only able discern a contained volume, when it is viewed from the outside, but it was also able dissolve its own notion of surface when experiencing the interior. In other words, the Cenotaph was contained and boundless simultaneously. Now as for the Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building, the effects achieved using surface was a result of a careful aggregation of parts. That through the implementation of complimentary materials Herzog & De Meuron successfully begins to dissolve the classical notion of contained program. The Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building is able


Image of the Ricola Production and Storage Building. 22

Interior image of Newton’s Cenotaph by Boullee. 23

to dissolve the barrier separating these two spaces with the help of “the translucent silk-screened tiles with leaf images” (Kipnis 107). The translucent nature of this material never truly allows the interior space to be void of the exterior elements. In addition, when the screens get wet it allows even more aspects of the exterior, like the color of the surrounding landscape, to pass into the interior. Thus, the walls once separating the interior from the exterior become blurred and as a result, those programs begin to shift. Now, considering the achieved effects for both Ricola Europa Production and Storage Building and the Cenotaph, the use of surface can remain similar. Each structure, regardless of its designer, requires a profound communication between its volumes in regards to space. This important architectural element is the outermost layer, forever defining and separating them from negative space.

Bibliography Boullee, Architecture: Essay on Art (1793), Helen Rosenau, transl., in Boullee & Visionary Architecture, (London: Academy Editions, 1974), 82, 85-107, 111-112. Jeffrey Kipnis, “The Cunning of Cosmetics,” in A Question of Qualities: Essays in Architecture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013), 99-113.


Profile for Jasen Domanico

Masters of Design Criticism Portfolio  

"What surprises me most about architecture, as in other techniques, is that a project has one life in its built state but another in its wri...

Masters of Design Criticism Portfolio  

"What surprises me most about architecture, as in other techniques, is that a project has one life in its built state but another in its wri...