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Ambient Obfuscation John Hooper


The phenomenon of doubt is the most visceral and phenomenologically potent experience a user can have while moving through a space. The lack of knowledge of what lies around each corner, behind each screen engages the user within the space. This uncertainty then leads to the active participation of exploration within the intricacies and overlaps of the architectural composition. This notion of exploration contains within it two prerequisite spatial conditions; a hint at a differentiated spatial condition beyond and an obtrusion to the direct occupation of the desired space. The obfuscation of these paths of desired travel occurs in different methods throughout the projects included in this body of work. These projects employ voids, translucent planes and densely packed to accomplish this goal. Above all, what is most necessary is closeness. Like heat radiating from a hot sidewalk, the adjacency of various elements is measured in the degree to which they are visually distorted. Architecture, in its representation, has always been interested in hiding and revealing information. This is most visible in traditional, orthographic architectural drawings; the plan, section and elevation. These images systematically remove or obscure information in the service of making the overall image more legible. I am interested in leveraging this tradition of occluded information into the design process. In this series of projects, I am aiming to create an architecture that coalesces around the occupant traveling through the space. The project can thus only be understood in its totality as the result of the movement through it. The game is to create a system of symbiotic relationships between a surface and a marking agent in such a way that there is a level of registration between the two systems. They then work together in such a way that the projects as a whole are slowly revealed to the user. As a result, circulation in the form of creating a premeditated path through the space becomes a driving organizational strategy.


Retail: Emergent Lines


This project developed as an exploration of the possible implications for architectural drawings on the design process and the experiential properties of space. In a sectional drawing, selected information is omitted or obfuscated to direct spatial reading. This quality of quantitative and progressive revealing is a powerful method of relating the body to space. As an occupant moves through a space that is not at once apparent, the phenomenon of doubt enters in. The desire to conquer this emotion then leads to individualistic exploration, progressively building up a spatial understanding of the building. The process for this project involved a combination of generative techniques and willful shaping. The form of the project emerged from a progression of volumes to points to lines to surfaces. The registration of the original curves can still be seen in the ruffles of the planar elements of the project and are portrayed with the ambiance of the linear members as being obscured behind and through the surface.


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Program: Warehouse & Manufacturing Space 25,000 sf Retail Space 7,000 sf Office Space 1,000 sf Freight Elevator 750 sf Restrooms 6 @ 100 sf Basement 3,000 sf Core, Grossing Factor 10% Total 41,100 sf Warehouse & Manufacturing spaces must be directly accessible to freight elevator. These spaces may also be divided into multiple tenants, grouping noise levels as much as possible. Retail space must be within the first two floors of the building to increase public visibility. At least one set of restrooms must be accessible within the space for public use. Freight elevator must be directly accessible by 10th Ave or 41st St. Additionally, direct access must be possible from all retail and manufacturing spaces.


Storage: Memory Bank


When thinking through the condition of storage, multiple options became apparent when the visual accessibility of the stored objects was considered. The possibility of storage in a museum became apparent, but was outweighed by a desire to see what was not displayed for the public; to see the most precious, most delicate, tucked away in the bowels of the museum. To this end, I believe that the most precious items one could store would be personal memories. While most people will want to carry pleasant memories with them, there are others that range from cluttering, to unpleasant, to painful, to dangerous, to unexplained, that can be lifted off of a person’s mind within this sanctuary. Perhaps if we can focus and curate our memories, we will be able to take better advantage of the wisdom they offer. A memory is not a pure recreation of an event. Through time it becomes skewed and distorted. As one moved farther into the volume of the memory bank, they become more obscured and enveloped by the form and materials of the building. While direct visual lines exist, they are interrupted; bent around linear members and obscured by translucency. The storage within the memory bank is suspended in two similar volumes, one above grade and one below. While the user can select which volume and chamber to store his memories in, the choice should be made carefully. The volumes of the storage units are assembled in a network structure which supports the storage and the skin of the building in a manner reminiscent of the mental connections and overlaps of our memories.


Memory Bank Program The storage of valuables has always taken place in serious places. The storage of memories involves the most preciously held objects of all. The visual tone of the interior and exterior spaces of the Memory Bank should reflect these concerns. Personal Memory Vaults; One memory extractor & memory storage per size of room. 60 @ 50 sf Reception Desk; To direct customers to personal vaults or sales area. 150 sf Receiving; Area for persuading new customers and relaxing existing ones 800 sf Presentation Space: Area for presenting the workings and functions of the Memory Bank 500 sf Corridor Space: Intertwining passages by which customers will be led to their vaults 2000 sf Total 6,450 sf


Health Club: Public Display


In this project, the program of the health club is leveraged into a system of human display. Where the previous projects relied on linear members to interact with a translucent surface, here the user is pulled through the space by the desire to come to and pass through sequential translucent planes. When two people approach frosted glass from either side, they are gradually able to see each other better as they draw closer. The proximity of the space to the High Line is also used as a method of creating interest between the park and the stage. As the user passes farther into the building, they will become drawn to an innermost space, the main exercise room. This volume is suspended within the overall volume of the building, with surfaces suspended away from supports as much as possible.


Program The occupiable space spirals around a central volume, becoming the desired space of the building. Through this translucent volume, at night the exercising occupants are distorted into projected forms. Recreation Building Pools (hot, cold, temperate, lap) 3000 sf Circulation 20 % gsf Stretching area 150 sf Group activity spaces 1000 sf


Theater: Listening Apparatus


When approaching the subject of a theater, I wanted to create a container in which to display virtuoso performances. While many individual performances can be considered to be of virtuoso quality, I wanted to design a building to house the performance of virtuoso compositions. I believe that no composer played the entirety of the orchestra as fluently as Beethoven. For me, no other composer matches the thickness, the urgency and the messy emotion of his works. For this building, I created a system of fibers that intertwine with each other to create surfaces and sound variations. As the user moves through a procession of spaces, the multiple enormous amount of form within the building acts as a sound control device to allow each area to be sculpted sonically so that each unique space reveals different levels of the composition. This will allow the user to attain a richer experience of the music.


Program The program for this building is to take place within a procession of spaces. 64 & 8000 hz 500 & 1000 hz 1000 & 16000 hz 32, 150 & 8000 hz 64, 125 & 4000 hz

100 sf 150 sf 125 sf 300 sf 250 sf


Hotel: Desired Plateaus


This building combines several previous explorations, but increases the possibilities of folding space through the employment of a much larger scale. When confronted by a chasm, the natural reaction is to want to traverse the span, uninhibited by gravity. However, the activity of estimating spatial relationships and planning moves through the space converts the volume into a three dimensional puzzle. This fully immersive and engaging relationship with a space is supplemented by the organizational and structural systems. The rooms of the hotel form the main masses which are carved away to form the visual passageways through the space. These volumes are then suspended from a space frame above, denying the typical gravity-bound logic that would be used to ground the user in the space. The users’ movement through the space then becomes the main attraction of the hotel, negotiating with passageways and chasms to late night soirees.


Program The program for the hotel must be distributed such that there are no continuous direct passages through the building Interstitial Spaces: Circulation from High Line 5,000 sf Pool 10,000 sf Exterior Event Space 15,000 sf Interior Event Space 10,000 sf Lobby 10,000 sf Internal Spaces Bi-visual Circulation 10,000 sf Rooms (375) 800 sf


Ambient Obfuscation  

Lot-Ek Monograph Studio, 2012 Columbia University GSAPP

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