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Architectural Design: In Place Liam Spencer


“Everything is in motion. Everything flows. Everything is vibrating.� William Hazlitt

Liam Spencer

Architectural Design: In Place

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Make a measured survey of your body. Make a survey that reveals particular characteristics of the body, and reveals particular characteristics of the means of surveying: Our body survey began by investigating the mechanics and relative pressure points involved in the process of standing up through the use of fast shutter photography.

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Architectural Design: In Place

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This position of sitting was identified as one that is popular yet particularly unsupported by the majority of chairs. The vector measurements were to configure an equal and opposite physical reaction to solve this problem but after further development it was decided this approach was too focused on one position rather than the process we had taken to this point. We continued our investigation with a 30 minute video.

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“Discomfort is very much part of my master plan.� Jonathan Lethem

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The 30 minute video of sitting on a standard Polypropelene Day Chair emphasised the amount of motion involved in something so often regarded as static. By taking stills and overlaying them we were able to average out the most common areas used and moved into during the 30 minute period.

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Examples of Body Mapping Studies

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We investigated the possibility of transforming the mapping study into a physical seat. By taking measurements from the photograph overlays, the map was extrapolated and transformed into a void thus creating a physical response to the seat. The idea that someone was essentially sitting in half an hour of my discomfort and potentially find comfort in it was compelling. However this became too literal, the later steps were arbitrary and it became clear that the more detailed the body map was the void would create a different shape. Rather than pursuing a physical response to the seat I moved forward with an acquired process, one that could be incorporated into the design of the room and museum.

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The half hour seat “We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don't protest, we are bored to death, there's no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste... In an instant all will vanish and we'll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness!” In the experiments we attempted to explore the way in which one subject’s body moved and fidgeted in a robin day chair for half an hour. This video became a thirty minute exposure capturing the specific movement the subject’s body in a specific time. From these exposures it became clear that by imposing an arbitrary time frame on the subject the act of sitting passed from being a passive activity, one that facilitated other activities such as reading or relaxing, to an active one. However, just as when one focuses on the activity of breathing the self-awareness of a conscientious attempt to just sit in one place became almost torturous. The desire for the subject to leave the chair became evident in the number of movement and the desire to adopt displacement activities such as talking. In 1951, John Cage visited an anechoic chamber in order to hear silence. “I literally expected to hear nothing,” he said. Instead, he heard two sounds: his nervous system and his blood circulating. Similarly in attempt to capture an activity associated with stasis we discovered movement. The chair is a brace for the body as it attempts to move from the high stress position of standing to the fully supported position of lying down. It is a human, and cultural, intervention against the body’s natural movement (and subsequently can only offer transitory respite). It is a prop to maintain an intermediary position but just as the foot blisters when it is confined by hardened leather so the body tries to react against the hard and soft surfaces that compromise places to sit. Designers have used materials that are both flexible and rigid; processes both simple and complex to accommodate for these movements. In our study we have decided to map and embrace the movements of the subject as a measure of comfort or more accurately a measure of the subject’s self-conscious discomfort as he finds a place to sit on differing static objects. We derived images at intervals from the thirty minute exposures. We then overlaid these images over one another. These overlays created a number of abstract shapes that corresponded to the wide variety of positions and the average position that the subject adopted throughout the thirty minutes. By extrapolating the shapes against time the frequency of each position became clearer. This form became the basis for our place to sit. However, in order to maintain the shape at a human scale we used measurements taken from the side profile of the thirty minute exposure to derive the depth of the form – from the tip of the subject’s foot to the furthest arch of his back. The shapes were then layered in five equal thicknesses and set in a cast. The void space this created became our place to sit as we intend people to find rest, relaxation, and respite in the impression of the uncomfortable movement of a specific half an hour sitting in a specific chair.    

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Site: Campbell’s Close

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Original Basil Spence Canongate Development Drawings

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Taking my pre established ideas of discomfort, tension and the viewer/voyeur relationship to the site it became clear the relationships between body and the courtyard were awkward. Many spaces were “dead� due to difficult geometries, the heavily over looked space became tense and relationships between materials appeared messy. Using photography again, the aim was to capture these qualities so they could be incorporated into a design methodology.

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In the room design I attempted to create a space that was uncomfortable to be in without being a literal or intrusive reaction. The spiral ramp allows for the space inside to become tall and thing whereas the exterior would suggest a static cube. The thick and irregular walls thus rendered the interior space disorientating, especially as the room was only 1.5m wide yet around 5.5m tall.

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Wax cast form models

1 2 3 metres

Liam Spencer

Architectural Design: In Place

Development Sketches

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Sections showing relationships of occupant to exterior The success of this room as a developmental step stems from its foundations in the seat project. As I was trying to create a seat from discomfort by means of the void, this room becomes somewhere to sit that is in essence discomforting, a progressive but not literal response to our early research.

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Architectural Design: In Place

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1

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3 Metres

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0 Section in Context

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Early Museum Exploration: Continuing on with the theme of a progression downwards to an eventual revelation of a tall ‘wow’ space or gallery.

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Section through first design of museum 1:100

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The sections show the varying heights of spaces from entrance atrium to double height gallery. The driving ideas I wanted to incorporate into the design were: - A context gallery prior to the chairs – possibly the corridor leading to the main gallery. - A double height/ top lit main exhibition space – one that is not suggested in side elevation. - Weathered steel as a cladding material: derived from material studies of site. - The idea of procession towards a point: inspired by the quote below from an article on the design of the Museum of Old and New Art in Australia.

“I want my museum to become a metaphor for the way we learn as human beings. It’s about gradualism: you don’t get the whole story at once. There is a concealed complexity, a slow reveal.”

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The issues I needed to develop from this first design: - Access to Brown’s Close - Assessment of programmatic needs (office space, café, toilets etc) - Relationship of inhabitant to procession – heighten its clarity

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Matsunoyama Natural Science Museum - Tezuka Architects – Use of Corten Steel

Inspirations and Precedents - I chose to revisit some precedents, not necessarily museums, to try and find clarity in my direction for the project.

Tadao Ando – Concrete Use

Frye Art Museum – Seattle – Occupant forced through smaller opening into a large double height space

Ms Borbon House - Staircase

MONA - Australia

Archaeology Exhibition - Lisbon

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A

B

B

A Rendered Ground Level Plan and Guide to Sections 1:100

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Section AA 1:100

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Section BB 1:100

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Elevation from Opposite side of courtyard 1:100

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By locating the chairs around an irregular shaped core in the gallery I emphasise the quote from earlier that the museum is about gradualism and a slow reveal (Shown in the image on the left) .

Shown below right is a view down the context gallery from the middle of the staircase, in the background of the image is the entrance to the gallery space.

Guide to Seat Locations 1:200

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Physical Model in location on site

Three Dimensional Perspective showing roof lights

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In Place Portfolio - Architectural Design Year 2 Semester 1  

A Chair Museum for Edinburgh

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