Page 1

SENTINELS OF THE ANTHROP O CENE I nv e sti g ating an A rc hite c ture of Th e C o nte m p orary Sublim e

Master of Archite cture The sis By To dd Funkhous er 2021

ABSTRACT Humanity currently lacks direction for the future; society must fundamentally change its ways of living and existing. Societies have shifted away from their agrarian past, and many cities are confronted with densification to accommodate an endless flow of new urbanites. Cities are requiring excessive infrastructure to barely produce enough energy and water for the growing populations. Consequently, large regions of the country are left geologically ravaged and discarded once they no longer provide resources for the burgeoning society. If humanity does not reflect and understand what lies ahead, more of the Earth will be devastated in the name of progress. This outlook fuels a new type of architectural discourse, not sustainable, not green, not efficient, but rather pensive and reflective. The new architecture seeks to arrest viewers’ attention then release them into a state of introspection and contemplation much like the sublime artwork and literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. These new approaches need used where they are most impactful: in the presence of humanity’s ecological transgressions to exploit the tensions between historical devastation and existential revelation. An example of this environment is the Inglewood Oilfields in Los Angeles, California. The oilfields are one of the largest undeveloped pieces of land in Los Angeles representing the fraught history of the city’s role in the Industrial Revolution. The richness of the Oilfield’s landscape and history combined with methodologies of the contemporary sublime inform the architecture deployed. Sublime architecture, sculpture, and landscape photography conceptually underpin experiences created in this landscape providing moments of repose, remembrance, and existential reflection. The cumulative experiential effect will provoke visitors to reflect on histories of times past by standing as a reminder of where humanity has been and the future it is tasked with creating.

Humanity currently lacks direction for densification to accommodate an

r the future. Cities are confronted with n endless flow of new urbanites.

Large regions of the country are left geolo no longer provide resources

ogically ravaged and discarded once they s for the burgeoning society.

If we do not reflect on our pas

st, we are doomed to repeat it.

This outlook fuels a new type of archite green, not efficient, but rather pensive contempora

ectural discourse, not sustainable, not e and reflective - an architecture of the ary sublime.

THE SUBLIME - t he o ry The sublime is truly to define. It is best described as feeling that defines is created through an emotional tension between the feelings of fear and awe. It is split into two prevailing themes: Positive and Negative Sublime. Negative sublime is the more powerful of the two. It is understood as a feeling of relief when a viewer experiences fear then realizes they are not in danger. This creates a type of pleasure referred to as negative sublime because the coupling of fear and relief is much more visceral and memorable (seen in the top painting.) On the other hand, Positive sublime resonates in a different way. When a positive sublime scene is observed, the viewer experiences awe, grandeur, and walks away with a positive feeling. These scenes depict imagery of vast landscapes that make the viewer feel inconsequential (seen in the top bottom painting). The viewer oscillates mindsets between surrender and reflection allowing the experience to wash over them. - metho d o lo g ie s These categories can be applied to analyzing experiences outside of paintings. Genres of Architecture, Aerial Landscape Photography, and Land Art Sculpture contain similar effects that help distill methodologies for creating the sublime at the human scale namely. - d iag rams Primitive solids, monolithic composition, repetition, vastness, and infinite smallness help create sublime composition. These diagrams and categories create a sublime design language and can be used when designing architecture and landscape across any scale.

Aeri a l Ph oto gra phy

Scu lp ture

S ub lim e A rc hite c ture

B o u l e e’s Pri m i t i v e So l i ds

Va l l ey of M o nu me nt s

Pi ct ure s que Pat h

J a m e s Tu re l l ’s Auto no mo us St ruct ure s

Palazzo della Civita Italiana

San Cataldo Cemetery

Kunsthaus Bregenz

Centro de Innovacion

M o no l i t h i c Rep et i t i o n

Va st n e s s

I nf i ni te Sma l l n e s s

INGLEWOOD OIL FIELDS - rat io n ale As mentioned before, these strategies need deployed in a sublime landscape like an ecological wasteland. The Inglewood Oilfields in Los Angeles, California fit this criteria. Los Angeles is sublime in scale and bounded by sublime geographic features of the pacific ocean and The san Gabriel mountain range. The Oil field is central to these geographic features as well as centrally located in the greater metropolitan area. - pro g ram In the spirit of rejuvenation of the oil fields, a wellness center is proposed for this site. This program exists to help create a sanctuary providing relief from the urban monotony. The site is organized by the pieces of land that have been flattened for oil extraction. The large build sites are used for public amenities of a welcome center, an aquatics center, a sports complex, a restaurant café, and a thermal baths/ spa center. - arch ite cture The highlighted typologies engage the landscape through material choice, and topographic engagement. The spa and thermal baths are nestled in the landscape. The villas, cabin, and observation tower all float above sloped or vegetated regions lightly touching the landscape.

San Gabriel Mounatins Hollywood DTLA

Santa Monica Oil Fields Venice


Lo s A nge l e s M et ro Area

Jefferson Blvd.

La Cienega Blvd.

Culver City Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook


Culver City Park

s Area u c Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

Oil Fields West LA College

Stocker St.

Ladera Heights

I n g l ew o o d Oi l Fi e l ds

Jefferson Blvd.

Hiking Trails Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook Hetzler Rd.

Culver City Park

Stoneview Nature Center

Duquesne Ave. Proposed Site

College Blvd. S i te Adja c en ci e s

Construction Access Road

Camping & Hiking

Cabins & Villas Public Amenities


P ro g ra m & Ve h i c l e Ac c e s s

M a sterpl a n

Entrance from Overlook

Entrance from Duquesne

Entrance from La Cienega


Golf Cart Pickup

Entrance from College Blvd.

Car Access

Golf Cart Access

Ty p o l o gi e s



Design Focus

Observation Tower

Spa & Thermal Baths

Tent Platform


Aquatics Complex

Welcome Center

Sports Complex & Cafe

Si te Ac c e s s


e r p la n

RESIDUAL FORMALITY - insp irat io n The aesthetics of the historic oil pump towers and the contemporary reciprocating oil derricks were able to offer a formal language to the architectural forms. Through a process of formal abstraction of the components of each, an tectonic language began to emerge. - tow er & d errick The pump towers speak the language of structural stilts that can be used to assist in navigating the oilfields topography. The derricks speak the language of a roof form and loggia structure that can be used across the site in many situations where shelter is needed. In both cases, repetition is the point of focus for deploying these structures in the landscape to help re-instantiate the feeling of the sublime across the site. - hi sto rical referent These tectonic languages engage the site metaphysically through their referential abstraction and use of timber to evoke scenes of the sprawling oilfields from the 1900s.

Oil Pump tow er

Re cipro cating Oil D errick

Po st & Cro ss Brac e s

Structure Comp onentry

Abstracte d Structure

Abstracte d Form

Structural Stilts

Lo ggia with Canopy

CABINS & VILLAS - te cto n ic All the typologies are designed as a family with each one using a similar material palette in differing ways. Corten steel, rammed earth, wood, and concrete help blend the architecture into the landscape. Strong formal geometries and delicate wooden supports respond to the harsh sun and cast mesmerizing shadows. The Villa and cabin share a tectonic language. Wooden stilts hover a mass of rammed earth panels above the landscape. A corten steel stair is used to access the interior and a detached shed roof shields the interior from the intense sun. - c o mp o sitio n Rammed earth walls and concrete floors create a womb like environment. The monolithic walls restrict the light and provide some color and texture to the minimal interior. Narrow full height windows are used to carefully control the light infiltration in the space. The villa features an interior courtyard that is flanked by pivoting doors that can be opened to create a seamless indoor outdoor space. The cabin features a roof terrace to offset the compact interior space.

Co r te n O c c ul us

Bath ro om R a m m e d E a r t h C o r i do r

Be d ro om

L ivi n g Ro o m Co u r t y a rd K itc h e n

Co r te n S t a i r

Wo o d S ti l ts

Vi l l a 0

5 10




T i m b e r Lo g gi a

Ro of top Terra c e

R a m m e d E ar t h Pane l

Be d ro om Bath ro om

L ivi n g Ro o m & Kitc h e n

C o r te n S t a ir

Wo o d S ti l ts

Ca bi n 0





Be dro oms

Living Ro om

Vi l l a 0




Cour t y ard


Be dro om


Living/Kitche n

Ca bi n 0



OBSERVATION TOWER - te cto n ic The observation tower uses similar tectonics as the cabins and villas but on a larger scale. Access to the main platforms is accomplished by an elevator or stairs. The tower is held up by an array of columns to support the massive, rammed earth panels. - c o mp o sitio n In the middle of the rammed earth enclosure is a skyspace providing a moment of pause and meditation 100 ft in the air. The observation deck on the roof provides panoramic views showing the ecological devastation of the oil fields and the sublime urbanity of Los Angeles.

O b s e r v at i o n D e ck

Sky Sp a c e

R a m m e d E ar t h Pane l s Cor ten S tai rs

Elev ato r

Wo o d S ti l ts

O b s e rvat i o n Tow e r 0






SPA & THERMAL BATHS - site The spa and thermal baths are nestled In a large bowl shaped site. The spa is situated atop the hill on the small site and the baths occupy the lower large site. Both sites are hemmed in with vegetation and A corten steel ramp and stair guide visitors up and down the slope depending on their amenity of choice. - o rg an izat io n Both the spa and the baths are organized around central water features flanked by lounge spaces, gardens, and covered walkways. Wellness spaces are arranged around the perimeter in rammed earth volumes. And the thermal baths have cold, warm, and hot baths either open air or enclosed for a private experience. The large perimeter rooms are flex wellness spaces for meditation and group fitness classes. The spa offers massage rooms, saunas, and lounges spaces both indoors and outdoors. - te cto n ic The loggias and rammed earth volumes create a womb like enclosure backgrounded with native vegetation. The spa being the more intimate of the two spaces is focused around an aromatic garden. The density of rooms around the perimeter make the space feel more private. The central pool space is designed to open to the rest of the surrounding landscape. Its arrangement in relation to the spa creates qualities of sublime vastness through an overwhelming field of vision. All the spaces of the spa and baths are designed with the idea of positive sublime in mind.


9 9




Th e r m a l B at h s 1.O f f ic e & C he ck In 2. Lo c ker Ro o m s 3.S h ow ers 4. Re st ro o ms 5.We ll n e s s Ro o ms 6.O u td o o r We l l ne s s A re a 7. I c e B at h 8. F i re B at h 9. F l ow e r B at h 10.O u tdo o r Lo unge 11.Wa r m Po o l 12. M e d i t at i o n G arde n








3 12





8 5





15 5 13

18 20



22 19

21 22 6








Spa 13.Of fic e & Che ck I n 14.Ch ang in g Ro oms 15. Re stro om/ Show ers 16.Sau n a 17.Steam Ro om 18. In d o or Loung e 19. Mass ag e Ro oms 20.Outd o or Loung e 21.Warm Bath 22. Aromatic Gard e n

DOMESTICATED SUBLIME - la nds cap e eng ag ement The engagement with the site and the dialogue between the landscape and architecture is where the contemporary sublime emerges. Visitors must traverse the site by walking or electric cart therefore the spaces in between buildings must be just as dynamic as the buildings themselves. All the structures are spread out among the landscape in conversation with the vegetation and topography. - a rc hite ctural exp re ssio n Each structure is both contextual and autonomous. They solemnly stand in the landscape while the collection of them creates sublime repetition. The tectonic languages utilize qualities of infinite smallness to keep the viewer engaged while traversing the site. Each piece of architecture stands in the landscape provoking thoughts of the devastated ground they inhabit. - existent ial ref le ctio n They provoke viewers to understand the ecological significance of the ground they walk. They create a pensive and reflective atmosphere eliciting moments of the contemporary sublime. They stand as an architectural manifestation of the sites fraught and destructive past of the oilfields. They warn against a careless future an plead for a more hopeful way forward standing as sentinels of the Anthropocene.

Profile for SAID - Graduate School

Todd Funkhouser | Sentinels of the Anthropocene  

Todd Funkhouser | Sentinels of the Anthropocene  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded