In 1922, Hugh Ferriss made a series of drawings depicting the maximum building envelope permissible under Manhattan's (then) relatively-new zoning restrictions. Rendered entirely in charcoal--a dusty, bulky tool more associated with heavy-handed, expressionistic strokes-- they are crisply radiant; linear, planar images at odds with their medium. And to generations, they appeared freakish and futuristic. The first time I saw them, thumbing through Delirious New York some night in college when I should have been working on my own drawings, they were merely...how shall we say... appropriate.
Technology presents this unique problem, through the innumerable advantages it presents the creator. Speed. Ease of alteration. Hind-saving mistake corrections. Automation. Data distillation. It's hard to argue with the benefits.
But there's something that has been irreversibly altered in our perception of how the world functions, particularly in relation to structure. Once the realm of visionary architects, the arbitrary or impossible structure is now a relative piece of cake. Download SketchUp. Tear wildly at a cube. Done.
As a cheeky response to this phenomenon, I've been doing something slow, painstaking, and analog.
It is a sort of exploration- the speed and nonchalance of computer drafting, especially in the architectural design process, allows us to make any number of arbitrary decisions- but what if our design tools had always followed the line of logic laid out by CAD software? You grab any point on a 3D model and drag it, and the adjoining sides fold automatically. It is a small action, but its automation informs the results. No joke.
Would these (new, arbitrary) sorts of forms have existed far before now, had we been following the same steps we now follow with our computers? What if we'd always had this elastic medium, been able to tug at forms defined by stupid, geometric interpolations? What if we'd had the option to make forms that ignored the sun and wind and splotchy microclimates that defined architecture for centuries? What if we'd had these design tools that broke to our will while we made arbitrary, playful decisions?
As it turns out, it is really quite fun to turn that process on its ear. These paper models are a series of flippant design decisions with very real, (very time-consuming) consequences. Every bit of these images is "real"; that is, they are film photographs of three dimensional objects shot in sunlight-- arbitrary structures that still acknowledge the design shoulders we stand on. Each is imbedded with hours of care. More examples, and more photos, very soon. Until then, know that you could be part of this project: I'm launching a PRINT SHOP on May 15th, and will have a limited number of prints for sale.
Off a few increasingly small roads twisting along the St. George peninsula is the single dusty parking spot for visitors to Clark Island. You have to walk in to the island interior, passing through a lobsterman's front yard early on, and at the far end of the island is a brackish quarry fed from below by a rift in the seawall. It took a long time to figure out exactly what it was that was so captivating about this place, and finally I noticed it; the stark play between the abandoned cut granite and the frenzy of nature surrounding it, these immense, irregular but still severe geometries playing off the wilderness. Planes of light in the dark lattice of conifers.
It is easy to just look around and have your brain encode the idea of rocks/boulders/stone until you pause and realize how entirely unnatural the forms are. You might recognize the second photograph from last summer; it is still my favorite image to date, and I couldn't figure out why until recently. It is the hushed culmination of what I'd been photographing since the first moment I picked up a camera, turning to the remnants left by activity. A glass of water, half finished in the sun. A pair of glasses left behind during a summer swim. The still-charged traces of life.
It's what I see in these heaps of granite. Hard generations of families carving and blasting at the earth. The velocity and muscle of industrialization, the durable ghost trail which it has left behind.
In short, I've been a little obsessed with the place lately; the recognition of what makes it so wonderful has got me working on a new project, the first evidence of which is in the earlier post. More soon.