Constructing vision: architecture as world making

MIT graduate students consider “The World According to Architecture” at the 2016 Lisbon Trienniale

Screenshot from “Partial Worlds,” a video on view at the Lisbon Triennale with work from Andre de Merindol Malan (SMArchS, Urbanism ’16). A group of students, researchers, and faculty from the MIT Architecture contributed work to “The World in Our Eyes,” one of the four main exhibitions at the event.

By Roi Salgueiro Barrio

“The World in Our Eyes,” one of the four main exhibitions at the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, features work produced in a Fall 2015 MIT graduate architectural design workshop. (See video, below.)

The course, Constructing Vision: The Eye, Architecture, the World, examined how architects use means of representation to project how buildings and environments will be perceived. Led by Hashim Sarkis, Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, the class sought to explore how the continuum between representation, design, and visual experience is constructed. Students approached architecture as an apparatus for understanding the world, for encouraging new habits of seeing, and, ultimately, for projecting alternative forms of organizing the world.

The students’ participation at the Triennale complements The World According to Architecture, a research project from Dean Sarkis and MIT research associates Roi Salgueiro Barrio and Gabriel Kozlowski that is also on view. The project conceptualizes and categorizes 25 architectural and urban projects that have considered the scale of the world as a design question. Melina Philippou (SMArchS, Urbanism ’16), and Nil Tuzcu (Research Fellow at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning) contributed to the exhibition design.

This short video shows clips from five animations that explore different categories of world-making in architecture. See descriptions of each of the projects below.

The students’ work consists of five animations building upon the different categories of world-making (Microcosms, Partial Worlds, Parallel Worlds, Making Invisible, and Making Visible) that are analyzed in The World According to Architecture. Their interpretations are:

Microcosm

Microcosms are encapsulated, reduced versions of the world. They are closed environments that establish an indexical relationship between an internal micro-sphere and the external world.

Influenced by Peter Sloterdijik’s notion of egosphere — the isolated environment that corresponds to a technological subject who constructs her world-view merely through cyber-communications — , the microcosm team speculated on how a society constituted by a myriad of micro private worlds can eventually generate a new social and physical environment. Their projects deploys a planet that explodes in millions of subjectivities, which end up constituting a new spatial formation.

Authors: Benjamin Albrecht (SMarchs Urbanism 16), Mary Patricia Lynch-Lloyd (MArch 18), Sean Phillips (MArch 18), and Dijana Milenov (MArch 18).

Partial Worlds

Partial Worlds are single elements, such as a building typology, an urban section, or a model of a city, which are conceived as a fragment of the whole world, and as a model for its construction.

The Partial Worlds project reflects upon the relationships between a-territoriality, sameness and diversity. The project proposes the construction of three floating cities which would travel around the Atlantic, Pacific and Indic oceans, propelled only by water currents. The cities are built using a unique, abstract, repetitive structural module. Yet, they would incessantly differentiate themselves by incorporating peoples and objects of the different shores.

Author: Andre de Merindol Malan (SMArchS, Urbanism ’16)

Parallel Worlds

By situating their ground plane at critical distances from the earth’s surface, Parallel Worlds expand the frontier of the existing world. With this operation, parallel worlds create reflective or alternative relationships between the existing and the extended worlds.

The project Flocking City enquires what can be the role of architecture in a world where issues of climate and nature preservation have become matters of global concern. The project establishes mobile infrastructures just above the troposphere, away from climatic variables and land barriers. Their goal is to serve as tools to redistribute our common climatic and natural resources, but also as new spaces for the perception of the earth.

Author: Joshua Eagers (SMArchS, Urbanism ’16)

Making Invisible

Making Invisible projects are a lineage of design propositions that criticize existing architectural and urban forms by emphasizing the nexus between architecture and geography.

This project, titled Horizon 179, joins this critical tradition by imagining a future scenario where urbanization has covered the earth, and where the Arctic has completely melted. In this situation, the North Pole becomes a global shared resource, the only space where the horizon, and a sense of emptiness, can be fully experienced.

Author: Dalia Munenzon (SMArchS, Urbanism ’16)

Making Visible

Through specific interventions, making visible projects aim to expose a hidden logic, be it natural or artificial, of the planet. In order to do so, they frequently rely on cartographic operations, on the elaboration of visual mechanisms to comprehend the logics they intend to reveal.

The project Underground Parallel makes visible the hidden spaces of clandestine transnational mobility, the areas traversed by expatriates and refugees. It does so by defining, cartographically, the geographic zones that are crossed, and also by exaggerating the occultation of these transnational citizens by designing a parallel, underground world that they can occupy.

Author: Dana Shaikh (Harvard GSD)