Aesthetic Hybrids

Introduction:

Students are no longer modelling architecture and designing the same way we are used to. This is understandable because they are not using the same tools as we previously did after all. What are the concepts behind their design? What is the methodology? What are the values now? Works from students have never been so weird and difficult to read. Yet the built works, and for the most part how students explain their work has never been more boring and monotonous. 

 

Everything seems monotonous. Everything seems predetermined. Everything is canon. The more we fight against it the more we are forced to obey it. The best thing to do is to embrace the algorithm, find aesthetics that we enjoy, and mark out aesthetic categories foregrounded by Sianne Ngai — not limited to the cute, zany, and interesting. When we start combining different aesthetics, we create even more marginalized aesthetics like the malding, the cringey, and the awkward. These aesthetics are highly personalized and enjoying them is usually linked to an individual’s upbringing. Marginalized aesthetics are ultimately a representation of the state of our generation. Aesthetics is now used as a marketing tool to subdivide culture into smaller and smaller subcultures with no clear path back to an accepted collective taste.

Hybridizing Aesthetics in VR

This studio foregrounds those aesthetic categories that Sianne Ngai refers to as "minor or non-cathartic." As Ngai points out, it is a study of the culture of late capitalism. Although architecture continues to prioritize the major aesthetic categories of beauty or the sublime, contemporary culture is saturated with minor aesthetics that are associated with small audiences. This was understood to be a problem of subcultures in the late 20th century; however, it has now become a dominant logic in the social media age. Technology has simplified design to a point where the mainstream is boring. Yet, there is no returning to a time before social media and the search engine. There is only moving forward. Let us think about the rules of criticism that are associated with new aesthetics from the last decade. Let us not rush into making art critic machines (black boxes) and instead really consider how each different aesthetic is evaluated. There is no longer a singular definition of beauty but perhaps we can still define these highly pluralistic and subjective notions of aesthetics. 

 

Students have already been, whether consciously or unconsciously, surgically slicing and splicing different digital models from the internet to create architectural forms — a new form of architectural abstraction. We should stop considering this “way of making” as controversial, to be hidden away out of sight. Instead, this new form of abstraction and individualism should be embraced as a new mode of doing, including it among the existing forms of architectural practice. This has also become an issue of labour in the field of architecture. For some weird reason, we tend to believe that architectural design is only authentic when we have meticulously designed all the details and modelled all the parts of the built object. This is not only absurd due to the amount of labour needed to produce an architectural object but also disregards the hyper-commercial times in which we live. We need to re-evaluate our understanding of an authentic architectural object. We should re-define the justification of these objects upon the existing juridical framework of evaluation and liberate ourselves from doing boring architecture.

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The Project

Because the primary focus of this studio is about students expressing their diverse individualities through their works, Site and Program will be determined by each individual project. Site and program is only a vehicle for developing each student’s personal identity.

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Software

The studio begins by students collecting images that they like and documenting them into groups of three. From there we will be importing those images into Adobe Medium (VR modeling Tool) to start the creation of their hybrid objects. Students are expected to record when they are using Adobe Medium with OBS (open source software for video recording) as there is a 4 hour time limit per hybrid object. Post Week 9 Students will develop one hybrid object into an architectural proposal by whatever means necessary. Students will document their process. No prior VR experience necessary. VR Gear will be provided.

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About Juridical Evaluation & Boring Architecture

The juridical evaluation framework of architecture is neither accidental nor old. The open jury architectural examination was only adopted postwar (May): “From that moment forward, [institutions have] implicitly demanded that all architectural intellection adheres to a form of reasoning” (May) — evidence-based reasoning, to be precise. All new architectural objects from then onwards are defensive statements. The student then, with false sincerity, has to defend that defensive statement to explain their methodology usually with “evidence” in the form of endless diagrams. There is an alternative to evidence-based reasoning: explaining our methods through our feelings or, in this case, aesthetics. Aesthetics can be used as a Chewbacca defense in our architectural legal toolbox. In fact, evidence-based reasoning is not the problem. It is “the juridical mnemotechnics of public reward and shame, coupled to the equipmental autotechnics of electrical signalization” (May) that has allowed people to claim both moral and technical superiority. The result is a self-congratulatory circle of topics that span from “infrastructure, [to] energy efficiency, [to] housing, [to] parametrics, [to] robotics” (May). No wonder that recently architecture has become so monotonous.

The monotonous relationship we have with architectural aesthetics is, I think, a result of the influence of social media and a hyper-commercialized world. Every day we are bombarded with a myriad of images and aesthetics that have been carefully curated for us. Even curation itself is calculated by a cold yet efficient commercial algorithm. Open Google. Type in some random words that you might like. The algorithm will autofill the rest, after which you will receive hundreds of thousands of images in less than a second. We then proceed to download, trace, or try to mimic the reference images as closely as possible. What is the function of criticality in the face of these automations of subjectivity? Devoid of criticality relative to pre-manufactured aesthetics, we are inevitably trapped in the economic lifecycles of commodified aesthetics.

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Example Project:

Student Learning Objectives and Outcomes

 

  • Student Learning Objective 1: Diversity and Individuality

    • Student Learning Outcome 1: Students will learn to embrace their interests and express their diverse individualities through their works

 

  • Student Learning Objective 2: Inclusion

    • Student Learning Outcome 2: Students will learn to be inclusive and respectful of others diverse interests

 

  • Student Learning Objective 3: Techniques

    • Student Learning Outcome 3: Students will learn basic 3D modeling in VR

Course Organization and Requirements

Students should bring objects and images of their interest on the first day of the class & every Monday after that and be prepared to discuss it. The Vertical will be split up into Technical Weeks and Independent Weeks. For Technical Weeks, students are expected to finish modeling assignments and submit them on time. For Independent Weeks, there will be office hours and students are free to do anything they want but they are expected to create something they like at the end of the weeks. Student projects can be carried over from one set of Independent Weeks to the next. 

 

Participation (50%)

Attendance and class participation are mandatory.

 

Technical Projects (15%)

Technical projects are due at the end of the technical week.

 

Independent Projects (35%)

Independent projects are due at the end of the independent weeks.


 

Course Schedule


 

Week 01

M 01.11 Studio Lottery + Introduction (Technical Week) [First Exercise Introduced]

W 01.13 Technical Workshop

F 01.15 Technical Workshop [First Exercise due]

 

Week 02

W 01.18 Martin Luther King Jr. Day [no class] (Independent Week) 

W 01.20 Independent Discussions 

F 01.22 Independent Discussions 

 

Week 03

M 01.25 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 01.27 Office Hours

F 01.29 Office Hours

 

Week 04

Black Lives Matter – Week of Action

M 02.01 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 02.03 Office Hours

F 02.05 Pin-up

 

Week 05

M 02.08 Technical Workshop (Technical Week) [Second Exercise Introduced]

W 02.10 Technical Workshop

F 02.12 Technical Workshop [Second Exercise due]

 

Week 06

M 02.15 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 02.17 Office Hours

F 02.19 Office Hours

 

Week 07

M 02.22 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 02.24 Office Hours

F 02.26 Office Hours

 

Week 08

M 03.01 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 03.03 Office Hours

F 03.05 Pin-up

 

Week 09

M 03.08 Technical Workshop (Technical Week) [Third Exercise Introduced]

W 03.10 Technical Workshop

F 03.12 Technical Workshop [Third Exercise due]

 

Week 10

M 03.15 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 03.17 Office Hours

F 03.19 Office Hours

 

Week 11

M 03.22 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 03.24 Office Hours

F 03.26 Office Hours

 

Week 12

M 03.29 Office Hours (Independent Week) 

W 03.31 Office Hours

F 04.02 Pin-up

 

Week 13

M 04.05 Final Production

W 04.07 Final Production

F 04.09 Final Production

 

Week 14

M 04.12 Final Production 

W 04.14 Final Production

F 04.16 Final Production

 

Week 15

M 04.19 Final Review

W 04.21 Final Recap