Psychometric Drawing Experiments, Architectural Non Sequiturs, and Free Association
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New Yorkers, be sure to stop by Studio-X NYC on Saturday, December 10th, at 6:30pm, to catch architect Sam Jacob, from Fashion Architecture Taste and Strange Harvest, for a free drawing workshop. Called An Evening of Psychometric Drawing Experiments, Architectural Non Sequiturs, and Free Association, this latest edition of Studio-X's Night School series "will explore the potential of drawing to generate and represent the spatially impossible, using techniques derived from police artists, psychiatrists, and parlor games." No drawing skills are required, but please bring your own pens, pencils, and sketchbooks, if you have specific needs or preferences (only minimal drawing instruments will be provided).
In an interview with Jacob, published in The BLDGBLOG Book, I asked him about the role of supposedly non-architectural ideas, from literature and myth to NASA and the earth sciences, in helping to inspire new forms of architectural design and spatial thinking. He replied:
I think, if you say that these things that aren’t quite architecture actually are architecture, then you start to think: Well, how come architects aren’t involved in designing them? How come they don’t call up an architect when they need to build a massive gas pipeline all the way from Wales to central England? There are so many architectural moments that could happen within a project like that. Well, it’s partly because architects, on the whole, don’t want to get involved in that kind of stuff—but it’s also because it’s not perceived as something that you would need an architect for. I suppose you could say: if all of that stuff is architectural, then, as an architect, you should get involved in it, and you should argue why it’s relevant for an architect to be involved. That would mean, from a business point of view, expanding your possible client base so that you could work for all kinds of strange organizations. I suppose that’s not unusual, either—the Eameses were working for the U.S. military and Basil Spence worked in the second World War designing decoy oil refineries so that the Germans would bomb these bits of cardboard rather than the real things.You can check out the rest of the interview in The BLDGBLOG Book, of course, but you can also come by Studio-X NYC on Saturday night to talk to Sam Jacob in person. If you can, please confirm your attendance on Facebook—either way, we hope to see you there!
But I’m also interested in expanding the idea of architecture in terms of thinking about what the term means in a more general way. For instance, working with someone from an advertising background, or working with an artist, or a writer—that gives you an ability to look beyond the confines of what is normally considered architectural. With those sorts of projects you’re not building a building, you’re kind of making a scenario—which, if you think about it in the right way, at the right time of night, after the right amount of wine, is architecture. These are often temporary projects which hijack a moment that already exists, and turn it into a moment where something else could happen. Because, fortunately, architecture is not just about building stuff. You can have a pretty good career as someone involved in architecture, even as an architect, without ever building anything. If, as an architect, you sit there waiting for stuff to happen—it’s inevitable that you’re going to reproduce the status quo. I think that, in whatever way, architects can make stuff happen, whether it’s to do with ideas or to do with buildings.
Once you start to recognize these things as significant moments in the life of a city, or in someone’s experience of the city, then they offer up architectural scenarios.