Culture And Society
Work title: CAIRN A Marker for Cultural Exchange
At a time where proven knowledge and expert skillsets have become synonymous with student loan debt and the
“starving artist” syndrome, free spaces of cultural exchange are becoming more and more imperative and
attractive. Innovative coffee shops with group workspaces, office space with other likeminded individuals
though with completely separate professions, and even the world of online forums and skill exchanges are giving
us what we crave but cannot afford. Is there a way we can encourage these exchanges to form and build a literal
urban monument over time?
Cairn is the manifestation of three forms of necessary, cultural exchanges made physical and flexible by the
users themselves. As a means to pacify the desires of modern society for educational, domestic, and architectural
change, the city will give over open urban nodes to the whims of the culturally hungry and dissatisfied. The
architect assumes the role of curator; rather than designing the various scales of space, the architect opts for
utilizing and redistributing materials that already exist and have had useful lives before their iconic reuse.
The simplest definition of “cairn” is a man-made pile of stones. The function of these piles is to perform as
markers of where to go, where not to go, and what might be coming around the bend. Cairn is the growing and
shrinking timeline of the desire to care (or not care) about our minds, homes, and surroundings. While nothing is
“designed,” an enormous amount is compiled to create a marker of cultural exchange. The literal shaping of
form engages with the public at three scales: how we learn (skillsets), how we live (goods), and how we build
The first cairn facilitates the open exchange of information and technology by offering a public forum to peruse
at will or at random. The composition of books, technology, and all useful tools indulges the curiosity of the
unknown. In addition to physical implements, the iconic cairn in a public place provides a locale for teaching
and the exchange of specialized skills. It serves as a marketplace of the intangible where information is the
The second cairn can be found in the park of any urban residential district. Akin to the idea of an IKEA or any
other hub of anything and everything that you may or may not need, this the node of the city to bring or take
whatever one might need in order to live. While certainly not providing everything for everyone, it serves as a
place to pick up the spare this or to get rid of the spare that. Quite literally a take-an-object-leave-an-object pile,
the form created by the users becomes a physical thermometer for economic woes or successes.
The third and final manifestation of the urban cairn can be found in the refuse of the fabrication and construction
industries. Many challenges arise when faced with the desire to build something physical, especially that of the
inevitable result of unused materials. The amount of capital wasted unnecessarily will be countered with the
utilization of these materials in an urban cairn of hardy and massive materiality. By giving a form to the detritus,
an awareness and degree of legibility will be given to the structures we inhabit and the prices we pay to build.
Cairn is an icon in the city meant to induce the exchange of notions, commodities, and remnants. The architect ─
who is already concerned with designing spaces that inspire notions, hold commodities, and produce remnants ─
is now the responsible curator of monetarily-void spaces of cultural exchange. Cairn will serve both the architect
and the public as a source of curiosity, a repository of meaningful objects, and a record of what has been and
what is to come.