Work title: Voluntary Servitude
Cast a glance at three buildings, count them:
One, Two, Three.
Like a set of three Russian Matryoshka dolls, where each has a figurine delicately placed inside its larger version. Contained by and containing itself. Except, in each instance, the figurine is not immediately iterative to its larger, they merely reflect each other. Like an echo that bounces off a surface, only to return as a rephrased whisper. Doll and figurine remain dependent on their sibling for likeness, but ultimately the figurine is overshadowed by its cubic encasement.
Three dolls and their miniature figurine; or, more simply, a building within a building. Three of them, or should that be six?
Viewing platforms prescribe vantage points for the user. Each building is specifically placed on site like a constellation of disparate elements that unify in their mass and simplicity. Scattering elements is analogous to the contemporary discipline of architecture. We spread ourselves too thinly, we try to empower our position through multiplicity. What transpires is a disparate array, never definitive nor exclamatory. The dimensions of the three buildings remain constant across the site (50m x 40m x 30m); the figurines — seemingly concealed but highly visible — comparatively contort and mutate inside the encasement of One and Two. Three, however, expands, penetrates and bludgeons its carapace. Bursting through to hint at a possibility — an overthrow. Each building’s carapace is supported by a steel frame cage, with a diamond bracing system, encased with bio-polymer plastic. The figurine within maintains its buckled form through a truss system which takes the weight of very little. The entrance, although designated, is unapproachable. The fenestration perspectively wraps around the figurines lightweight skin; recalling, perhaps, the shadows that fall from the cubic structure from which it hangs. A suffocating structural corset seems to contract the figurine at two intervals, and as the user can see, they align perfectly to the cubic structure intensifying the idea that each are in fact the same. The figurine hangs, but that does not discount the ground plane’s existence. It is, instead, demarcated as a dark blue finish, supposing the ‘idea’ of such, acting almost with a Plimsoll line- but the water analogy is unintentional. The elevated, suspended, flaunted figurine may not have an easily defined context, but what question ever has a context? It is merely temporarily uprooted and placed on display. Not to be touched. And, please, do not take photographs.
It is impossible to enter the building, either its cubic carapace or its angular interior. This does not mean that the building is not architectural because they are non-usable, but it is to raise the question as to what is the function of architecture in the contemporary.
The building is a museum. Or a library. Or a factory. Or any of them, or all of them simultaneously. Programme seems superfluous, but the form of the figurine is not arbitrary. It is based on the requirements for any of these typological definitions. Typologies seem superfluous, but they allow for form to be presented, displayed and viewed.
The building could be mistakenly understood as a double skin, rather it is an opportunity to find tension. To quite literally highlight the crux of the problems within the profession of architecture: both figurine and carapace fight to be noticed but succumb to modernist principle. Regardless of a project’s intentions, it seems that behind every good design is a ‘safehouse’. A return, a default. A shifting to what is visually easily understood. The figurine seems entirely dependent on the carapace for its structural strength and stability, or is it the other way around?
Placing the angular figurine inside, connected to the carapace, is a definite attempt to flatten, absolutely. To take the entirely three-dimensional geometric form and collapse it onto itself, to cannibalise its own volumetric mass. Purely visual content is brought together by being kept apart. Neither isolated, nor directly related to each other. Apparent proximity. A sense of endlessness, juxtaposed by the notion of containment. To collect and contain almost prevents death. Architecture could prevent its own demise through placing itself on display within itself: a newfangled variant of preservation. It’d be almost like cheating death. It is suspension in absolute terms. It is suspension of disbelief insofar as it allows for the idea that one cannot disbelieve that they are ''''alone together''''.
Architecture is suspended, in all forms.
As architects, we pander to what we understand as acceptable design: smooth, geometric, rational. A sumptuous relic: a default option of voluntary servitude. It should not be a question of complicit acceptance or carnivorously competing, but of finding new weapons that enable the profession to re-stake a claim at significance.