The Cooper Union
School of Architecture

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ARCH 141 – DESIGN IV section B
Professors Diane Lewis, Peter Schubert, and Georg Windeck

The Still Life City:
An Architectural Site of the City for each Proposal

Each project is sited within a selected piece of definitive urban architecture which has been fully or partially constructed over centuries from the proposals of specific architects. The form of these great architectural sites within great cities embody a range of the theoretical advances on the form of the city and its activities as seen by architects. The existing sites comprise spatial and architectural works in total, or fragments of architectural memory.

The Implicit and the Explicit
Each site given exists in the world as well as in the memory of architecture.
Each site has a significant representation of their implicit objectives as constructed through the drawings models and texts of architects.
Each site exists in both the implicit and the explicit results of architectural thought.
The projects must be designed to confront the concrete and the imaginary conditions of each site.

The Syntactical City and the Still Life City
The studio exploration is a constant working of the site as drawing, a notational construct of structure, history, program as text. Elements are positioned, studied and moved as notation within an evolving text of architectural language. The definitive portrait of each site throughout its evolution is studied in regard to the proposal of its contemporary portrait. This notational image of plan and section is then weighed and evolved through its model.
The model is first set up as a select set of the existing conditions as authored by each studio participant. The new elements of the still life are designed and derived in dialogue with the notational studies in order to study the possibilities of form between the two dimensional representation and the objects in space. Thus the still life of the elements of program and structure must be tested within the existing conditions as selected in order to be spatially empowered by an existential condition of the site.

Architecture within architecture, each site is a city piece that has been created by a significant work of architecture or an ideal city plan. In addition there is the architecture of the site in total. At architectural scale, the project is studied as a definitive ambulatory which is sensitive to the potential itinerary and orientation through the site. This ambulatory is studied to link and inspire the relationships of the proposed civic program and the scale at which it is inhabited in the still life of the city.

Project Components:
2 Simultaneously Developed Models
City still life model at 1/32nd inch equals one foot
Ambulatory model at 1/8 inch equals one foot
Sketches, plans and sections for each project
Site morphology for each project

The Architectural Sites for the Projects
The sites selected are from many architects and comprise a collage of architectural epochs and structures:

  • Ictinus and Kallikrates, The Acropolis, Athens
  • Forum Romanum, Rome
  • Meier Project for the Ara Pacis at the Porta di Ripetta and the Tomb of Augustus, Rome
  • The Maison Carree, and the Foster Museum project, Nimes
  • The Wailing Wall and the Mosha Safdie proposal for that site, Jerusalem
  • Valadier’s proposal, the Piazza del Popolo, Rome
  • The Mosque at Isfahan
  • The Zocalo and the founding city plan of Mexico City
  • The Imperial City of Seoul
  • The Cloister, Manila
  • John Nash National Gallery site plan, The National Gallery Addition Competition, Trafalgar Square, London
  • Olmsted plan for the edge of Central Park, Wright's plan for the Guggenheim New York, and Wagner's plans for the perimeter of Vienna
  • McKim Mead White plan for Grand Central Station, New York
  • Sullivan Auditorium Building, Chicago
  • Wright proposal for St. Marks Towers, New York
  • Le Corbusier plan of the Palace of the Soviets, Moscow
  • Terragni Casa del Fascio, Como, Italy
  • Nervi Train station and Michelangelo Santa Maria degli Angeli, Rome
  • Niemeyer Brasilia plan
  • Aalto and Saarinen plan for Helsinki, Finlandia Hall and the Train station at the lake, Helsinki
  • Le Corbusier Radiant City plan and Perrault Biblioteque National, Paris
  • Cerdan plan for Barcelona and Meier Museum, Barcelona

The Grid, the Free Plan, the Text and the Corporeal
Two grids were constructed and elements were given. The portal, the column, the pier, the bent, the bearing wall, the non-bearing wall, the grid wall, the stair, the ramp, the hypar, the vault, the stair tower, the elevator tower, the waffle slab, and any other automous elements of structure, passage, program or form in a vocabulary to be proposed in each project. The free plan, a field of elements, at two scales, the intimate and the city interlaced and explored to describe a civic program within a site with site-resistance
Two grids were constructed, one that represented 200 feet square and the other a grid of 800 feet square.The 200 foot grid had to be located within the larger urban site. Each grid has an implicit location for structure. The articulation of the structural elements from the non-structural as a field of elements provides the twentieth century tool for locating, orienting and displacing forces, axes, and positioning elements within an existing site text. This does not imply strictly orthogonal relationships, a point which is important in contemporary theoretical debate. In fact, the orthogonal grid does not imply pure rationalism at all.
The critical values in this project are involved with the relationship of text to corporeality.
Image, notation, iconography, structure and structural contingency.
The sketch to the idea to the form within the implicit field of structure.

The Internal and the External
This approach to working at two scales simultaneously was given in order to develop an intrinsic relationship between the ambulatory, or passage through the activities of the program as they are disposed on the site from an architectural scale, AN INTERNAL VISION OF THE PROGRAM AND ITS DISPOSITION AND ORIENTATION ON THE SITE.
Once this idea was established, the dialogue between the internal and the externalized still life of the organs of the program was positioned on the table of the city.