The Cooper Union
School of Architecture

Click on an image for larger view.


Professors David Gersten, Yael Erel, Anthony Titus, and Suzan Wines

Surveyor’s House: From Surveying Toward Navigating
Working with the shared, land-based site of the Surveyor’s house, each individual student proposed interventions into the water. These interventions were extensions of the site and program of Surveying. While each land based Surveyor’s house ‘held water in’ and contained it ‘within’ the house, these new elements extending into the water ‘held water out’ and contained space for the inhabitants ‘within’ the water. This inversion created an inversion of the land (gravity) based relationship between skin and structure. The skin became the structure as it displaced water, creating buoyancy. In the water tank, we began to experiment empirically with displacement and buoyancy. Like drawing in water with substance, each cut in a material would result in a new displacement and consequently a new buoyancy and new relation to the horizon. The voids cut into the ‘site’ of water constantly shifted, they were temporal voids, it was unpredictable and wonderfully difficult.

In this dynamic condition, each group and individual student developed a programmatic, spatial and structural principle within his or her site. The program of Surveying was expanded and reinvented to include: libraries, papermaking, painting and drawing studios, chapels, archives, dark-rooms and lighthouses, even a marionette theater. Each programmatic invention was matched with a structural invention within the double condition of gravity and buoyancy. In certain cases, interventions addressed the possibilities of completely buoyant structures, nomadic structures that could depart the site. The students determined what forms of reciprocity would be constructed between them. Through the many interventions a position emerged, an ethic, a material imagination of the social contract.