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GRADUATE THESIS SEMINAR + STUDIO / 2019–2020
Surrounding us are media objects that sponsor most of our daily decisions and behaviors. From dating to shopping, these networked devices grant access to the entire world with just a few clicks, a couple taps, or a swipe right. Though seemingly ephemeral and remarkably easy to initiate, our digital transactions are enabled by a lot of physical stuff – wires, screens, adapters, routers, antennae, servers, and more – that, together, set the substrate of our milieu. These objects have material properties that help hold our attention, position us in space, and protect our information: a smartphone stacks a shatter-resistant, alkali-aluminosilicate surface atop polycarbonate and aluminum; an extension cord is insulated and sheathed in waterproof rubber for outdoor use; an LCD monitor gets its name from backlit, electronically-modulated liquid crystals compressed between layers of polarized glass...and so on. We regularly convene around these mediating artifacts, likely inattentive to the material possibilities latent in their designs. Furthermore, these objects are enmeshed in labor economies, political regimes, and ecological crises that quickly fade from our consciousness in favor of simple, lighthearted content consumption (more cat pics, plz LOL). If our everyday reality is evermore conditioned by the materialities of media, how might we critically engage and reorient this stuff to suggest other ways of being in the world?
This thesis section seeks projects that articulate alternative futures for architecture and urbanism from a careful examination of our media-saturated present. Media and architecture are alike in their ability to frame collective experience and invigorate public life. We will consider the many ways that our media environments and built environments are complexly intertwined, relying on a multidisciplinary group of theorists and designers to guide our research. What aesthetic regimes arise from the ubiquity of digital technology in the architectural and urban spheres? How can architecture and technology conspire to redesign human bodies and subjects? What exactly is the materiality of data and how is it distinct from the materiality of images? How does ever-changing screen technology mediate reality? How might a closer look at the attributes of interfaces, databases, and drives reformat our understanding of building systems, organization, and program? What does an urbanism motivated by cable management look like? If media infrastructures consist of continually expanding material networks and immaterial exchanges, what’s at stake for an architecture caught in the mix? We will explore these questions and more through five main themes: Body / Profile, Screen / Image, Cable / Data, Drive / Memory, Interface / Platform. These dualisms will prompt conversation and are by no means exhaustive.
This year-long thesis experience is divided into two parts. In the fall seminar, each student will reference critical texts and work through various formats to develop a thesis argument. In the winter studio, students (individually or in groups) will use their discoveries from the fall to propose architectures that engage issues of form, space, context, program, material effect, and/or occupation. To imagine new ways for architecture to appear in the world, this thesis section will use the building as the primary site of speculation.
Valeria de Jongh
So Young Lee
Helen Yue Wang
Check out taubmancollegethesis.com for more work from this year’s graduating class