Selected Undergraduate Design Studio Projects--Design IV, Spring 2012


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Professors Diane Lewis, Peter Schubert, Mersiha Veledar, Daniel Meridor, Daniel Sherer

TEMPLUM: Ancient in the modern

The single order temple form, the precinct, the pre-existing skeleton of the site, the civic still life, the orders, the approach and the span:

The studio focused on the fact that the most obvious attribute of many of the definitive structures of 20th Century architecture such as the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Heidi Weber Pavilion and Ronchamp, is their formulation as single order structures akin to the ancient temple. This recognition opens literary and theoretical questions of order that emanate from the pursuit of the templum concept and the temple form without the pictorial aspects of the academic styles.

A consciousness of the manner by which a single order structure can exude a spatial autonomy and emit a field of measure and proportion to transform the surrounding, existing urban fabric into a still life and a dialogue across time and space was one of the founding objectives for the studio.

In addition, a study of the principles by which the “skeleton” of the Greek and Roman city plans that cradle the memorable architectural still–lives that are the art of the city, were initiated with an initial visit to Seagram, Lever, and CBS. This experience of the templum concept in the acropolis of midtown Manhattan on the first day of the studio was directed toward a revelation of the power of the ancient in the modern as a visceral spatial initiation to the knowledge necessary to the project at hand.

The ancient precincts composed from a succession of temples and the civic, spatial and programmatic relationships were studied as a key to the art of determining the character for a contemporary civic domain. As were readings of Semper’s ethnographic-based derivation of architectural form, which explores the genesis of the hearth to the house to the templum, the domestic to the civic. The Semperian definition of architecture, the formation of identifiable orders and distinct structural elements were considered in the drawings and scales with which the project is implemented.

A reading of Francesco Pelizzi's essay entitled “Magic for the Sake of Art,” published by The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, was the introduction to the Semper text, in support of the ceremonial and conceptual aspects for the derivation of structural form, ambulatory and plan.

After a sequence of studies at one-quarter inch and one-half inch scale, of the details of the plinths and entry conditions experienced in the Manhattan architecture we visited, a definitive entry condition and façade concept were formulated by each participant. The idea that an entry condition of the 21st Century can confront the memory of the archaic temple was the objective. Oedipus Rex, Medea, Notes for an African Orestaia, and Diable in Corpo were viewed with a critical eye for a cinema of the ancient world, its literary roots, and the tragedy, in contemporary terms as an incentive for innovation.


Each of the studio participants was then asked to confront a given site plan, edited with select structures of the present and previous epochs. The La Grange Terrace structure called the Colonnades on Lafayette Street is shown to be a fragment of its original length, which spanned the length of the block as a Nash-like urban fabric, which served as counterpoint to the previously existing church façade at its north and its frontal relation to the Astor Library, now the Public Theatre. Considering the transformation of the Colonnades from a fabric building to an object building, with its implicit structural grid etched on the site, the project must address this site area in specific, as well as the larger urban address of the Astor Place precinct in which our school sits as a key templum.

The tectonic proposal must be verified by the civic program proposed.

Each project title had to embody the spirit of the project as rooted in conceptual structure, and carry the civic and literary memory that has inspired the project author.

Orders, the literary dimension of form, civic memory and the dialogue of the proposed to the existing were the fulcrum of the critique.



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