M1 Unstable Topographies Project

The following text and images are all taken from the final project that I submitted for my M1 term in Rome. For this project I attempted to conduct a series of studies of spaces in Rome that possess a phenomenological potency. I then applied these lessons to a design - in this case an art gallery.

In contrast to the chaos of life in the street, the building has a blank serenity to it. A scattering of windows reveals an internal logic, but the rough, board-form concrete wall is largely silent as to what lies behind it. In the bottom left hand corner there is a large opening that seems like it will allow passage, so I approach. Beside this opening, a small sign confirms that this is in face the art gallery that I am looking for. I pass through the aperture into a relative darkness. My eyes take a short while to adjust, but soon I realize that besides the small door to my left, the only option is to continue forwards, down a large, wide ramp. I feel my descent registered in my feet, in the ceiling above my head, and against the small horizontal shelves projecting from both walls. When I begin my descent the shelves are on level with my foot, but by the time I reach the bottom, the shelf is now at the level of my head.

After this dramatic, lonely descent, I discover a small office with a woman inside. I ask her how much it costs to view the collection, but she just waves her hand - the gallery is free. I am in a tall, narrow, corridor, ramping upwards. Above my head a long horizontal opening without glass allows light and air into the space, but it is too tall for me to see out of it. A break in the concrete wall on my left gives way into a large room, which I enter. Displayed here are a few select pieces of sculpture. In the centre is a small octagonal pool of still water. Light penetrates the room through a series of translucent, diagonal slash-windows, all aligned to form a band of light, circling the room, cutting upwards across the walls. While the room is square, above my head it fragments into an octagon through a series of four triangles, and then further into a circle which supports a concrete, domed ceiling. In the centre of this ceiling is an oculus, lined in a dark, yellowy wood.

Leaving this quiet room, I move up the corridor to the first gallery displaying paintings. A small plaque informs me that this is the oldest part of their collection, showing their most established works. I pause particularly before a very nice, small work of Rossetti’s. It sets a nice, rather romantic mood to the room. Leaving the gallery by the door I entered, I continue up this ramped corridor, which appears to be wrapping around the sculpture gallery. As I proceed upwards, I move closer to the band of light which was originally above my head. I visit another painting gallery, similar to the first, also off of this corridor, and eventually I end up at level with this band of light and I can see through it. A square space, open to above, is revealed, bounded on each side by a wall punctuated by columns. There is only one entrance to this space, and in the centre is an octagonal, wooden seat. In the centre of this seat is a circular hole that seems to be the oculus that I saw before, but from the other side. I enter the space and approach the wooden seat. It is lovely feeling the sky above my head. A logia wraps around this court-space, above.

I now find myself in a large, ramped gallery with paintings hanging from the walls. From the top of this gallery, a smaller ramp, leading to the right, brings me into yet another gallery, now showing an increasingly contemporary collection of paintings. Off of this gallery I find the logia I saw before. I take a moment to gaze down upon the court-space. It looks serene - the green of the grass and the soft yellow of the wood stand out against the rough foil of the concrete.

I find my way up a narrow enclosed ramp, lured by a broad picture-window at its summit. The walls on either side are punctured by small translucent windows. Turning around at the top of this ramp, two large glass doors open onto an exterior ramp that leading apparently to a roof terrace. Two shelves, like before, register my ascent, this time beginning at the height of my head and ending at the level of my feet. On the terrace, I drift about for a bit. There is a raised platform to one side, which I approach. I step up onto the platform and absently lean against the low wooden railing, looking down. From this plateau the activity in the street below seems deceptively comprehensible. Eventually I turn back to the terrace and begin my descent.

M1 Uncanny Inhabitations Project

The second project that I completed in Rome was entitled Uncanny Inhabitations [the name chosen by my professor, not me]. I designed a strange, complex building which was part meditation centre, part public pool, part parquette, part amphitheatre. The design was generated from vignette sketches; then two building sections and a model were designed to make sense of the vignettes.