ARCH 280 (Design Fundamentals Studio 1, instr. Nora Wendl), Fall 2013

What is architecture? And how does one begin designing it? In this studio, taught by Assistant Professor Nora Wendl, we begin with the body, from the earliest instances of architecture, in the form of a warming, protective bonfire built by a nomadic tribe, to contemporary structures that mimic and reflect the dimensions, structure, senses and needs of the human body.  Part of the task of the architect, especially within a contemporary and ocular-centric culture, is to create architectural environments that engage all of these senses—that engage the whole body. As Juhani Pallasmaa writes in Eyes of the Skin, “an architectural work generates an indivisible complex of impressions. An architectural work is not experienced as a collection of isolated visual pictures, but in its full material and spiritual presence. A work of architecture incorporates both physical and mental structures.”

Each year, the ARCH 281 studio utilizes a different lens through which to study the body and its relationship to space. This year, the specific focus is on the body in the act of dance. “The dancer does not move in space,” writes philosopher José Gil, “rather, the dancer secretes, creates space with his movement…A new space emerges. We call it the space of the body.” Gil is arguing that, like the architect, the dancer creates space through his or her movements, gestures, and sequence of choreographed and very specific bodily configurations. And, he continues, that creation of space is reciprocal.

Further, we have an internalized sense of space—a perceived relationship to what is around us—called “proprioception,” and we use instruments, such as ladders and GPS navigation, daily to navigate and create space. The instrument that the dancer uses for the creation of space is the body; similarly, students are asked to begin with the body as both primary instrument and site for architectural and spatial compositions, engaging in an intensive study of the space constructed by the dancer as a springboard for designing architecture.


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