Degree Project Spring 2018 | Advisor: Laurel Broughton
Included in The Los Angeles Schools Exhibition at the A+D Museum
How as architects can we re-see the same old things in potentially productive ways?
What techniques might allow us to see old things in new ways?
And what culturally can a defamiliarized or minor Architecture offer?
[i] A Modern House
The first part of the thesis project involves transforming a canonical Modernist house into a dollhouse. The Schindler House on Kings’ Road, Hollywood, California, is chosen.
The Schindler dollhouse is comprised of modular units derived from the interlocking L shapes of the living quarters of the original house; each pair consists of a main living unit and a connection unit where shared programs such as kitchen or bathroom are located. Meanwhile, the dollhouse’s tectonics (the knuckle joints) are derived from the rotation seen in the original pinwheel plan, as well as the tilt-up concrete construction of its main structural components. However, once the knuckle joints are in effect, the rotation of the modular units completely erases the pinwheel in plan. The sense of defamiliarization here arises from the freedom to rearrange an otherwise very much prescribed living space.
While main structural components are retained in the dollhouse, other elements are made more “chunky” to support the roof and to enable more joint locations. The sense of estrangement is enhanced as the original house with multiple degrees of vertical thicknesses turns into one with one identical thickness throughout. This also mimics a traditional dollhouse with its little regard to how real structure works, thus evoking the notion of miniature and play.
The history of the house comes into play when furniture and dolls are considered, as Pauline Schindler was said to paint her part of the house pink after the Schindlers separated. It would not be too far-fetched to propose that her furniture are also pink and pink curtains replaced the original white ones.
[ii] A Doll's House
In tune with the theme of defamiliarization, a stop-motion film is created with an imagined alternative history of the house. Now pink lawn flamingos are seen taking over Pauline’s living quarters. This changes the way the house is seen, as now objects, instead of people, occupy the space. The canonical books of 20th century architecture have not dealt much in depth with interiors and their objects. As the original house is reimagined and remade as a dollhouse, questions regarding the architectural object and architecture as an object are raised. How we see architecture and its relation to the object remains to be explored in the next part of the studio.
[iii] A New House
The design of Kasa Kitty is done through an investigation of a “décor” object – pets. We spend most of our time within the same space as them, yet they are almost never considered equal. Despite their size, pets demand more attention to their living environment. The new house aims to discover new means of cohabitating with our pets, in this specific case a Maine coon cat. What does it mean to live like a cat and occupy a cat’s space? The reversal of scale between human and pets in this case serves to defamiliarize the concept of living with something non-human.
As Schindler advocated for the equal treatment of outside and inside, Kasa Kitty advocates for the equal treatment of humans and their life companions – pets. Even though the design language and form in Kasa Kitty depart from those of the Schindler house (its rounded corners are derived from cat trees and tunnels), the Schindler House retains its influential elements of program distribution: the humans still work on the ground floor and sleep upstairs, while the cats work/roam up above and sleep on the ground.
A speculative project in nature, Kasa Kitty serves as a foray into exploring future ways of living based on observed current trends. Maybe one day your cat will no longer be grumpy and let you pet her unconditionally.