Implying the Possibility of Form or Surface

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Implying the Possibility of Form or Surface

Caitlin Thissen


Yale Post-FAT Advanced Studio: The Minimum Number of Lines; The Maximum Number of Things, led by Sam Jacob and Sean Griffiths. Exploring modes of representation: Letraset lines delineate areas of movement, pace, sequence, and imply or loosen existing formal arrangements. In the collaged works, these lines imply the possibility of form or surface. Yet, imperfections in the application of the letraset indicate the wearing of those surfaces, a shifting, an overlap…the quotidian movement, exchange, and wear (to name a few) of the defining aspects of Pekham; the studio’s selected “site”. A la Georges Bataille, these drawings are an exploration of the arch’l indefinite, where programmatic identity and power are not explicitly assigned to ascertainable arch’l forms. They are seen as loose gatherings and processes rather than fixed entities. The pieces, as a collation, present precise frameworks within which moments, movement, event, and sequence come to the fore, and ultimately, the hope is that these drawings present an alternate reading of spatial function (akin to Tchumi’s Manhattan Transcripts).
Reconsidering “program” through the car wash: These drawings do not make literal the normative conception of “car wash”. They reveal everything that “the carwash” conceals if considered an arch’l type. These drawings propose that the car wash serves (and has served) as a cultural/social/historical site…a sexually charged one. These drawings attempt to challenge or upheave the normative understanding of what the title embodies through the application of pre-fab (letraset) and hand drawn line, as well as pop art pastiche.


Who influences you graphically?
For this particular project, Richard Hamilton influenced the collaged work. Specifically his painting “Hers is a Lush Situation”, where car fenders, exhaust pipes, and chrome transform the page into a kind of continuous, twisting, and 3D topography using the minimum number of lines. The shapes and textures are reminiscent of car martials and forms.

On what basis did and do you form your archive of imagery? Are there any strict parameters, is it a continuous process, where do the fragments come from?
In the FAT studio, students were encouraged to choose their own project “program”. I ran with car wash, and the compositions emerged from an assembled catalog of pictures, textures, shapes, and colors associated with 1950’s and 60’s car culture.
I was lenient in the making of these drawings because they’re really more works in progress. Often lines, colors, and textures assume different roles depending on how they engage the page, materializing and pushing elements to the foreground or to the background, and/or beginning to imply architectural form. The work is attempting to reframe and interrogate the limits of architectural representation, using tanned legs in stilettos, incorporating inconsistent lines, and folding in raw, pink flesh, ultimately avoiding the clarity or consistency of hard lines.

You talk about movement and exchange, to what extent can these images be considered as complete? Can they be continuously changed and altered with the flowing of new ideas and reflections on the car wash?
Yes, these drawings will continue to evolve with time and accrued knowledge. Everything in these FAT compositions is essentially removable, transferable, or alterable, from the Mylar and collage pieces, to the Letraset and pencil lines.

How does the white/grey background act as a tabula rasa on which you can construct? How would colour remove and re focus the viewer’s attention?
White versus beige backgrounds allow me to flip from 1) a focus on object or something more akin to a conventional architectural drawing (such as plan, section, elevation), and 2) a thorough interrogation of paper space. A beige or colored background claims the page as site and sets the edge of the page as the definitive limit.

To what extent is collage the major tool through which we can and have to reconsider the multitude of information/data/images which we are continuously surrounded by?
It’s the way that images and forms, transposed to paper space, maintain a strong cultural (historical) reference or tie, giving the viewer plenty to unpack and consider. In some cases, it felt necessary to examine these images more deeply, allowing them to interact with line, form, color, texture, and/or pieces of relatable scale. Images were given a role among these graphic elements, not just in the formal and compositional sense, but in the narrative sense.

I have to say, ultimately, there are no single truths in my work. That would be asking too much of the technique. There are many ‘allusions to’, but no tidy answers, which I hope pulls architectural representation back from the dangerously generic precipice I believe it teeters on now. The all too ubiquitous and objective drawing styles that standard design practice+graphic communication embrace in order to present ‘the facts’ as empirically as possible. Personally, it’s helped me begin to form more complex arguments and to have a strong architectural/graphic opinion.



Caitlin graduated from the University of Utah School of Architecture in 2013 with her Honors B.S. Degree in Architectural Studies. While attending school, Caitlin interned for the Salt Lake // L.A. based firm Sparano+Mooney Architecture as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. The office was (then) working on a competition for the redesign of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Port au Prince–Haiti’s largest Roman Catholic church, partially destroyed during a catastrophic earthquake in the winter of 2010. The following summer (2013), she moved to New Haven, Connecticut to attend the Yale School of Architecture. There, she served as a Building Project Summer Intern (2014), a Yale School of Architecture Visualization Series Teaching-Fellow (2015-16), and collaborated with Joyce Hsiang & Bimal Mendis on the City of 7-Billion Exhibition, working toward final production and installation. Caitlin graduated this spring (2016) with an Architectural Masters and recently returned to Salt Lake City after traveling throughout Rome and Japan, July through August. Outside of school, Caitlin worked summers in her family’s small fishing supply and grocery in Larsen Bay, Alaska…Not shockingly, her personal interests lie in the political formation and settlement of arctic regions, rural fishing communities, and tracking the socio-economic ties between Alaska and Japan through the commercial fishing industry. Caitlin hopes to have a somewhat fleshed-out Fulbright proposal by the end of this Fall (2016).


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