Exploring the Flicker between Flatness and Depth

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Colour, Students

Exploring the Flicker between Flatness and Depth 

Elif Erez


Who influences you graphically?

There’s a lot… I’m drawn to a ton of stuff outside of architecture, like photography (Gregory Crewdson, Neil Winokur, Garry Winogrand,) movies (Ingmar Bergman, Alejandro Jodorowsky,) graphic design (Tauba Auerbach, Eddie Opara, Paul Rand, Sigrid Calon,) painting (Josef Albers, J.M.W. Turner, Ellsworth Kelly). Within architecture, I’ll only call out James Stirling, god of axons, because this list is already too long.

How does the graphic language tie to the proposal itself? 

The projects, especially the cricket club, have had to do with the collapse of the three-dimensional into the two-dimensional, the interplay between the two, and the resulting perception of surfaciality vs. the perception of mass. In the medium of drawing, that interplay can turn into a really productive feedback loop– there’s something about the flicker between flatness and depth that you can only really dig into through explorations in drawing. I’m interested in how my choices in representing different elements such as pochè, volume, light and shadow, or materiality affect certain tangible qualities about the proposal, and how that can let me discover things I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

What dictates your choice of colour palette?

I just hoard colors and color combinations I like– usually on my phone, in photos or screenshots (of random objects, paintings, photographs, movie stills, other drawings, etc,) and then color-pick, play around, and go from there.


What influenced the choice of a square format? To what extent does it relate to the theme of geometric patterns? 

For the cricket club, the square format was a result of my decision to play on the nine square grid of the project. All of the drawings in the set fit into a nine square grid that was subdivided into smaller pieces. For Not Your Neighbors, I chose the circle to imply the possibility of infinite expansion. In that sense, there is a definite relationship between the theme of geometric patterns within the project, and the format of the drawing itself.

You explore your plan through plan and section, why so?

To be completely honest, I do that before I even realize what I’m doing. On the one hand, I’m extremely drawn to the graphic, collapsed flatness of orthographic drawing. I don’t entirely design in drawing– it’s usually an iterative translation between that and the model, as well as material explorations. Lately, I’ve probably favored the graphics side a lot more, because I come from an undergraduate background where almost all of my drawings were hand-drafted. Going digital in graduate school has opened up a whole trove of possibilities in terms of what I can do and discover through drawings. On the other hand, I also recognize that designing in plan and section (though mostly in plan) is a tendency that probably comes from the fact that I’m literally a baby in the wider scheme of an architecture career and education– I’m a first semester grad student, after all. I hope that as I continue to learn and grow, I’ll get more agile at exploring design through non-orthographic methods.


Curtain Wall Court Play

How could a format more related to the proposal (less attached to the notion of drawing) and exploring the notion of mass medium have explored the proposal further?

That’s a really good question! Drawing is mass medium, though. Everything is so digitized and accessible that I don’t think there is much difference left between drawing, collage, object, photograph or painting. I think that is exactly what makes drawing in architecture so exciting right now– we can do whatever we want! The notion of drawing itself is so in flux that architectural representation has the chance to redefine its boundaries.


Curtain Wall Court Play (Harvard Graduate School of Design, MArch I first semester studio. Duration: 4 weeks. Critic: Max Kuo)

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Curtain Wall Court Play

“The church interior, the baroque style’s greatest achievement, revealed a completely new conception of space directed towards infinity: form is dissolved in favor of the spell of light, the highest manifestation of the painterly.” -Hubert Damisch, A Theory of /Cloud/

The project is a cricket club, situated on a nine-square grid of columns, on a steeply sloping terrain, using a fragment extracted from a baroque precedent church. The close analysis of the selected precedent, Michalangelo’s Sforza Chapel, revealed a highly interesting moment: a collision point between a thin, curving wall and the thick, regularized walls of the chapel. At this point, the curving wall tucks behind the exaggerated, protruding form of the poche. The resulting effect is one of implied continuity beyond what is visible; what Hubert Damisch describes as the baroque conception of “space directed towards infinity.”

The curving wall acts as a backdrop on a stage set, while the massive poche plays a role similar to that of a proscenium. Together, the elements frame the cricket players, mediating the viewing experience of the spectators watching from the sidelines. On the exterior, the fragment is inverted. The curving wall becomes a massive window through which the spectators observe the game on the outdoor playing field. At the terminus point of the panorama wall, what used to be the massive poche in the baroque fragment is now only its exterior skin, transformed into a crenellated band of multicolored glass. Light coming from the exterior is filtered through the colored, crenelated glass surface, and is cast onto the curving panorama walls on the interior.


Curtain Wall Court Play

In Atrocities. Or, Curtain Wall as Mass Medium, Reinhold Martin says, “The curtain wall collapses near and far, inside and outside onto its surfaces. It is, like its mass mediatic contemporary television, an apparatus that gathers together heterogeneous components”. The project, in the deconstruction, transformation, and multiplicity of its deployment of the baroque fragment, utilizes the architectural surface as both a curtain wall and a screen. When acting in conjunction, both the panorama-as-curtain- wall and the panorama-as-screen subvert one another’s functions: The panorama-as-screen, in acting as a backdrop that catches colored light, becomes more than just a vehicle for the collapse of distance and time in the sense that a television screen would be—it privileges that which is watched over the mechanism of viewership. The temporality and fleeting conditions of the colored light that is cast on the wall amplify the singularity of each moment that is framed by the fragments, enhancing their aura as discrete and unique. The crenellated, colored glass framing the terminus points of the transparent panorama wall on the exterior acts as a counterpoint to Martin’s concept of the ‘curtain wall as mass media’: the crenellations are not vehicles for a one-sided viewing experience directed toward the outside, but instead bring in light from the exterior, filter it, and project it onto the interior panorama wall.

They Are Not Your Neighbors (Harvard Graduate School of Design, MArch I first semester studio. Duration: 2 weeks. Critic: Max Kuo)

The project is an imagined urban pattern motivated by a set of geometric relationships between two houses. When propagated, the geometric relationship gives rise to two extremes that are contained within the same whole: the regularized and the aberrant conditions. The aberrant condition relies on the same aggregational logic as the generic condition, determined by the hexagonal lot boundaries, yet densifies and folds the lots on themselves as it executes the procedure. The result is an urban fabric where two communities bound to seemingly opposing organizational principles are intertwined. One wonders, do lot line geometries and urban aggregation principles have political dispositions that would manifest themselves, were this urban pattern to be realized?

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They Are Not Your Neighbors


Elif Erez is an M.Arch I at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and has a B.A. in Architecture from Yale. She was born and raised in Istanbul, and is interested in architectural representation as an active agent in design, politics, ideology and culture.



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