Olivia Lu Hill
This studio’s aim was to create a proposition for the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, infamous for being tall and out of place, the glass cladded skyscraper sits in the middle of the quaint low-rise limestone city. My project examines the issue of nostalgia and preservation historical architectural identity in a modernizing city. The project’s proposition is based on the concepts the Flaneur, as Walter Benjamin writes in “The Arcades Project” the Flaneur translates to a stroller and existed in the late 19th century Paris as Dandy gentleman who strolled about the Parisian arcades walking his turtles without any specific destination in mind. With the Haussman renovation the arcades were torn down and the automobile was introduced, the quickened more efficient pace of life left the Flaneur’s stroll awkward, inefficient and out of place. In my project the Flaneur of the 19th century is a metaphor for historical buildings in increasingly dense and efficient cities, as taller sleeker buildings go up, older buildings are left as items that take up place to indulge in nostalgia.
My project proposes a ritual for historical preservation in Paris. The proposal includes a factory in which buildings which are set for demolition would be voted on and one would be selected every 10 years to be preserved through resurrection onto a mobile platform. These building zombies wander the streets in a Flaneur-style, uprooted from their original context and without a home and with no purpose, thus embodying unwanted loitering around and haunting their original context. The act of resurrection and parading the dead has links to France through Madame Tussad who was famous for creating wax figurines of from molds and forms of the decapitated or recently deceased. The mobilization of the architecture is manifestation of the placelessness of historic building in this modernization of a city leading to a literal loitering and haunting of its original context. This ritual proposal for the modernization of Paris, seeks to both playfully depict an alternative reality while literalizing and manifesting the issue of the role and methods of historic preservation.
Who influences you graphically?
Jimenez Lai, Drawing Architecture Studio (d-a-s), Hayao Miyazaki
I am inspired by the character of the lines and anthropomorphic qualities in many of Jimenez Lais architectural drawings, the beautiful rooftop plan obliques Drawing Architecture Studio, as well as the ability to illustrate narrative and motion that can be seen in Miyazaki’s films. For this project I explored technique illustrating flatness as well as being able to see multiple views at once- for example the plan oblique (able to see the elevation and rooftop), elevation oblique (able to see both front and side elevations).
How do silhouettes as those of Renoir inform and influence your images and the way the proposal is perceived?/How does the graphic language of the first image sit in relation to the others?
I used Renoir’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day” as a working perspective to help imagine what the flaneurs would look like on the street. Additionally, the painting was done around the same time that the Parisian Arcades existed and therefore it could be thought that possibly the gentleman in the foreground could be a representation of the original flaneurs of Paris, this would be contrasted with the mechanical/architectural Flaneurs that I designed and created in the background. The graphic language is different because it is a collage and a eye-level perspective and therefore relies mostly on the tone of Renoir’s original painting and humanizes the work, where the others are illustrations and use oblique and isometric views which flatten and treat the architecture more as an object.
To what extent might our obsession with the act of preservation reach a point in which cities themselves will become giant museums preserved behind an enormous glass vitrine?
Good question, in general this is something that preservationist and developers are always in conflict over, what to keep and what to develop, to which there is no easy answer. In my opinion the point where cities become museums is when they are no longer able to be used or occupied by the people that live in the area and instead are solely used as a spectacle. For, this project’s proposition the buildings preserved are mobile and wander the streets, thus simultaneously being nostalgic and historic but also congesting the streets and preventing efficient development. Thus, in order for the pace of life and strolling in Paris are to be maintained, neither running or at a standstill, the city must find a balance between new developments and the preservation of the past.
What dictated the view through which you choose to reveal the proposal?
I believe you are referring to the long vertical plan oblique, which I used as a way to displace both the elevations of the building and the roof tops. I used the viewpoint specifically because It displays the narrative of the roaming of the Flaneurs as well as the anachronism of the modernism and height of Montparnasse Tower in contrast to the neighboring historic area to be seen.
Olivia Lu-Hill has a bachelor’s of science in Civil-Environmental Engineering from the University of Southern California. She worked for several years as a project engineer doing environmental consulting in Shanghai, China. Olivia is currently pursuing her Master’s in Architecture at the University of Michigan. She was a Dow Sustainability Fellow in 2015 where she did research on the government resettlement housing for informal settlements in India. Olivia will be graduating in spring of 2017 and will be moving back to her hometown of San Francisco.