An Ambiguous Reality

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An Ambiguous Reality

Emma Fraser, Diploma 9 AA School of Architecture



The project concerns itself with the contemporary (ir)relevance of the cultural icon. Using the imminent global rising sea levels as a premise to relocate icons under threat, the Wonderwall is built as a vast sea-based retreat, within which to relocate and save the world’s cultural heritage.


Once cleaved from their original sites, the icons are transported via barge, pictured, to their new home. Lacking navigational systems, the barges lose their way, floating, as most of the world’s water bourne trash does, towards one another in a swirling mass of detritus.





Meanwhile, the Wonderwall lies empty, waiting for its treasures, becoming a monument to lost culture and challenging the reader to question whether the icon is ultimately tied more to its form, or to its memory.






The Great Indoors

Our contemporary condition is one of interiority. The relationship between the domains conceived as inside and outside have shifted immensely and the difference between these domains is becoming progressively less distinct.

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In response to a version of the future where our earth has been consumed by smog, the project proposes an offset of the earth’s habitable crust to form a new pangaea. This colossal structure of unimaginable scale seeks to protect humanity from the toxic air and provide a new interior version of living.’


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The Great Indoors

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The Great Indoors



Who influences you graphically? What drew you to this type of representation?

I’m influenced by a lot of different sources when creating imagery, we have access to so many visual precedents nowadays we’re subconsciously influenced all the time. I’m definitely influenced a lot by photography, especially of early 20th century expressionist architecture. I find formal inspiration in industrial photography, in books about the building of canals and dams. For composition I always look at Piranesi etchings, Canaletto and Panini paintings and Sir John Soane who are all masters of fragment arrangement. I’ve also been influenced a lot by Louis Kahn for a modernist take on the weighty monumental architecture.

It’s interesting in a time where students are kind of rejecting the more realistic forms of representation to use realistic techniques but try to add a stylistic quality, not just to strive for absolute reality.The intent is to produce an image that lives as both a drawing and photograph, that has a sort of ambiguity of authenticity that makes you look twice.



To what extent is the way through which we represent a project a means to legitimise it?

When addressing a project that is so speculative in intent and narrative, for it to stand on it’s own and be successful and relevant as an academic proposal in the contemporary architectural context you have to fully immerse the audience in the imaginary world or version of the future you are presenting. Alongside positioning the narrative to be believable, the representation of the imagery is the best tool to legitimise a thesis. In ‘Wonderwall’ I chose a very photo-realistic means of representation in all of the images. This meant that while the narrative followed a fairly absurd trajectory, the drawings themselves had such a ‘real’ quality that the project gained much more validity than if the drawings had been represented in a more ambiguous style.






In ‘The Great Indoors’ the thought process was the same, the realist image-making grounds the very speculative project in visual reality.

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The Great Indoors


When representing something as iconic as the monument, which in its contemporary condition lives through photographs, what was your thought process in representing the project photo-realistically?

As ‘Wonderwall’ centres around the iconic state of the monument, it’s very important that the monuments are recognisable in the imagery. I could’ve used actual photographs of the monuments to create the images but I wanted to introduce a visual twist so instead I modelled and rendered them. The images look like the real monuments but slightly ‘off’. The photograph format maintains the monuments in the context they live in today but allows them to be displaced into the world of the project removing them from context. The images of the project are set up as scenes or snapshots in time, as moments during the icons’ journey, and as moments in the narrative that journey follows.



Photorealism also gives the images a more dynamic quality. The theses of both ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘The Great Indoors’ are set in a version of the world we live in, therefore the images have to speak to a wider context beyond the page, the choice to represent photo realistically alludes to extension of the world beyond the confines of the framed image.

What parameters define the framing of your scenes? How did you approach the macro and the horizon in ‘Wonderwall’ in relation to the micro interior scale of this year’s work ‘The Great Indoors’?

When beginning to frame the scenes within the drawing sets I always think about where the focal point should be, in Wonderwall at the macro scale most of the images centre around some form of external horizon line which alluded to a wider oceanic context around the project. The horizon line became the ordering measure with which the project orientated or disorientated itself and the subject of each of the images is free to move around the composition. ‘The Great Indoors’ is an interior project and so inherently speaks to a much more confined scale. The imagery itself is almost exclusively interior and so utilises the interior walled quality in the framing of the images to provide a more rigid perspectival constant.

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The Great Indoors

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The Great Indoors



Emma Fraser recently graduated from the Architectural Association in June 2017 after spending 2 years studying the Diploma Course in Diploma Unit 9. Since graduating she has been doing freelance work for the Graphic design company ZakGroup and architecture practice Phase 3. Previous to studying at the AA she spent her one year placement at Hopkins architects after studying Part 1 at the University of Nottingham. She will be re-joining Hopkins architects permanently in September 2017.




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