Constructing Through Magical Realism
‘There is a myth, sometimes widespread,
that a person need only do inner work, in order to be alive like this;
that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only to change himself…
The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.’
Christopher Alexander et al., The Timeless Way of Buildings
‘Vilnius: short stories’ is a design exploration, proposing strategy and details for three new tram stations in Vilnius city, Lithuania. It aims to look at these small pieces of infrastructural architecture as mediators of different civic spaces. Therefore suggesting that small station typology can be contextual and subject for spatial cross-programming. Reflecting upon masterplanning ideas regarded as urban surgeries versus urban acupunctures, these tales of the city aim to demonstrate intricate relation between various layers of context and how these can dictate further design.
As a way to approach this, project primarily focuses on narrative based design methodology, where architectural and mythical setting of a place constructs a script for a new intervention. Further on, three ‘urban acupunctures’ are created, vastly focusing on spatial cognition of the sites. These are seeking after well-established knowledge within architectural tradition – understanding what proportions and subtle moves shaping our experience of urban environments. This information, obviously, is embedded in our classical contexts.
Further process includes interrogation of 10 km long tram line, selecting 7 specific stations to demonstrate the complexity and the variation that can be found in rather small urban environment.
This vertical, street section registration is concerned with the spatial and visual qualities of the sites that can be somewhat quantified and investigated. French author of the book ‘urban cinematics’ Francoiz Penz suggests that good visual connectivity with the environment spans to around 40 m distance from the viewer’s’ eye, and only around 50 degrees upwards in the vertical axes. Also, specific signs or commercials, designed to be viewed from the distance are influencing visual hierarchy. Therefore, in this investigation is depicting scale or these street sections, clearly marking what portions of the physical environment are dominating, memorable and what segments do give rhythm to the street.
This reflects on three chosen and analysed transport junctions within the city that are then reconfigured and appropriated for the new Tram infrastructure.
These are: Cinema Station, Gediminas Avenue Station and Zalgiris Station.
All three sites, situated in differing parts within the city, carry their own symbolic, myths and, simply, socioeconomic contexts. Furthermore, rich formal/ architectural surroundings, dictate not only confinements for spatial arrangements, but also their formal/ decorative expression. All to further interpret the concept of contextuality.
From sensitive and subtle decor elements, to simple and almost two-dimensional, yet appropriate crowd management moves, project only starts to grind the topic of urban spatial cognition. Yet, first and foremost promoting contextuality – something that can be challenged through the lens of modularity, economical construction and repetition.
Meanwhile we speculate what tomorrow is going to be, seducing each other with grand images, this exercise is disguising tempting idea of creating distant Utopia or entirely over-programmed public space. It merely shows the beautiful tale of current city, which lay itself to opportunity for well informed and careful design: one that architectural profession mastered and then – perhaps lost on the way.
Question arises: can we mediate?
Who influences you graphically?
If one sees graphics as primary idea of composition and visual hierarchy – the main influences come from masters of film and photography: Federico Fellini, Paolo Sorrentino, incredible shots from Philip-Lorca diCorcia with his depictions of city spectacle, or set photographer Erwin Olaf. Tensions, color, characters and symbolic environments is what helps to control attention in architectural depictions. Neo-realism with the pinch of drama is what interests me more than abstraction or stylistic cartoons – that reflects all the way back to initial thoughts about design. Line, texture and tones – all come later to strengthen the atmospheres.
How important is the narrative within an architectural project?
From a certain point of view narrative is meaningless. It is what helps designer to consolidate information, concepts and tell a coherent story – firstly to oneself – weather of time and space, or symbolically charged one. Design can easily come about regardless.
Yet, we [architects] seem to struggle without one. It becomes a design tool, almost like decision making algorithm, and if used well, design narration manifests itself to the users’ senses. Weather in ambiguous or direct manner – all depending on how straightforward the ideas are meant to seem.
What defined the method of representation through which you chose to articulate the proposal? How important were the views?
The project was intentionally constructed almost like ‘magical realism’, where existing myths and current physical conditions set the stage for the ‘act’, or a design. Therefore the aim was to represent ornaments, colors and materials accurately, saturating them to almost fictional importance. Specific perspectives aimed to demonstrate design intentions, but also create particular view ports – the same as humans’ eye differentiates important details and blurs others, joins them with passing figures and saturates in the given light, views were trying to consolidate that. On the other hand,the axonometric drawings were something for a pure clarity of spatial arrangements and material expressions.
What was your work process in terms of creation of images and development of project?
What programs did you use?
Particular views is what helped to push perceptional objective of the project much further. Only accurately setting up design moves within the context I could make sure the relation is created, focus points are achieved and the story can continue. Rarely from the birds- eye, but much do more from the humans’ point of view. Yet, representational images came lastly, meaning that the design moves were not made to satisfy color balance or composition of the image – process came to be quite opposite. Primer and, almost, main tool for all was Revit application, that assured accuracy, and also challenged me with its graphical limitations.
If you could explore the project further what would be your next move?
Expanding the research within given context in order to test whether it is possible to achieve coherent tool-kit of parts for a given environment. In other words – can small scale contextual design moves be constructed from efficiently produced, modular details and materials? Somewhere between economical, and imagined ideal.
The project is completed as part of MA thesis in The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenahagen, where Deimante has obtained her final qualifications in the summer of 2017. Currently she is practising and collaborating in London, UK.