Alien Interfaces: Exploring a World Beyond Reality
Warisara Sudswong @ Cornell University, M.Arch [Advisors: Andrea Simitch, Mark Morris]
This project uses the role of representation in architectural drawing as a way to actively engage in between the co-mingling of the fiction/fantasy and the real. The project will be looking through the eyes of extra-terrestrial perception and alien types of vision as a way to develop a working methodology that challenges drawing the unknown.
Through the superimposition between the world of the known and the unknown, the project is able to construct a world that begins to expand beyond the realms of reality, where it defies the laws of gravity and where we can engage in multiple layers of different worlds and dimensions.
In a way, all architectural drawings are a proposal of a constructed world– mainly aiming to represent or simulate its built condition. Especially in the academic world, students are encouraged to understand architecture beyond its superficial appearance and oftentimes engage with real and imaginary sites used as springboards for the imagination. This thesis draws upon this notion and aims to go even further by trying to push beyond the limitation of our preconception of architectural drawing genres. And the process to develop this constructed world is to use the building blocks of fiction and narration.
[The World of Carl Sagan]
The proposed narrative used to channel the thesis’ interest in drawing genres is through proposing to construct the world of Carl Sagan. The choice of Sagan was taken from the interest in drawing genres through his obsessions with the extra-terrestrial.
The research will help inform about who Carl Sagan is and what are his interests and obsessions. Sagan plays many roles- as an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicists, author, and as a Cornell professor, amongst many other roles. But he is best known for his work as a science communicator and the first person to convince NASA to send a message into space.
There are three significant touchstones that allows for Sagan’s study to show a relationship to the sky. A skewed square skylight acts as a solar clock and a portal into the universe; a bookshelf that all knowledge and his work orbits around, acting like a cosmos to his universe; and lastly, a circular window within a door that allows the light setting sun to move in an arc across the floor.
The series of drawings and composite drawings aims to privilege these touchstones that fuel Sagan’s obsession and is crucial and fundamental in constructing his world. The earlier drawings begin to isolate and call attention to certain touchstones. Although the drawings are based from conventional plans, sections, and elevations, they eventually transform and become more defamiliarized as we feed in more criteria and information. So that every drawing will have a convention and another reality that exists in this other world or worlds.
Each drawing is filtered into various lenses through the eyes of extraterrestrial perception as a way to challenge drawing the unknown. The following describes some of the exploration that was applied towards these drawings.
Layering, Juxtaposition, and Superimposition was the fundamental elements used in creating the composite drawings.
Scale and Magnification references strategies used by Eames ‘Power of Ten’ video. There’s scaling of Sagan’s study in relation to its surrounding context on multiple levels– scale of the study with Fall Creek, of Ithaca, Of Earth, of our Solar System, and of the universe. Magnification and amplification, in particular of the bookshelf, was also experimented as a way to explore heightened vision and hyper sense of sight.
Perspective, Distortion, and Displacement was used as a way to alter familiar objects so as to suggest other possible projections of another reality. These realities, which would defy the laws of gravity, can then warp into new form. As certain elements begin to alter, they also take on a different role in another drawing.
Projections and X-ray Vision with experimentation on transparencies and superimposing of drawings is explored to create visibility between layers of information. This is particularly used to capture not only the multiple dimensions and realities of the worlds but also in positioning and capturing movement of various invisible forces.
Capturing Time was also a challenge as some layers within a drawing attempt to capture a certain moment where elements crytallize themselves at a particular moment in time while another layer would try to capture multiple moments projected in time.
Colors and Shadows are explored as a way to soften the edge and blur boundaries while suggesting hypervision or hypercolor. The grey tint used to indicate shadow is used sparingly to help capture time within the day but the shadow themselves also aren’t just mere shadows but a projection of another layer of information.
All drawings are speculative in nature and encourage the viewers to read, to re-read, to interpret, and to mis-interpret the drawings on their own. Over time, and through many iterations, these drawings have grown to become more complex. The constant reference to earlier drawings now, for me, has become an internal dialogue and these drawings now have a logic that has been built up over time. As the development of the narration progresses over the entire series of composite drawings, my hope is that it will begin to inform the viewers about what kind of relationship that Sagan has with the aliens.
In making these drawings, I have come to work out a drawing process and methodology. These drawings are now not merely just forms of representation but it is also a mode of thought and process that has pushed the limit and transcended beyond the role of representation and can be considered as a proposal for a new genre of architecture.
Who influences you graphically?
I’ve looked at Libeskind, Lebbeus Woods, Archigram, Thom Mayne and many others as my graphic influence. Prior to constructing this set of drawings, I had spend an extensive amount of time research precedents from artists and architects on how they use the role of representation to construct their “world”. Through analyzing and decoding their drawings, I was able to extract strategies to apply to my final set of drawings. Another important influence is from my interest in graphic novels. Authors such as Jimenez Lai and Wes Jones played a big role in my graphic influence.
What is your take on color?
In trying to represent alien visions that deals with heightened senses, I find that colors, tones, and shadows play an important role. My exploration of color was used as a way to soften the edge and blur boundaries while also suggesting hypervision and hypercolor. In a way, color is used to project another layer of information onto the drawings. The use of psychedelic colors also encourages viewers to read, re-read, interpret, and to misinterpret these drawings as they were intended to be speculative in nature.
What is the effect and purpose of the square format?
I was very much influenced by the Eameses’ film, “Powers of Ten” which deals with the relative size of things in the universe. The decision for the square format is in a way a tribute to that. I also think that the square format allows me to study these drawings at multiple scales- from the surrounding context of the site, the city, the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe and allows for an easier transition between these various amplitudes.
How important is the role of narrative within the architectural project?
I believe that the building blocks of fiction and narration was heavily used in developing a drawing process and methodology. I was able to use the narrative of Carl Sagan and his obsession with the extra-terrestrial as a way to channel my interest in drawing genres and use it as a way to push the limit of our preconception of architectural drawing genres.
How and to what extent has this project, as a reflection on the notion of architectural representation and the medium of the drawing, influenced how you operate as an architect?
As an architect, we deal with how we represent our drawings to clients, other architects, and other people all the time. In my opinion, there are currently a limited genres of drawings that allows us to communication with others. My goal for this project was to develop a new drawing methodology that transcend beyond our typical plan, elevation, sections. Since these composite drawings rely on layering, juxtaposition and superimposition as the fundamental elements for construction, I find that using digital drawing as a medium allows me to produce a drawing process that is repetitive and iterative. I find that much of the techniques that I have developed from the project is now used in my daily life as an architect.
Are there any other mediums you would be keen on exploring and why? Did you ever think on playing with layers of transparent paper to show the multitude of layers of the project?
I would love to explore watercolor as a medium because I believe it would help make the project stronger as the process of constructing the composite drawing would be different. I also find that oftentimes, lines drawn digitally are too definitive whereas watercolor would allow for a different technique of blurring the boundaries. The earlier iterations of these drawings have been made through overlaying transparent paper to show multiple layers of information. This allows me to test out which layers is more effective in certain drawing. There are also many times where removing layers also becomes important as well.