Friday, May 17, 2013

The Birth and Reverberation of an Object

Texas A&M University. Department of Architecture, Spring 2013. Graduate Thesis.
Shane Bearrow
Advisers: Gabriel Esquivel, Weiling He and Ergun Akleman

“Birth and Reverberation of an Object” is, in part, an analysis of Graham Harman’s object-oriented ontology, through which a natural object is stripped of its ontology through a series of craft iterations. The basic idea of this project was to conduct a series of drawing exercises going from analog to digital in order to produce a unique shape. This process was inspired by Robin Evans’ essay “Translations from Drawing to Buildings.” All steps in the process were unique, though clearly traceable and geared toward the autonomy of an architectural object. Similar to De l’Orme’s Diane de Poiters interior, diagrammatic parallel projections guided the object through instances of dimensional, textural, and shape shifting before it reached its final destination. Through a drawing-governed evolution, an object was born governed by methodological iterations, thus the use of the word “reverberations.” This object exhibits transplanted characteristics of its source while appearing strange and difficult to read, ultimately enhancing its appeal.

We are in a moment where architecture is redefining its position, moving from a subject-centered and systematic discourse to an object-oriented situation. Objects need not be natural, simple, or indestructible. Instead, objects will be defined only by their autonomous reality. They must be autonomous in two separate directions: emerging as something over and above their pieces, while also partly withholding themselves from relations with other entities (1). Object-oriented ontology (OOO) is a metaphysical movement that rejects the privileging of human existence over that of nonhuman objects (2). Specifically, object-oriented ontology opposes the anthropocentrism of Immanuel Kant's Copernican Revolution, whereby objects are said to conform to the mind of the subject and, in turn, become products of human cognition (3).

Harman’s object-oriented ontology opens up a unique possibility for rethinking the peculiar problems associated with the problem of nature. A return to the object would have to be understood as a turning away from a mythological or sentimental understanding of nature toward the particularities and the essential strangeness of the objects themselves. In this particular project, the use of a seashell, an object of nature, was a deliberate selection. By submitting this “natural object” through a series of drawing translations, a new object related to its autonomous drawing process rather than nature was created. This object doesn’t operate in normative representation.

Assume for a moment that the architectural object is unified as an object, and remember that an architect is also an object in this ontology, not an enlightened mind outside the world of objects giving form to formless matter (4). A return to the architectural object as a disciplinary priority cannot be a nostalgic return to pre-modern academic preoccupations with character, propriety, and the idealities of a compositional balance. Nor is this return to the object a simple return to figuration and detached massing. “Object” here should not be understood in a literal sense.

Successful object making cannot be completely encapsulated by a methodology that might repeat the success. There are diverse methodologies to investigate. This object operates outside of formal indexical operations. As a non-theoretical interaction between the maker as an object and the various objects of the making process, “craft” is the ambiguous word that has, in the past, identified the unique expertise of the maker in the relationship to the material. This where the relationship between Evans’ position in regards to drawing in terms of inventing complex drawings is what we have referred to as the architect’s craft and the object-oriented ontology that allows for the theoretical revisions of the future of an architectural object.

This project involved generating an object that departed from nature by changing its ontology at the end of the process. Use of the drawing craft presents alternatives for architecture to apply normative modes of production in a different way, through the combination of analog and digital presentations in 2-D and 3-D. The most immediate future development that we will undertake is to fabricate our object using the CNC milling machine to create a base form made out of foam. From this positive mold, we will create the final object using composite materials, epoxy resin, and c-glass; the ZBrush pattern will be unfolded from the digital model using Pepakura, and it will be printed and incorporated as a layer within the composite surface.

After the prototype was built,  a structural analysis using ABACUS was performed, a software used by aerospace engineering, and determine the performative needs and properties of the object’s surface. Additionally, materiality concerns and construction techniques were researched on an architectural scale. Once the properties of each material are deduced, the focus will shift to solving various technical challenges of fabricating parts of the object full scale.

1.     Ruy, David. (2012). Returning to Strange Objects. Tarp Architecture Manual (Spring): p. 38 (2012)
2.     Harman, Graham (2002). Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects. Peru, Illinois: Open Court. p. 2. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/08126094449|08126094449 [[Category:Articles with invalid ISBNs]]]].
3.     Bryant, Levi. "Onticology–A Manifesto for Object-Oriented Ontology, Part 1." Larval Subjects. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
4.     Ruy, David. (2012). Returning to Strange Objects. Tarp Architecture Manual (Spring): p.42 (2012)