Original Detail object before the Super Un-roll.
Final Project for Secret Life of Buildings with Ronald Eckels III
“Drawing in architecture is not done after nature, but prior to construction; it is not so much produced by reflection on the reality outside of drawing.”
In the essay “Translations from Drawing to Building,” Robin Evans argues that the hegemony of drawing over the architectural object has never been challenged. The discussion goes further into introducing the idea that the architecture drawing does not operate in classic representation but precedes the architectural object, creating a complex relationship between objects—drawing and object. This generic architecture roof detail relies on the possibility to be unrolled, in order to distance itself from the drawing, and to produce friction between the object and its representations. According to Evans, “Despite the possible astronomical roots or symbolic backing of the parallel projections, the architectural meaning and likeness are preserved through the process making the transportation from idea to construction successful and compelling” (1).
We decided to use a generic architectural detail (taken out of a catalog) as it becomes non-specific therefore its ontological status oscillates between a three dimensional object and drawing but it is not a form of representation of an architectural building some sort of proto-architecture. This object/detail uses a process of dimensional translation, the drawings of the object/detail was derived from three-dimensional medium that was, in consequence, unrolled in Rhino, producing the official point of departure. The digital operations of rolling and un-rolling present a kind of subjectivity that has a degree of agency upon this particular object/detail. This becomes the crux of the problem.
This un-rolled object is an atypical application of a conventional wall section/detail drawing. This technical sophistication aligns itself as a reflection of two major developments within speculative architecture of the past decade: a broad diffusion of technological expertise and a shift from critical to projective theory. Perhaps this project reclaims a new critically speculative position.
The object has the capacity to fold horizontally as many times as needed for effects of the drawing exercise, with no other purpose than to articulate a discussion from a specific architecture or a specific detail. Technically, in its un-rolled position, it disrupts our preconceived notion of any architectural orientation. The device that makes this argument possible is the developed un-rolled drawing.
The object/detail went full circle, cycling through various iterations of dimensional status and quality of line work, removing from the object its familiarity without sacrificing its integrity a sort of post-digital abstraction. These low-fi operations or post-digital shifts produce a kind of reconstruction of the object, a drawing machine. These are motivated completely by the planes/drawings as an object, despite the suggestion of the seemingly alien end product.
When the three dimensional object/detail was unrolled in Rhino, translating 3-D data into a 2-D printable format, stripping away its ontology through the removal of qualities attributed to an architectural detail, nomenclature, dimensions and references. It is important to observe that this type of developable surface tools work best for designing airfoil and hydrofoil type surfaces, so we have to force the software and capitalize on possible glitches. They were not designed to be used for bending and unfolding sheet metal like duct work or for developing flat fabric patterns, which is exactly what we did. This is precisely why it was an interesting challenge to use this process and un-roll this object/detail to gain an unplanned complexity.
Three-dimensional moments were then injected back into the rolled planes, giving the object the appearance of a cube. Once the file was ready, the 2-D version was laser-cut on 1/16” aluminum sheet. This surface/mass reinterpretation of the object suggests that rather than using digital technology to reverse engineer the construction of the complex form, the digital tools should become a mechanism to better understand material and fabrication potential.
We would like to argue that there is a similarity between unrolling as a digital operation and Deleuzian notion of fold as the ontology of becoming, more specifically the Superfold. “It would be neither the fold nor the unfold that would constitute the active mechanism, but something like the Superfold, as borne out by the foldings proper to the chains of the genetic code, and the potential of silicon in third-generation machines, as well as by the contours of a sentence in modern literature, when literature 'merely turns back on itself in an endless reflexivity.”(2)
In the fold (Deleuze) the form/object tends to convey three readings at the same time: what it was, and the current status as well as the future possibilities (the real, the actual / the possible, the virtual). In unrolling as digital operation you can still get that multiplicity of readings but with a concentration on the previous (what this object was) the future is in question here or could be again the same as the previous: folding, unfolding and refolding. Specifically the concept of the fold allows Deleuze to think creatively about the production of subjectivity, and ultimately about the possibilities for, and production of, ‘non-human’ forms of ‘subjectivity’. In fact on one level the fold is a critique of typical accounts of subjectivity, those that presume a simple interiority and exteriority; appearance and essence, or surface and depth.
In his appendix to the book on Foucault Deleuze continues his meditation on the fold, but looks to the future. If the fold is the operation proper to man, then the Superfold is synonymous with the superman, the non-human, understood as that which ‘frees life’ from within man. This focuses on an ontological shift, the non-human is in charge of the animals (the capturing of codes), the rocks (the realm of the inorganic) - and the very being of language (the realm of affect ‘below’ signification). This new kind of fold no longer figures man as a limiting factor on the infinite, unmarking the subject/cultural combination. In this new kind of fold man is involved in what Deleuze terms an ‘unlimited finitude’. It is a fold in which a ‘finite number of components produce an infinite number of combinations’. This is the difference 3 and repetition of Deleuze or what we might term his fractal ontology. The object/detail becomes part of this ontological argument. This is a fold that opens man out to that which is specifically non human - forces that can then be folded back ‘into’ himself to produce new modalities of being and new means of expression. Today more than ever we live in a superfolded moment, since we live infinitely more than ever multiple possibilities of agency. The object/detail stands for an autonomous post-digital object that is a product of new codes of subjectivity as part of a non-human machine, which by means of operations like folding and unfolding could produce unlimited finitude. Its ontology has been fractured from the architectural regime acquiring its own agency.
1. Evans. Robin . Translations from Drawings to Building and Other Essays. (1997). Architectural Association. London. p. 181
2. Deleuze. Gilles. Foucault. Appendix (1998). University of Minnesota Press. P.131