Fragment 01:

Memory Fragment

Architecture must fully engage the preconscious, conscious, and subconscious.  Architecture must seek to frame experience by engaging one’s sense memory through spatial and material fragments in order to connect space with the layers of consciousness.

This first in the Fragment dialogue series, Memory is about how architects employ objects to imbue meaning into a space.  These objects, or more specifically fragments thereof, are extracted from context through a discussion on field and legibility, so meaning may be ascribed.  This meaning is then interwoven through architectural form to allude to memory events.

Fragment is an episodic publication of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture.  Each issue is dedicated to a singular idea, project, or element associated with the Art of Architecture published to foster future dialogues on architecture.

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Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollections,
longer than knowing even wonders.

William Faulkner, Light in August, (1932), pg. 104

 

Todd Ray, AIA, Principal
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture

 

Architecture must fully engage the preconscious, conscious, and subconscious. Architecture must seek to frame experience by engaging one’s sense memory through spatial and material fragments in order to connect space with the layers of consciousness.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

The first act in the visual study of an object is to extract it from its context. In its abstraction, the object rises to the foreground and loses its full contextual meaning. This initial separation is necessary for the intellectual study of its individual qualities, as its qualities within a field are reestablished during the creative act of reassembly.

This is a method for seeing the difference between a tree (figure) and the forest (field); an object positioned against a field can be identified and critiqued as it relates to a surface or background fabric. The reverse can also occur. This distinction permits each object to first attain unique meanings and then to be subtly changed in order to experiment with new conditions. Each may be changed; each may be dissected. The dissection of the object leads to the discussion of fragments: the legible object may fissure to allow the existence of a fragment; a fragment | field relationship is established.

The legibility of the object occurs when it can be fully distinguished from the background. This is
figure | ground or figure | field identification: analysis of an object or figure set against the space, surface or ground within or upon which it resides. The essence of this method is to visualize patterns and identify differences — the uniqueness within the fabric; the variations in spatial conditions.

 

1. Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter outline a two-dimensional method of analyzing objects in three dimensional spaces, as a means to differentiate the two. Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter, Collage City (Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press, 1978)

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

A fragment is legible if it can be understood as a comprehensible portion of some greater object. The fragment carries an apportioned meaning from the original object. Fragments can also be legible relative to the balance of an absent volume. Within this condition the fragment is multi-referential; it has gesture reference. The comprehension of a volume, which is distinct in its three dimensional form, is of identifiable material.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

 

Phenomenal transparencies occur not only in the visual reading of a façade or plan, but also in the experiential journey through a building. Patina steel columns rise vertically behind a taunt shear glazing system three strides behind before passing through the ebonized wood-grained pivoting wall. Penetrating through the plane of glass, steel, and wood is a short, almost insignificant knee wall that provides respite for the weary walker. The wall appears as a small trapezoid on the figure ground of the facade and as a broken zigzag through the figure ground of the plan; the wall is a fragment. Upon completing the building’s circuit, the walker has engaged fragments of this wall for rest, lunch, diaper changing, and a reflective pause. The wall’s dimension and material reminds her or him of warmth, comfort; repose.

Why?

Our minds identify element consistency through associative memory. The memory of passage collects the fragments and threads their reappearances into meaning. Much like Ariadne finding her way through the labyrinth, this thread of meaning interprets spatial intent and guides experience. Thus the architect imbues each fragment with referential, sequential, and mnemonic associations the participant can use to understand their place. Though architecture is thought of as material — concrete — it can also be understood as sequential events or cinematic frames of situation. The challenge is to construct a phenomenological essence of space to contend with the political, social and cultural ramifications of our time.

At left, Bernard Tschumi illustrates how a fragment, full of meaning, may redefine the interpretation and ultimately the meaning of the space. Tschumi equates the question of fragment legibility to written language: “The text instead is composed of fragments that relate only loosely to one another. These fragments … are all to be considered not only within the reality of ‘ideas’ but also within the reality of the reader’s spatial experience: a silent reality that cannot be put on paper.” 2 Meaning is thus conveyed through the composition of fragments.

 

2. Bernard Tschumi, “The Pleasure of Architecture” in Architecture and Disjunction (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996) pg. 83

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

Fragments of architecture (bits of walls, of rooms, of streets, of ideas) are all one actually sees. These fragments are like beginnings with ends. There is always a split between fragment which are real and fragments which are virtual, between experience and concept, memory and fantasy. These splits have no existence other than being the passage from one fragment to another. They are relays rather than signs. They are traces. They are ‘in-between’.

 

Bernard Tschumi, Questions of Space:
Lectures on Architecture, (1990) pg. 58

 

Though the first step in identifying an object is to remove it from its context, it is contextualization that defines how an object — or fragment — is to be interpreted. A fragment in isolation is but a word. A fragment within a context becomes a full thought. These thoughts when strung together, create a full perception of meaning. Much like a word is within a sentence, or a frame defines the view of a picture, the spatial context of a fragment determines how the mind creates meaning and references. The meaning of a fragment can, therefore, be modified by its context.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

The legibility of architectural fragments is akin to reading. Fragments are distributed through a space as text is on a page. As text is read, thoughts emerge and engage memory and emotion. A writer employs text to set mood, narrate plot and foreshadow future experience.

 

As with words in text, fragments in architecture alter experience by engaging memory. In the above quote, the subject is fragmented by an imagined – remembered – visual disruption. The act of recollection may be perceived as subtle or as distinct and fully evident. An architectural fragment that references previous or current experiences allows for a new lived interpretation.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

He laughed back, into the lamp; he turned his head and his laughing, running on up the stairs, vanishing as he ran, vanishing upward from the head down as if were running headfirst and laughing into something that was obliterating him like a picture in chalk being erased from a blackboard.

 

William Faulkner, Light in August, (1932) pg. 81

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

Woman Walking Downstairs, Eadweard J. Muybridge, 1887

Fragments are vehicles of allusion. They are referential, referential to the object they are perceived to be a part of, referential to the conditions from which they have sprung. It is the multiplicity of meanings which gives an architectural space richness; the texture of memory.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

 

The Roman orator Cicero used a sequence of imagined fragment | field conditions to remember, in great detail, elaborate and lengthy works of oration. He imagined a series of rooms within a palace and mentally placed pieces of his oration within each. In the course of the speech, Cicero re-experienced this path moving sequentially through the imagined palace mentally collecting fragments in order to assemble the meaning of the whole. Considered in reverse, a sequence of architectural fragments assembles for the viewer an elaborate and meaningful spatial experience.

 

3. Now called the method of loci; loci is Latin for places or locations. Cicero, De Oratore, 55 B.C.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

“Architectural space is born from the relationships between objects or boundaries and from planes which do not themselves have the character of the object, but which define limits. These limits may be more or less explicit, constitute continuous surfaces forming an uninterrupted boundary, or, on the contrary, constitute only a few cues between which the observer establishes relationships, enabling him to interpret an implicit limit.” . . . “By ‘eroding’ these planes to leave no more than the essential cues (angles and corners) or by reducing these curves even further to just edges or boundaries, we continue to distinguish an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside.’” . . . “As human beings we do not consciously need to register in a linear fashion all the fragments present in order to obtain an overall idea of the space which we are visiting or in which we are living.”

 

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

Pierre von Meiss challenges the designer to contend with degrees of explicit delineation and inversely, the degrees of implicit space. Space may be modulated by varied delineations created by objects or fragments. Fragments define the edges or boundaries limiting spatial perception.

 

4. Pierre Von Meiss, Elements of Architecture: From Form to Place (London: E. & F.N. Spon, 1998) pg. 101

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

Architecture is an assembly created from fragments of form, memory, and conditions each gathered from the physical and metaphysical realms of our existence. “Thus a piece of architecture is not ‘architectural’ because … it fulfils some utilitarian function, but because it sets in motion the operations of … the unconscious.” Fragments grasp the subconscious, enriching the mental engagement of the subject to the constructed world.

The arrangement of fragments to achieve the reverberation of memory ambiguity is not limited to the manipulation of form. The process may apply to phenomenal conditions related to a multiplicity of fragment aspects; in lieu of form, it may be a textural reference or a more haptic condition of memory. The light reflection off the glass harkens to water within the Venetian canal when romance warmed the souls of the two lovers. “The architecture of pleasure lies where concept and experience of space abruptly coincide, where architectural fragments collide and merge in delight…” Some memory constructs the architect anticipates; others the architect may only leave to chance and serendipity.

 

6.Bernard Tschumi, “The Pleasure of Architecture” in Architecture and Disjunction (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996) pg. 96

7. ibid. 92

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory
Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

Architecture is a collection of object fragments, all of which carry imbedded references and mnemonic relationships. Architects can use these fragments to choreograph experience through a space. The fragment must be distinctive from its surroundings. Once legible, the meaning of the fragment draws upon the memory evoking references. The sequence of the fragment collage reveals an experiential architecture that connects space and consciousness.

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture Fragment 01 Memory

 

List of Images:

 

Cover image: Site Plan, Academy for Educational Development Globe Theater Renovation
Image credit: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture 2009
Photo credit: All photographs are by Anice Hoachlander, Hoachlander Davis Photography
unless noted otherwise.

 

ii-iii: Detail showing the Pantheon and vicinity, Giambiattista Nolli, Pianta Grande di Roma (1748)
2: Vicinity plans for various Studio Twenty Architecture projects , from right to left:
(top) 1972 Florida Avenue NW, Theater Renovation; 4801 Benning Road SE, New PreK-8 School; 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Historic Building Renovation; 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Bus Terminal.
(center) 1512 Bladensburg Road NE, New Multi-Family Residences; 2620 Douglass Road SE, PreK-12 School Renovation; 1444 Irving Street NW, New Single Room Occupancy; 1841 California Steet NW, Residential Renovation.
(bottom) 425 C Street NE, Library Renovation; 1504 4th Street NE, Residential Renovation; 800 Benning Road SE, Clinic; 800 Florida Avenue NE, Dormitory Renovations
images credit: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture
4-5: HUIZ-JCMZ Residence, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture; image credit: Maxwell Mackenzie, 2006
6-7: HUIZ-JCMZ Residence, Elevations; image credit: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2006
8: HUIZ-JCMZ Residence, Shingle Detail; image credit: Maxwell Mackenzie, 2006
9: HUIZ-JCMZ Residence, Living Room; image credit: Maxwell Mackenzie, 2006
10: The Manhatten Transcripts, Bernard Tschumi, 1981
13: Derwin Residence, Detail at Beam and Clerestory, 2003
14: Derwin Residence, Orientation Diagrams; image credit: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2003
15: Derwin Residence, Exploded Isometric ; image credit: Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2003
16-17: Derwin Residence, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2003
18: Design Army Headquarters, Skylite Stair, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2005
20: Design Army Headquarters, Interior, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2005
21: Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, Marcel Duchamp, 1912
22: Design Army, Translucent Rails, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2005
23: Woman Walking Downstairs, Eadweard J. Muybridge, 1887
24: Design Army, Library Detail, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2005
26-27: Zimmerman Residence, Interior and Bookshelf and Stair Detail, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2006
28-29: Zimmerman Residence, Glass Stairwall, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2006
30: Awakening Slave, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 1520-1523;
Academia del Belle Arti Firenze
32: Corl Residence, Exploded Isometric, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2009
33: Corl Residence, Stairwell , Studio Twenty Seven Architecture 2009
34-35: Corl Residence, Closet and Bath, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture 2009
36: Salvaggio Residence, Exploded Isometric, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, 2006
38-39: Salvaggio Residence Stairs and Interiors, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture 2006
40: Salvaggio Residence, Bathroom Detail, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture 2006
42-43: Salvaggio Residence Bedroom, Studio Twenty Seven Architecture 2006

 

Project Teams:

HUIZ-JCMZ:
Contractor: Glass Construction Inc
Engineers: Ehlert/Bryan, Inc. (Structural)
Metropolitan Engineering (MEP)

Unit Derwin:
Contractor: Tobin Construction

Design Army Headquarters:
Contractor: American Property Construction
Engineers: Ehlert/Bryan, Inc. (Structural)
Bansal & Associates (MEP)

Zimmerman Residence:
Contractor: A. C. Contracting
Engineers: Ehlert/Bryan, Inc. (Structural)

Corl Residence:
Contractor: Phelps & Phelps Consulting

Engineers: Ehlert/Bryan, Inc. (Structural)
Salvaggio Residence:

Contractor: Hi Construction, Inc.
Engineers: Ehlert/Bryan, Inc. (Structural)

 

 

 

STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE is:

John K. Burke, AIA
Todd Ray, AIA

Deborah Buelow
Craig Cook
Raymond Curtis
Andrew Davis
Enrique de Solo
Ben Hoelscher
Hans Kuhn
Claire Lester
Niki Livingston
Jacob Marzolf
Natalie Mutchler
Soledad Pellegrini
Jason Shih
James Spearman
Ana Zannoni

Senan Choe
Katie Floersheimer
Bethan Llewellyn
Joe Michaels
Lukas Thorn

 

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture is a collaborative design and research practice based in Washington DC. For more information and to stay up to date with Studio Twenty Seven, please visit our website at
www.studio27arch.com

Point of Contact:
John Burke, AIA
P: 202-939-0027
E: jburke@studio27arch.com

 

First published 2013 by STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE
www.studio27arch.com

 

COPYRIGHT:
© 2013 STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE. All rights reserved.
1600 K Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006

All material is compiled from sources believed to be reliable, but published without responsibility for errors or omissions. We have attempted to contact all available copyright holders, but this has not been possible in all circumstances. We apologize for any omissions and, if noted, will amend in future additions.

No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying or microfilming, recording or otherwise, without permission from STUDIOTWENTYSEVENARCHITECTURE.

 

 

Next Case Study

Fragment 07: La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing

March 2020

This publication documents how the Studio Twenty Seven Architecture | Leo A Daly team designed La Casa to inspire pride and a sense of community membership in its residents. It is a building that leverages the power of spatial autonomy with the context of a secure, supportive environment to encourage the rehabilitation of its residents. Not quite an apartment building, nor a dorm or shelter, La Ca...…

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La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing