UCLA

THE INCONGRUOUS MONOLITH

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Tuesday, March 18 | Perloff Hall
The Incongruous Monolith_Advanced Topics Studio
Instructor: Georgina Huljich


"With the exception of monuments, architecture requires space for inhabitation. If the term monolith is taken literally to suggest material solidity, monolithic  architecture would be impossible by definition. However, we understand  monolithic to signify monolith-like, and hence to confer a sense of solidity and homogeneity on objects that are not and could not be integrally solid and homogeneous."
 
- Rodolfo Machado and Rudolph El-Khoury, Monolithic Architecture

Introduction
Moving a step beyond from what we now perceive as a process of cohesive formal homogenization in the last two decades, the studio aims to explore  the formal and aesthetics possibilities of incongruity in  architecture. Rather  than a naive return to collage,  which  suggested a collision of multiple opposites to produce disjunction and fragmentation, the studio will examine degrees of formal indeterminacy and visual inconsistency as productive means to generate a more genuine and unexpected whole.
 
Students will rely on specific digital modeling  techniques and scripting mathematical definitions in order to simultaneously deploy packing organizations of various  primitives while also articulating monolithic compositions. In such way, each project will explore formal and organizational contrasts between two extremes: that of cohesive wholes and random  piles.
 
Formal ambiguity and ambivalence of reading  will be mobilizing mechanisms to subvert notions of typological and aesthetic fixity. At the center of this is the idea of dichotomy. which implies  that  by combining  opposites, contrasts will not necessarily dissolve but rather become fuzzier,  the whole entering into a more complex state  of dualism. Consequently, the studio will pursue  dichotomies as a way to defy fixed notions of part to whole relationship.
 
The Monolithic Project
Used  by  Rodolfo  Machado  and Rudolph  El-Khoury  in 1995  to  describe a series of projects that deliberately did  not  articulate  a  part  to whole relationship as dictated by classical   doctrine, "monolithic architecture" became the predominant architectural form of the "avant-garde" in the last two decades.
 
In their  preface  to the exhibition  catalogue, they  rightly acknowledge that  the  projects  in the show "exists in their most radical aspect as paradoxical representations: radical in the sense that they self consciously elaborate their monolithic character into an aesthetic strategy and carry it out  to its extreme realization; paradoxical, in the sense that they undermine their own fixity and solidity when their lapidary countenance stands as something totally other with respect to internal and external realities, program, and context." 1
 
With the not so recent emergence of advanced digital tools and computation in architecture, the tendency  towards monolithic form became  nothing but pervasive. Propelled  by new developments in composite materials, manufacturing technologies and aesthetic sensibilities, monolithicity became a formulaic attribute for contemporary visual representation. That is, the image of built form looked monolithic even if the form actually built did not. In fact, the term itself has repeatedly been used as a source of critique towards what was perceived  as the prevalent effects of either  digital sculpting manifold topologies or carving solid forms.

Very much under  theorized, the idea of formal muteness, as a means of suppressing formal legibility and  an  introverted  approach  to  building   in  the  city,  become  an  alternative  mode  of  cultural production. This  is where   monolithicity becomes  critical  once  again.  In its  representational and iconographic nature, latent  muteness, scalar ambiguity  and indifference to both program  and context, the monolithic  project deploys its disciplinary autonomy.
 
Dwelling in the very incongruity of the term as a productive dichotomy, the class will aim to elucidate the critical lineage and contemporary relevance of monolithicity in architecture.

1 Monolithic Architecture, Rodolfo Machado and Rudolph El-Khoury, Prestel, 1995

 

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