Strange Context: Conformity and Incongruity: The Case Of The Urban Complex and its Gadgets
Research Studio

Georgina Huljich, Adjunct Associate Professor,  UCLA Architecture and Urban Design

Context; Reference And Conformity

The problem of context has been at the center of architectural discussion and debate since the advent of postmodernism. In fact, since notions of context moved to the center of architectural discourse, ideas of contextualism, historicist postmodernism, critical regionalism and its various permutations, tried to address the neglect of local conditions which modernism came to cherish and abuse.

Central to the issue of context is the idea of conformity: norms the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group. In fact, it is this tendency to conform that is both necessary and problematic when it comes to a contemporary attitude towards context. By concentrating on an “urban complex” as a project, that is, a group of buildings rather than a single one, the studio will look at distinct and strange notions of conformity, both internal and external to the project.

In architectural history, the problem of context brings with it the specific aspect of references and their particular traces. It is in fact the recent resurgence of referenciality that mobilizes the studio to look for alternatives to abstraction and direct reference on the other. The studio will situate an inherent tension between two kinds of pressures: context and image on one side, and mass and envelope on the other, at the same time misusing and muting sources from a present, past or fictitious context.

Possibilities of migrating information from context to image, from image to geometry and from geometry to tectonics will be mobilizing mechanisms to activate a speculative realism in the projects. Rather than simply replicating or re sampling the known, the studio will push for deeper, stranger and fresh relations between ideas of context [program could be understood as context] and the resulting architectural image emerging as a response.

The Image

The studio challenges fixed aesthetic notions of beauty and legibility in architectural representation and visualization, using abstraction and defamiliarization to speculate on the generation of withdrawn, irritant and engaging images [through both, photo realism and drawing]. We will experiment with its limits and possibilities, its technologically aided capturing [via sophisticated drones] and hyper enhanced realism, to reveal both the hidden inconsistencies as well as newfound potentials of this medium to define new speculative realities for architecture and its extended milieu.

The studio operates between abstraction and realism, simulation and representation, perspective and projection, object and field, drawing and image.

Technically, we will leverage the underlying biases and discrepancies in contemporary methods of computer visualization and distributed surveying to generate a novel understanding of both context and field in architecture. By purposefully misappropriating and retooling common algorithms utilized to create coherent representations of urban environments from distributed sources, we will expose the seams, voids and flaws concealed by the hidden agencies that continuously manipulate our perception of the world.

Design Proposal

The design project will consist of the Governmental Historic and Cultural Complex on the grounds of the former Order Castle Königsberg in Kaliningrad ("Post-castle"). The site location is of key importance for the history of the former Königsberg, the former East Prussia and contemporary Kaliningrad, in the immediate vicinity of the House of Soviets.

The site itself provides a remarkable canvas for investigation: the memory of the medieval castle; the physical and historical presence of the House of Soviets and the contemporary context of the new center of the City of Kaliningrad will allow us to pursue ideas of context beyond the known specificities of site, by understanding it as a larger cultural and a social framework from where projects can cultivate and construct new physical images. In fact the idea of the image as a source of collection of information, pertaining to issues of character as well as outline, will be of vital importance in our research.

The studio will work on an urban complex consisting of five buildings and a large public / institutional plaza to explore the construction of architecture not just as a formal whole, but as a figural matrix of disparate yet conformed volumes, using abstraction and de-familiarization as a method of proposing new architectural paradigms based on utilizing context and references as the foundation of their transformation.

Students: Harrison Bains, Di Chang, Bingqian Dong, Jamie Kleine, Mark Lagola, Ingrid Lao, Meaghan Murray, Damilola Olufowoshe, Richard Ruiz, Rui Xiong, Brian Yarish, Sarah Yoshida