ARCH 372. Architectural Design and Construction Documentation


Rebecca Williamson

This studio will be conducted in collaboration with the Department of Dance and the Cinematography Program, with additional input from the Department of Physics.

Students of dance and architecture will work in interdisciplinary teams to explore movement through different spaces, at a range of scales, and with various props and prosthetic devices. The purpose of this exploration is to 1) demonstrate the characteristics, possibilities, and limitations of bodily movement, particularly pedestrian movement, in an architectural context; 2) expose the indeterminacy of terms and practices we take for granted in our work; and 3) invent design processes that anticipate the unexpected. This year, with the establishment of a dialogue with the physics department, we will also be comparing the nature and role of experimentation in the arts and sciences and considering movement outside the normal range of perception.

The architecture students, working in consultation with the dancers, will be responsible for the schematic design, design development, and construction documents of a series of small-scale architectural interventions that will manifest the presence of the moving body or bodies. This exploration will require integration of many aspects of traditional building construction, including structure, materials, details, environmental factors, life safety, accessibility, and code compliance, in an unfamiliar and challenging context.

In a real-time, hands-on, design-build setting, the work of the studio will exercise the graphic, research, documentary, critical thinking, and collaborative skills of the participants as well as their ethical judgement and theoretical understanding.

In place of the "service industry" model that has come to dominate the profession of architecture, the studio will promote a collaborative relationship between architect and "client." The teams will develop new approaches to the documents and procedures of design. Through a process analogous to the use of improvisation in dance, we will reconsider the habits of architectural practice.

The work of the studio will be shown in a series of public installation/events, and will culminate in a "showing" of the results of the collaboration.


ARCH 372. Architectural Design and Construction Documentation


Rebecca Williamson

Exercise 1: Registering the traces of movement.

When you draw with pencil or pen on paper, the drawing that results is a registration of specific movements of your body. Computer drawings are in many ways more complex, yet depend on a more restricted set of movements in a highly controlled setting.

Drawings are the architectís principal means of communication. The architectís drawing, through a series of transfer operations, translates into the physical movement of people and machinery in the act of construction. A later stage of this series is the occupation of the building or other space: how people move around and through it to work, play, clean, etc. Evidence of occupation (wear, staining, patina, etc.) is a way in which the occupants inscribe the traces of their own movements on the surfaces of the building.

Architects tend to believe that we have great control over the choreography of movement within the spaces we design, yet our understanding of movement in an architectural setting is in reality quite limited. Most of our ways of exploring movement graphically (the "bubble" diagram, circulation diagram, etc.) are relatively static, two-dimensional, and functionally determined. They do not take into account three-dimensional aspects of movement, differences among the occupants (with respect to size, occupation, level of ability, or intention), or the sudden urge one might feel to misbehave (vandalism, taking a short-cut off the path, jumping over a low wall, climbing the walls, etc.).

In this exercise you will begin to expand your expertise on the issue of human movement in an architectural setting. Your first task is to develop a device that will register the movement of a dancer. The result of the registration must capture some aspect of the movement that is not immediately apparent through direct observation (i.e. videotaping is not enough). It should, however, render a pattern or structure that is a direct result of the movement.

The device must be portable and suitable for use in an interior space. If necessary, it can be made of sections that can be dismantled and reassembled.

Three proposed variations of the device, documented in drawings and/or mockup models, are due Mon, Jan 24. You will then construct the devices for use during our first meeting with the dancers on Fri Jan 28. With the registration that you obtain you will generate an architectural proposal Ė a design that results from or responds to movement, that is dependent on the presence of the body, and that demonstrates or makes tangible some aspect of the movement you have captured. This will be reviewed on Feb. 4.

Semester highlights:

We will be meeting with dancers from Linda Lehovecís improvisation class on several Fridays and Saturdays. Friday meetings will be during studio hours. The current plan is to meet 9-11 am on the following Saturdays: 2/12, 2/19, 2/26, 3/25, 4/1 (maybe - we may have scheduling problems due to NOMAS symposium), and 4/8. During these meetings you will be expected to move and the dancers will be expected to draw. Wear comfortable clothes and be prepared to remove your shoes and socks. The dancers will join you in interdisciplinary teams for some projects and you will want to arrange additional meetings within your team. One or more cinematography students will participate as well. Plan on attending as many dance events on campus as possible. The Krannert Center offers an excellent program and reduced rates for students.

Early in the semester we will begin a conversation with George Gollin, Professor of Physics, whose expertise is in movements beneath and beyond the threshold of normal vision. An event/installation for Loomis Laboratory is planned. We will also be going out into the surrounding community to observe and document movement at specific sites and to propose interventions.

From 3/20 to 3/22 there will be a workshop with a visiting architect, Frances Bronet. An installation/event associated with this workshop may occur during studio on 3/21 or mid-day on 3/22.

Whenever you propose an installation, you will be required to submit documentation to obtain permission for construction. In addition to a clear narrative and descriptive drawings, this will require research into and compliance with requirements such as relevant fire safety and accessibility codes. Your proposals will be an important way to develop your understanding of construction documentation. You may well find it necessary (and interesting) to invent new kinds of drawings, however any such documentation must be of a high level of specificity and prepared well in advance of the proposed installation. Finally, since the installations and events you design will be happening in real time in some version of a real world, things will not always happen as you expect. This is what practice is really like. Prepare yourself.


Studio Ethics:

Build trust: teamwork is a necessary skill.

Experiment: reasonable risks may be required.

Improvise: anticipate the unexpected.

Waste not: be resourceful with materials.

Engage: interest builds in proportion to your investment.

Partial Bibliography

Bloomer and Moore, Body Memory Architecture, (Especially the chapter by Yudell - this is a very simplified introduction to related issues).

Richard Sennet Flesh and Stone

Guy Debord The Situationist Manifesto

Allan Kaprow The Blurring of Art and Life

Simone Forti Handbook in Motion

Maurice Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception

Helene Cixous Inside,Coming to Writing, and other texts

Dan Hoffman Architecture Studio

Peter Zumthor Thinking Architecture

Deborah Burke, ed. Architecture of the Everyday



Jacques Tati in Playtime and other Tati films (Thatís Rentertainment on Wright Street)

Baraka (Urbana Free Library)

Powers of Ten and other films by Charles and Ray Eames (check library)

Butoh, Body on the Edge (undergrad library)

Many films by Buster Keaton and Federico Fellini.

Dance films Ė Films of work by established 20th c choreographers such as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, and Twyla Tharp are readily available. Films of work by Ishmael Houston Jones, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, Susan Marshall, Joe Goode, Mark Morris, Pina Bausch and other contemporary choreographers may be more relevant but harder to find.

Note: Please donít hesitate to bring in books and films to share with the studio.