An architectural time machine
Constructing an ephemeral and spatialised time based event
Professor of Innovative technology, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Historically many architects have been interested in making machines. It has been considered that there have been various reasons that architects looked to machines and devices since Vitruvius suggested that machines were part of architecture. The question is, what is the fundamental nature of the relationship between designing a machine, architecture and architects? In other words, how can architects achieve their architectural ambition through making machines to explore new territories that take into account their architectural challenges. In this context, this thesis draws a clear classification of the specific meaning of a machine making by architects by investigating historical precedents and contemporary architects’ work. Then this thesis presents my design project this year (2010-2011) at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, as part of a methodology to examine this theoretical question. The aim of this thesis is to explore the intersection between architecture and machine design, looking at how architectural experiments can be achieved through making machines.
This thesis especially looks at how a machine can be used to create an architectural time based event. Architectural time based events are not new, for example Inigo Jones, the 17th century British architect, designed united ritual performances, Masques, with not only stage set designs but also a series of costumes for performers. In this context, this thesis examines how a time based event created by machines could be in the same territory as Inigo Jones’ works. The installation project of John Hejduk, a contemporary American architect, will be discussed to see how urban installation is articulated by the architect’s intention as a piece of time based event.
Usman Haque, a London based architect, suggests a soft, dynamic and fluid architecture created with ephemeral materials, such as smells, sound and electromagnetic fields. The machines proposed by the author in the thesis employ ephemeral materials, such as smoke, scent and architectural rhythm. This thesis explores how these ephemeral materials can create a spatialised time based event.
The thesis is separated into two parts. Part one explores the theoretical context of making a machine designed by architects; this part provides my design project with the theoretical background positioning the project in context. Part two presents the design project that I have been doing this year by implementing the understandings described in part one. This part describes how I designed and constructed a machine: vortex ring generator and time based event, and how this time based event performed by the machines can be choreographed in this context.