Advanced Design Studio: Spina/Huljich

Spina/Huljich: Los Angeles

Brutal Beauty


Design and Visualization



Piles, Monoliths and the Incongruous Whole 

"Reyner Banham insisted that a brutalist building should produce an affecting image, "something which is visually valuable"; and while classical aesthetics would presume this value to accrue in pleasure of something beautiful, for New Brutalism "image may be defined as quod visum perturbat –that which seen, affects the emotions," with pleasure, displeasure, or, pointedly, an admixture of the two."

Mark Cousins, "The Ugly," AA Files 28 (1994): 61, quoted by Timothy Hyde in, "Piles, Puddles, and Other Architectural Irritants", Log 27 (2013): 73

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.

With the overt intention of exploring mute forms of iconicity in architecture, the studio will reconsider the formal economy and ruthless aesthetics of brutalism, especially its reliance on robust massing, volumetric piling, and a sensibility towards monolithicity. Using specific digital techniques and mathematical definitions to simultaneously deploy multiple packing primitives while also articulating monolithic compositions, the studio will explore formal contrasts between cohesive wholes and random piles.

Formal ambiguity and ambivalence of reading will be mobilizing mechanisms to subvert e notions of typological and aesthetic fixity. At the center of this is the idea of dichotomy, which implies that by combining opposites, contrasts will either dissolve or 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, hence challenging the role and current status of the icon.

With the expectation that mute iconicity will come to define not fluidity or singularity, but incongruity and ambivalence, the studio will move well beyond brutalist’s assumptions of regularity, uniformity and its much critiqued atmosphere of totalitarianism. In that regard, the studio will engage the polemic ambition for physical movement and social connectivity, which as part of brutalist philosophy has become a vital component of today’s mobile urban society.

The project will be a new building for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA] Campus. The studio will use as its basis the recently announced proposal by Renzo Piano: a 290,000 SqFt new building addition to the existing May Company Building on Fairfax and Wilshire. The new project will include a 1,000-­‐seat theater, more than 10,000 square feet devoted to the history of the movies, a public piazza, the museum lobby, a cafe and a gift store. The new building will also include a two-­‐story 12,000-­‐square-­‐foot "making of..."demonstration room for 150 people to recreate the experience of real-­‐life theatrical moviemaking.

Consistent with the “tabula rasa” trend initiated by Rem Koolhaas’s proposal for LACMA in 2001 and continued by Peter Zumthor’s latest plan, the studio will contemplate alternatives to the assumption that the May Co building is to be kept. Rather than simply reconvert the existing building adding to its back as proposed by Renzo Piano’s current scheme, the studio will pursue bold new visions. These visions will reconsider the museum’s urban presence towards its immediate context as well as within the Wilshire corridor, the cultural implications of a new access and, the making of a different kind of icon in a city of icons.

A Field trip to Los Angeles will take place between September 21st and 29th. With the intention of visiting the LACMA site, students will have the chance to understand its vast campus, its impressive collection and its current plans for expansion. More importantly, the trip will afford the studio the possibility of experiencing first hand Los Angeles urban [or lack of] culture, the recent developments in its architecture as well as its more established modern and contemporary icons.