Self Design Work & Essay
“In art, transparency opened avenues to radical, critical, and pessimistic social discourse, while in architecture, transparency was propagated as an expression of a new and open society in harmony with nature” (Herzog, Jacques and Pierre de Meuron. Treacherous Transparencies. 2016). Today the excitement in architecture derives from the tension between the need for privacy and the impulse toward community. Transparent architecture has become one of the significant characteristics in the 20th century. Triggered by this trend, I did some researches to study the relationship between architectural meaning and transparent architectures. During the studies, I designed 12 transparent prototypes to represent 6 pairs of binary opposite symbolic meanings, as blur - clear, maximal - minimal, heavy - light, solid - fluid, contaminated - purified and private - public.
Nowadays, the usage of transparent material in architecture, specifically in public buildings, has increased during the recent few decades, and this trend is still continuing. However, besides the functional benefits brought by the transparent architecture, the relationship between architectural meaning and transparent architecture has never been well presented by architecture themselves. Therefore, looking for meaning brought into our environment by those transparent architectures is one of the important factors that need to be investigated. The purpose of this study is to find the link between transparent architecture and symbolic meaning to recognize how it is possible to bring these two together. To achieve this aim, I designed 12 transparent prototypes to represent 6 pairs of binary opposite symbolic meanings, as blur - clear, maximal – minimal, heavy – light, solid – fluid, contaminated – purified and private - public.
II.Design Method on Representing Transparency
Literal Transparency vs Phenomenal Transparency
Through Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky’s exploration of the common basis of modern art and architecture they identified and elaborated on the concept of transparency as a fundamental principle of spatial organization, beyond the curtain wall. They single out two types of transparencies: the literal and the phenomenal. A literal transparency is a quality inherent to substance or matter, such as in mesh screens, translucent walls, etc, and a phenomenal transparency, that is, a conceptual transparency, a quality inherent in the spatial or volumetric organization (Rowe & Slutzky, 1982). In my designs, I use those two types of transparency to represent a meaningful cube space.
III. Design Method on Representing Architectural Meaning
Transparency, as a physical property of allowing transmission of light to pass through a material, always linked with characters such as clear, light, public, purified, minimal and fluid. However, instead of just representing those inherent meaning with transparent spatial design, I also demonstrate their opposite meanings. Using binary opposition to investigate the boundary of meanings linked with transparency.
A binary opposition is a pair of related terms of concepts that are theoretical opposite in meaning. It is the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms, such as clear and blur, light and heavy, public and private, purified and contaminated, minimal and maximal and fluid and solid shown in my designs. Binary opposition is an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thoughts. Designing 12 transparent cubes to represent 6 pairs of binary opposite meanings, on one hand, is to demonstrate the broadness and abundance that transparency, as a design method, can bring up. On the other hand, even though I design them for opposite meanings, there is no clear boundary between those visual presentations. It is an introspection of the absolute in structuralism.
In order to achieve a harmony and simplicity in the prototype design, I use geometric primitives to segment and construct the cubic space. There are three types of primitives in my design: dot (represented as large or small cube), line and plan. Theoretically, dot, line and plan are the basic elements constructing our spatial environment, so I simplify all the space into those simple elements and use them to recreate every meaningful prototype cube. On practice, those primitives are the basic and simplest geometric elements in computer graphics and vector graphics system as well. Computer has been aided into every aspects of today’s design. With a background in computer graphics, how can I use those basic graphics primitives to reconstruct meaningful cubic space becomes an interesting and challenging problem for me. Therefore, I design my 12 prototypes with three types of geometric primitives.
In the 20th century, modern architecture emerged in leaded by a group of notable architects such as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van Der Rohe. This group of styles is associated with an analytical approach to the function of buildings, a strictly rational use of new materials, an openness to structural innovation and the elimination of ornament. The style is characterized by: rectangular or cubist shapes, a tendency for white or cream, asymmetrical compositions, flat roofs, minimal or no ornamentation, steel and or reinforced concrete, large windows and open plan.
The development of modern architecture is based upon new technology of construction. Glass, as a particular material largely used at that time, has been well related its physical appearance with modernism style. Therefore, in my designs, I apply modern styles like white walls, flat roof, asymmetric spatial design and minimal shapes on representing a transparent cube.
IV. Transparent Architecture in Today and Future Meaning
With a background in technology industry, I have a long observation that transparent glass architecture has been a favor for many tech companies and today’s working environment. When we step forward from modern time and rethink the symbolic meaning that transparency has been brought up in this digital economy time, we notice the emphasis on spaces of cooperation and creativity are all marshaled towards future company and economy growth. For while the institutions and technologies may have changes, transparent architecture has long served the purpose of making brutal stratifications of class, race and gender appears transparently natural.