22 January 2013

Athens Research Proposal

Tomorrow the Canterbury School of Architecture will be flying off to Athens. Exactly on these dates last year I was visiting Athens as well so when I sat down with Sam Lowe and Cia Helenius to talk about what we would be mapping I was excited to share more than a few experiences.

We stayed at cheap hostel north of Omonia, an area that on google maps looked central and well connected to the rest of the city, little did we know it was famous for its dereliction. There was a concrete high-rise by our accommodation that was completely abandoned. The entrance was boarded up in corrugated steel and the windows had been smashed all around it so all that was left was the blackened concrete. I wouldn't dare photograph it for fear of being branded a female target of the rich touristy kind. The feeling continued down the walk towards Monastiraki then suddenly, by simply crossing Ermou, everything changed.

There are two things that would be interesting to map based off this experience:
1. The fringe between central Athens and it's surroundings.
Done by:
  • Photographing both sides of the street
  • Marking the differences in architecture and iconography
  • Photographing and mapping the differences in graffiti
It might be interesting to compare this line to that of ancient Athens and it's socio-economic districts. Is there a relationship between the three? The reason why I'm using graffiti as a form of mapping is because it portrays the character of the district. For example:


Graffiti felt like such a big part of Athens and a very direct way of injecting meaning onto specific architectures which brings us to the second mapping:
2. The instances of meaning (interaction between an individual and their surroundings).
Done by:
  • Counting the number of pedestrians vrs population in the area
  • Filming human interaction (number of people involved, towards objects or humans, environment response)
There were certain sites that stood out to me especially during last year's trip to Athens, particularly a little plaza filled with wooden second-hand objects right at the historical fringe. It was filled with human interaction and the graffiti was straddling art and tags. I'll be recording, through a more personal manner, my own experiences of the sense of place through sketching.

One last thing: I mentioned in conversation how if the Athen's Olympic park of 2004 is abandoned and yet they spend 9 million a year in maintenance, why don't they just leave it to become derelict? Sam instantly compared it to the telecommunications protocol. If a call fails, hang it and "try again later".


11 January 2013

Creating Meaningful Architecture

The first spark of interest into game design occurred when playing Portal in 2011. I had been a part of videogames and MMORPGs for years but the complexity of creating a game space didn't visibly form until I placed two portals in Apperture's lab chambers and hopped through them. Entertainment became an academic puzzle as I tried to figure out the rules behind videogame levels and why their spaces were responding in such meaningful ways.

The experience of space and creating a meaningful moment has in a way always been at the heart of my projects. From the Introspective's exploration of immersion and the Cardboard Project's experimentation of connection in first year; to second year's analysis of the occupy experience and venture into using Unity3D as an architectural design tool; and finally to this year's Memento Vita.

This research thesis ties the theory together into a 6000 word package that is still growing as more videogames become published and the theory of experience expands. It is a theme that I hope to research over the years, into my Master's and further into expertise. The contents of the thesis are as follows and the entirety of the thesis can be found here.


I. Relationships with Space
I.1 Semiotics
I.2 “I” in the Virtual
I.3 Perception of Time and Space

II. Creating Meaning
II.1 Designing from a Narrative
II.2 Designing from a Game Mechanic
II.3 The Lusory Attitude and Pleasure Complex
II.4 Playtesting Emergent Systems




9 January 2013

Athens Project Introduction

Deep breath... it's time to get back to work with the Athens Project.

We are to research and design a mechanism that will enable or reposition the social and political position of Athens by looking at how the Olympic structures have transformed the city.

How architecture creates meaning by referencing theory of game design was the topic of my research thesis and what place displays a larger crisis of meaning than the 2004 Olympic park of Athens? In my thesis I make a quantic definition namely that space is directly linked with time and movement. As such space cannot exist without the movement of its users. When there is no life, there is no space. Like the palace of Sanssouci that lay abandoned after Frederick the Great's death, the Olympic park of Athens too lays desolate of life. Time and movement has stopped and with it, space. It now has just one meaning: stagnation.

By a rather interesting chance the Olympic park of 2004 was designed by Calatrava, an architect from my home-city of Valencia with a tendency to design sculptural structures. It is this very top-down form of designing of his, putting the user as secondary, that risks experience and meaning. As I discussed in my thesis, ancient Greek architecture was actually very user-centric. Home of democracy and center of the Occupy, it has a history of bottom-up structures designed to produce a very intense sense of meaning. Calatrava designs the Olympic park as an auditorium for visitors to observe the spectacle when the Athenians created architecture as a stage for us to act for the gods.

The goal for this project is then this: to re-inject meaning into Athens. As discussed, the way to achieve this is by putting the user central to the experience and have the architecture respond in a way unique to them. So far it is a very broad goal in need of a specific architectural program to achieve it but the trip to Athens will help with that.