Jay Austin

“The most important issue facing architects…is how to construct a viable, progressive project capable of incorporating the innovative design research of the past decades into a productive new model of practice. This would be a form of practice committed to public legibility, to the active engagement of new technologies, and to creative means of implementation. It would be an experimental practice that takes as its object not self-referential theories but real problems — the difficult moments when architecture takes its place in the world.”
(Allen + Foster + Frampton, The New Architectural Pragmatism—Stocktaking, 117)


Volatility // Culpability

“[If a] system is dynamic there has to be the ability to exchange information all the time. At all scales data is fed through and transformed…what begins as a small set of instructions is multiplied into a complex web.” (Cecil Balmond, Element, 7)


Abstract V.1

As you run your fingers over the surface of a rusted-out column, multivalent realities manifest themselves: first, the blobby amoeboid bloom of oxidization on the metal, speaking of an uneven sealing coat applied to the column, with rust forming first where paint was thin or the iron content of the steel below most assertive of its chemical realities. Next, the friable grittiness of the rough-finished surface, result of the flight of electrons from iron to oxygen, degrading iron to oxides and/or hydroxides which powder, flake and fail. You look up and notice rust around the bolts which, via inturned angles, connect the column web to the beam flange above; you reverse construct the joint, wonder at the organizational dynamics which created this detail — perhaps a welded joint would have necessitated an additional union contract, or the designer knew best the mode of light gauge steel framing and merely didn’t consider welding.

The world of materials is one rife with complex interactions and repeating rituals which give rise to the phenomena humans interact with on a daily basis. Volatility at all levels of engagement must be diffused or absorbed in flexible solution on the level of the mechanical connection. The formative complexities of the architectural field can often be typified by the material interactions an architecture engages; to explore the expression of these material machinations in the formal, representational, and organizational morphologies of the designed object is my thesis intent.

In moving toward this endpoint, there are two levels of engagement which I think warrant investigations into possible expressive complexities. One is the large-scale organizational formations which dictate the process of Architectural design — this scale involves organizational theory and the constantly changing models of practice present in our field. In this arena I’d like to take on the dissolution of Architecture into an increasingly complex network of contractor and sub-contractor relationships, a network which is stretched to the point of failure by the mercurial realities of construction juxtaposed against the static nature of our designed representations. The other is the micro-level interaction of materials which ground architecture in the physical world, discussed by Reiser + Umemoto as “asignifying signs” or the outward representations of specific syntactical interactions at the scale of the molecule — these realities are perhaps the primary definer of textural, phenomenal and visual classification of the designed object; it is the asignifying sign which is most effective at revealing overarching truths regardless of the culture the observer is coming from as it is not a culturally derived symbol but a material one.

The typology which provides the most direct vehicle for analysis of both of these realms is the detail, that drawing type which allows people at the top to dictate formations at the bottom. It is a drawing type which has been theoretically discarded, reduced to a selection from a binder of standards, delegated to the trades at the lower echelons of the contractual relations which now typify our practice.

The detail is ripe for reclamation.


5 minutes _ 5 slides

“Expressive patterns are what scientists call ‘information’.” – Manuel De Landa

An “asignifying sign [is] essentially an outward symptom of an underlying process or condition…rather than having meaning, its symptoms suggest becomings.” – Reiser + Umemoto

“If our senses act it is in the notation of patterns. And these patterns link the metaphor we conceive to the realities we make…Metaphors instigate creative acts, which end in the fact of an object or event. Observing that fact will raise a pattern in our heads, which in turn leads back to a metaphor. Back and forth the game is played: from the concrete to the abstract, the bridge between being pattern.” – Cecil Balmond


5 Slides

One thought on “Jay Austin

  1. Abstract V.0

    Architecture is a highly complicated endeavor, registering a variety of disparate yet productively commingled processes in creating space. These processes run the gamut from micro level interactions (the differential thermal expansion of concrete and steel and the detail which absorbs it) to globe-spanning umbrellas which dictate the flow of knowledge and materials around the world (the organizational structure of a multinational corporation and its on-the-ground effects). Volatility at all levels of engagement must be diffused or absorbed in flexible solutions at each level; the convolution through which designers tread daily should not disappear once the process of design is complete. The formative complexities of the architectural field need to find expression in the formal, representational, and organizational morphologies embedded in the architectural object.

    In moving toward this endpoint, there are three particular levels of engagement which I think warrant investigations into possible expressive complexities. One is the large-scale organizational formations which dictate the process of Architectural design — this scale involves organizational theory and the constantly changing models of practice represented by professionals in our field. The next is the designed detail, that drawing type which allows people at the top to dictate formations at the bottom — the detail has been theoretically discarded, reduced to a selection from a binder of standards, delegated to the trades in the contractual relations which now typify our practice; the detail is ripe for reclamation. The last interest is in the material realities which Reiser + Umemoto refer to as “asyntagmatic symbology” — the outward representations specific syntactical interactions at the scale of the molecule. Each of these scales allow for a particular type of complexity to manifest itself, and each calls for a different representation of that complexity on the face of the finished design.

    Can a single methodology hope to express the interacting complications of the architectural field? Is it possible for design to express the myriad processes which underlie it, rather than instantiating the overarching simplifications of cultural tropes embraced by postmodern architecture? Can an overarching aesthetic be subsumed into legible material use, disbanding an “international style” through intensive specificity at the level of the project? These questions, and perhaps others, will be at the center of my thesis year investigations; I hope to find formations which are didactic at multiple scales, and reveal their interior workings without requiring a specific lens of acculturation to decode.

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