Making Strange

Spring 2013 5th Year Degree Project Studio (Thesis) at the USC SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
Instructor: Laurel Consuelo Broughton

Kirk Bairian, Gabrielle Gertel, Alex Hagentorn, Candace Kao, Leen Katrib, Si Miao, Liam Murphy, Claudia Otten, Kevin Reinhardt, Jeffrey Su, Anish Tilak

In 1917 literary theorist Viktor Skhlovsky wrote, “The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.” In the technique he defined as ostranenie or defamiliarization, the goal was not to produce something radically new or previously unknown, but rather to productively see something anew. This a concept long latent in architecture and a process we refer to and reinvigorate here as making strange.

Our practice of making strange was to utilize a soft abstraction drawing not from a totalitarian Constructivist methodology, but from of a Surrealist mode that creates defamiliarization via the discomfort and distance of juxtaposition— one known object grappling for its identity in the face of another known object. As Comte de Lautréamont described, it is “…the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.” Or the roof terrace of Le Corbusier’s Beistegui Apartment where the placement of a wall allowed the monumental landmarks of Paris to appear as small objects on a shelf. To this end, our given site was borrowed in concept from the French children’s fable The Little Prince and was a sphere with a forty-foot diameter complete with its own center of gravity. The program was a dwelling. Interpreting the sphere setup an immediate challenge to provoke a discomfort to dislodge assumptions. The most basic given pre-architecture, the ground, was in question alongside the primal architectural duty, shelter.

Employing multiple readings, we speculated on possible new spaces for architecture and asked how the act of making strange might allow us to see received forms and functions anew.