In 1973, French author and artist George Perec wrote a short essay titled “The Infra-Ordinary.” The opposite of extraordinary, and in contrast to the sensational, Perec encouraged readers to examine the everyday to find the space and time and poetry in the patterns of our everyday lives and the factors that most directly affect us.
In 1974, Perec wrote “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris.”
One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the “infra-ordinary”: the humdrum, the non-event, the everyday–“what happens,” as he put it, “when nothing happens.” His choice of locale was Place Saint-Sulpice, where, ensconced behind first one cafe window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: the people walking by; the buses and driving-school cars caught in their routes; the pigeons moving suddenly en masse; a wedding (and then a funeral) at the church in the center of the square; the signs, symbols and slogans littering everything; and the darkness that finally absorbs it all. In An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Perec compiled a melancholic, slightly eerie and oddly touching document in which existence boils down to rhythm, writing turns into time and the line between the empirical and the surreal grows surprisingly thin.
As Perec sat at a cafe over the course of three days, he recorded literally everything he saw as he ‘exhausted the place’, and then presented the data simply, but thoughtfully.
As architects, we must be able to construct a process for observing, understanding and modeling context and situation. We must be able to the organize that process for ourselves, and for others, so that we may trace the implications of the place to develop new understandings and potentials. Our approach allows us to discover the specificities of a place – it’s fullness, its focus, its strengths and weaknesses, its form and its associations, and we must then learn to re-deploy these specificities, or form operatives for abstracting them back into our work. The clarity and depth of our research will translate into the quality of experiences in our buildings.
– observe use
– develop patience and exhibit focus
– slow down. act deliberately. train yourself to find the time to think and generate ideas.
– produce quality through refinement.
– read, write, draw.
– perform real, quality research without even trying.
– perform field work
– invent new styles of documentation.
– visualize data, information and use
– develop means for measure and documentation.
– understand space and place through new perspectives and different lenses
– challenge traditional ways of view and representing space
This project will consist of 2 parts: recording and re-presentation..
Read George Perec’s ‘The Infra-Ordinary’ and ‘Attempts at Exhausting a Place’. Read them both fully,discuss them, and then visit the space assigned to your studio. aRecord he space to its INFRA. Exhaust the space through recording. Go back, many times,Record, without prejudice, all the elements, objects, uses, sounds, smells, etc, that compose the place. Produce a few ‘napkin sketch’ concepts for presenting this information in ways other than the way Perec presented ‘Attempts’. Produce a document that organizes your observations, and in doing so, captures the situation. Present that document. Critique it. Refine it. Reproduce it.
Using one or more of the uses or elements that you recorded in part 1, or using a pattern that you observed or a question that was raised, re-present the space to an audience in a new and compelling manner. Produce re-presentation in the form or a drawing/object/model/idea/etc that presents the space in a new light, form, context, and in a manner that promotes a new interpretation or understanding of the space. Present that document. Refine it. Reproduce it.
Produce artful, creative and abstract documentation of the recorded data and the re-presented pace.
1.1 What about the place is compelling to you? Why?
1.2. What about the place is ordinary to you ? Why?
2.0 How long does it take to observe a place?
3.0. What do your observations make you curious about?
F 12 Sep INFRA-Ordinary lecture, discussion, site visit
M 15 Sep present and discuss initial recordings/observations, desk crits
F 17 Sep data visualization lecture, ‘record’ document concept due, discussion
M 22 Sep ‘record’ document due, discussion, desk crits
W 24 Sep draft ‘measure’ document due
F 26 Sep desk crits
M 29 Sep desk crits
W 01 Oct INFRA ORDINARY PRESENTATION, 2-6pm, Crown Hall Upper Core
For both Part 1 and Part 2, produce drawings, sketches, collages, models, stories, narratives, sculpture, (i.e. anything), that communicate intent, and present the information you recorded and measured in a new perspective or through a different lens. Produce refined quality work, not initially, but in the end, like an architect.
- Mapping – This American Life Episode: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/110/mapping
- Jan Gehl. Life Between Buildings. Using Public Space.
- Edward Tufte. Visual Explanations. Envisioning Information
- Guy DeBord
- Peter Cook. The Motive Force of Architecture.