Public Projections

DDes Coursework Project
Led by Krzysztof Wodiczko

Harvard Graduate School of Design

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At the end of 2016 I had the privilege of being part of a course on public projection run by Krzysztof Wodiczko. The course examined projection as an tool for artistic expression and intervention in the built environment. We worked on three projects during the semester, two of which were executed as individual works and the final project saw us working in teams. The major project of the semester saw us projecting individually on the Carpenter Centre, Le Corbusier’s only building in the United States. Students worked through a number of different responses to the building, its context, and the political climate in which we were operating. My project sought to uncover ‘subconscious’ aspects of the building and was described as follows:

“’A modern city lives by the straight line.’ (Le Corbusier 1987: 10). “Straight lines [...] are arrived at when man is strong enough, determined enough, sufficiently equipped and sufficiently enlightened to desire and be able to trace straight lines. In the history of forms, the moment in which he sees the straight line is a climax.” (Le Corbusier 1987: 10).

Straight lines epitomize the order and rationality of the modernist movement. Straight lines also represent masculinity, dominance and control over the unknown, the foreign and the natural. These relationships are undeniably more complex. Does the exotic shape the straight line? Is the straight line always straight? What happens when the straight line finds rhythm, energy and momentum? This work is centered on three major characters or themes: the building, the ‘visionary’, and the performer/performance. As a response to the design of the iconic late modernist Carpenter Center, this work questions the relationship between the ambitions and vision of the architect or planner in ‘his’ quest for beauty and rationality through geometric purity. This is contrasted by the unknown, unpredictable and free-spirited ‘female’ performer with whom the architect is engrossed, but whose dynamism finds limited translation into the grand and sweeping plans and visions of the architect.

The Carpenter Center is undoubtedly a building which demonstrates a significant development and softening of the hard-edged modernist pen. As the third character in this work it embodies a rhythmic interplay between the tension of the architect and the performer. Modernism and its iconic forms also become participants in this collage as they express the desires, consequences and contradictions of the period.”