5×5 Participatory Provocations Addresses Trump Wall, Drones, and NSA

By Architecture Department | Oct 18, 2016

“Architecture as a profession struggles to simultaneously engage with the public and be provocative within the confines of its own field. Either arguments and proposals get ‘dumbed down’ or they simply aren’t accessible or relevant,” claim the curators of the exhibit currently on view in the BEB Gallery. Julia van den Hout (founder of Original Copy, and co-founder and Editor of CLOG), Kevin Erickson (KNE studio and an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois), and Kyle May (Kyle May, Architect and co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of CLOG) conceived of five project briefs and solicited work from five architecture practices, including RISD Architecture faculty Aaron Forrest and Yasmin Vobis (Ultramoderne) and Carl Lostritto, in each category.  The curators limited the content of each proposal to a specifically sized model. The curators note that, “the avant-garde in architecture has for decades captured its imaginations via two-dimensional representations, but this exhibit asks architects to be just as provocative in three dimensions. The selected topics intend to provoke, but are grounded in issues we face today: a growing income gap, immigration, globalization, technology’s impact on our lives, surveillance, and power.”

On October 3rd, the curators were joined by Forrest, Lostritto, Vobis, and Nathan Rich of Peterson Rich Office as they gave a talk about four of the projects. The ensuing discussion covered topics ranging from the role of humor in an architectural design process, the nature of a curatorial practice, and the power of the model.

The 5×5 Exhibit is currently on view in the BEB Gallery.

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0155 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0151 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0092 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0076 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0066 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0034 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0020 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

339A0183 2

Photo credit: Diyi Zhang

2024: Two terms of the Trump-Sanders administration have left global finance in disarray. Income inequality has skyrocketed, while ever more stringent emissions regulations have severely hamstrung the ultrarich in their unquenchable desire for the low-risk, high-return shares in uninhabited urban real estate. Simply put, emissions-adjusted construction costs now outpace investment returns in the most obscene high-rise developments. All the while, the pleasures of the city slip further from the grasp of its full-time residents. Spekulatius is a solid timber tower in which the volume is subdivided into condo shares that double as carbon offsets. In contrast to the gleaming steel and glass constructions that we are accustomed to seeing, this tower functions as a carbon sink by virtue of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the trees that supply its structure. As long as the condos remain uninhabited (that is to say, solid), their status as investment vehicle remains intact. Three observatory levels are cut through the tower and interconnected by a double promenade of circulation cores through the solid mass, creating new urban public spaces that operate as twenty-first century plazas: zones of relief from the economic determinism of the contemporary metropolis.

2024: Two terms of the Trump-Sanders administration have left global finance in disarray. Income inequality has skyrocketed, while ever more stringent emissions regulations have severely hamstrung the ultrarich in their unquenchable desire for the low-risk, high-return shares in uninhabited urban real estate. Simply put, emissions-adjusted construction costs now outpace investment returns in the most obscene high-rise developments. All the while, the pleasures of the city slip further from the grasp of its full-time residents. Spekulatius is a solid timber tower in which the volume is subdivided into condo shares that double as carbon offsets. In contrast to the gleaming steel and glass constructions that we are accustomed to seeing, this tower functions as a carbon sink by virtue of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the trees that supply its structure. As long as the condos remain uninhabited (that is to say, solid), their status as investment vehicle remains intact. Three observatory levels are cut through the tower and interconnected by a double promenade of circulation cores through the solid mass, creating new urban public spaces that operate as twenty-first century plazas: zones of relief from the economic determinism of the contemporary metropolis.

If the NSA were to refine its brand, it would first recognize that the free-standing reflective glass box of its Fort Meade headquarters is as symbolic as it is performative. One benefit of this language is scalability. In opening branches on Main streets across the United States, the NSA (now called "YourNSA") can occupy comparatively smaller existing buildings by injecting reflective glass mass into the space. The mass extrudes outward just beyond the limits of local building codes to ensure figural registration. The entire building becomes poche — the space of the pocket, potentially occupiable but perceived from the outside as solid. YourNSA focuses on human-centered information. They turn human suspicion, concern, and bias into data. Two architectural problems then arise. First, how to contend with the contradiction of being optimally visible, but secret. (People are more likely to report of their fellow citizens if they can do so privately.) Secondly, as much as the NSA wants to bring people "in" to a space of voluntary interrogation, they don't want anyone to actually penetrate their facility. The result is a spatial experience that is equally and simultaneously in and invisible; interior and exterior.

If the NSA were to refine its brand, it would first recognize that the free-standing reflective glass box of its Fort Meade headquarters is as symbolic as it is performative. One benefit of this language is scalability. In opening branches on Main streets across the United States, the NSA (now called “YourNSA”) can occupy comparatively smaller existing buildings by injecting reflective glass mass into the space. The mass extrudes outward just beyond the limits of local building codes to ensure figural registration. The entire building becomes poche — the space of the pocket, potentially occupiable but perceived from the outside as solid. YourNSA focuses on human-centered information. They turn human suspicion, concern, and bias into data. Two architectural problems then arise. First, how to contend with the contradiction of being optimally visible, but secret. (People are more likely to report of their fellow citizens if they can do so privately.) Secondly, as much as the NSA wants to bring people “in” to a space of voluntary interrogation, they don’t want anyone to actually penetrate their facility. The result is a spatial experience that is equally and simultaneously in and invisible; interior and exterior.

Spring 2017 Events

  • February 23, 6:30 PM Brett Schneider, Guy Nordenson and Associates & RISD Architecture
  • March 2, 6:30 PM at RISD Auditorium Petra Blaisse, Inside Outside, Hosted with INTAR, Textiles, RISD Museum
  • February 27, 6:30 PM Jeanette Kuo, Karamuk*Kuo
  • March 13, 6:30 PM Allan Wexler, Allan Wexler Studio, Hosted with ID
  • March 16, 6:30 PM Jarrett Walker, Jarrett Walker + Associates
  • April 3, 6:30 PM Kunle Adeyemi, NLÉ, Yoder Lecture
  • April 24, 6:30 PM Nader & Katie Faulkner, NADAAA, Shoemaker Lecture
  • May 11, 6:30 PM Shumi Bose, Central Saint Martins & Architectural Association

Featured on RISD.EDU

  • AIAS presents BEAUX ARTS 2017 – MASKED BALL read more...
  • Designing a School for the Arts The idea of launching an arts high school affiliated with RISD has been in the air for decades, so when Architecture Professor Jim Barnes (BArch 69) was thinking about a theme for his advanced fall studio, he decided to resurrect it. read more...
  • Exploring Sound + Space at the RISD Museum A hush falls over the audience seated in the center of the RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as multimedia performance piece Galapagos in C gets underway. Two Architecture students silently enter as mimes, gaze at a large 18th-century family portrait by Jacques-Luc Barbier-Walbonne and then strike a pose mimicking the subjects in the painting. read more...
  • Design Like a Girl “I hope that this class has encouraged students to be curious – to constantly question the built environment around them,” said Architecture grad student Rebecca McGee MArch 16 on Wednesday. As this year’s grad student faculty leader, she welcomed friends and family to a celebration of an ongoing partnership between RISD and Lincoln School, read more...
  • Ideas Born on Paper Architecture Professor Christopher Bardt BArch 83 has a longstanding personal connection to the work included in Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association, an exhibition on view at the RISD Museum through August 2. Sharing his impressions while walking through the show, he stops at a delicate graphite, ink wash and colored pencil drawing by British architect Michael Webb... read more...