A thesis of useless, scalable objects.

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Date: 2013
Type: SCI-Arc Thesis.
Advisor: Anna Neimark

Inscriptions Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2018

As cities fill with gigantic paperweights and desks are cluttered by tiny skyscrapers, it can be said that the problem of scale today belongs to computational media. Digital objects have no scale: they are merely projections of forms that swivel from size to size. They could just as easily sit on a desk or within a city. Initially a triumph of architecture’s independence from the real world, today the ability to be of any size is a defeat. Reduced to a tendency, it is a surrender of disciplinary mastery to the biases of computational media.

In the digital scenario, engineering formalizes scale. The habitual implementation of structural, technological, and environmental conventions bring the digital object towards a size. This is outside the realm of architecture’s working space. Architecture is found in the drawing; its mark of scale occurs through plan articulations, inflections of geometry, and formal proportions. Paperweight seeks to formalize the inscription of scale in contemporary media. It denotes scale’s signs and markings as an architectural problem rather than an engineering solution. Ratios, proportions, drawing notations, and tectonic registers imprint the architectural drawing with scale. Therefore Paperweight generates a form, marks its tectonic and drawing systems, and then specifies a size.

If the column was the primary site of architectural exploration, then the five orders were surely the initial inscription of measure onto a set of forms. Their proportions, ornament, and decorum indicated the prominence and size of architecture in the city: Doric for a house or Corinthian for a palace, for instance. Paperweight begins with the idea of the column: the revolution of a proportioned profile into a cylinder. Grids and proportions regulate the revolution and, much like a chess piece, produce a clear figure. Unlike the chess piece or the column, however, Paperweight builds upon contemporary notions of asymmetrical geometry and awkward posture to produce an unstable figure. Like the signification of the five orders, Paperweight develops five sizes of forms: XS, S, M, L, and XL. Each drawing or model’s actual size determines annotation, tectonic systems, and ratios, suggesting an uncertainty between the representation of one size from the next. By establishing a measure for each size, Paperweight imprints the heaviness of scaled representation into the form of architecture.
The sections are oriented true to their geometric axis and stepped true to scale.  

A plastic extruder prints out the plans. If Cerdà had invented a 3D printer, it might make things that look like this.