Reflexive Lagoon

Reflexive Lagoon

Reflexive Lagoon

Time: 2016

Type: Final Project, The Bartlett, University College London

Published at:  Digital Cities AD: Architectural Design

Bartlett Designs : Speculating with Architecture

March (Architectural Design) Project Catalogue

The Design Thesis Project entitled “Reflexive Lagoon” surrounds a Venice based artificial ecology.

Focusing on the process of making, it describes a constantly recreated architectural space, tied between the eco-system of Venice and a new synthesized, artificial ecology.

The lagoon
The Grand Canal​
Salt Marsh
Sand Dunes - Woodland

The aim of the work is to provide a design for the body of traces; a new topology given for Venice’s surface that is constantly recreated by the apparatuses. The latter function as trace assemblers and trace translators. They are placed in Venice and they retrieve information from the city; traces of the surrounding environment’s changeable conditions which are imprinted on the new object.

First, the material; the sculpting devices live in the canals and the lagoons of Venice. They are hidden underwater and reflect the soft events of the city. They cause the displacement of the material from the bottom of the canals and the lagoons up to the surface. As the foundations of the sandy surroundings of the city erode, these hidden apparatuses increase Venice’s endurance to the ‘acqua alta’, the local name for the tide. The trace-absorber and trace-responsive system translates the soft events of the city into circulating quantities of material. Sand and water will follow a linear route in the apparatus’s body. The breathing in and breathing out of the tide water is measured and converted to a changeable inner pulse.

Second, the drawing; writing with the blood of the surrounding environment, the apparatuses’ pen is making a new landscape out of the things that were once there but are not anymore. The tide’s current, the birds’ movement and the bending of the reeds, all lead to the creation of the ‘new’. While writing on Venice’s surface the trace assembler reverberates the events of the city’s past.

The new landscape will therefore be the body of traces, qualities of reality that were there at the time of its construction. Work stops when the city is silent. Its body falls into pieces. The next day, its construction begins again. With new clues, a different ‘liquid’ topology is made; a new face of Venice is revealed.

The Grand Canal
Salt Marsh
Salt Dunes - Woodland

‘Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived. These drawings need not to be exact. They need only to be tonalized on the mode of our inner space.’ 

Gaston Bachelard, The poetics of space, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994

Sand Marsh Apparatus - Detail
Woodland Apparatus - Detail

Three groups of apparatuses’  are sculpting and reconstructing the missing through the dialogue between the lost and the unmade.

The questions that the project raises about the articulation of memory as a displacement of past into a future construction, the tracing of absence are pertinent for the study of ‘making’. Architecture imposes a conceptual memory on the volumetric massing of an object and sets materiality in an index of absence; through the architectural construction memory is integrated into the rhythms of everyday life or the translation of a two dimensional source, such as a drawing, into an architectural object; the architect makes a solid shape out of an intangible absence.

‘The absence of another here-and-now, of another transcendental present, of another origin of the world appearing as such, presenting itself as irreducible absence within the presence of the trace.’

Derrida Jacques, Of grammatology, Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997

The new object will be the physical embodiment of fragments of a site’s collective past – to be evoked, recollected, and distorted through architectural re-inhabitation; the new ensouled body. The result will be a representation of something formerly perceived or learned; of something that is no longer present. The new object will come to embody an idea of itself, as well as a memory of a former self. For presence is already absence and there is neither presence nor absence.