Possible Mediums

A four-day summit at Ohio State University made apparent that architecture is no longer bound to the canvas — plans and sections — but can be "represented" in sitcoms or Sears-style shopping catalogues, positing that the discipline can cut across cultural boundaries, both pre- and post- production.

In movies about time travel, one character is often shown at multiple stages in their life, at several ages and thus in a variety of relationships to other characters — varying from scene to scene — making the familiar unfamiliar. In one act architectural critic and educator Jeff Kipnis is curating exhibitions and writing books about his contemporaries, helping to create a post-structuralist architecture. Later in this story, he is seen writing about a later generation, the protagonists of computational aesthetics. In the latest scene, Kipnis can be found giving a keynote address at the Ohio State University (OSU), where he is a professor, and acting as a sort of elder statesman for the latest crop of fresh and clever young American architects. This generation: wildly omnivorous and working in a variety of mediums, with an experimental and often DIY approach to architecture.

Possible Mediums was a four-day summit and marked the first organized meeting of the four "Midwest Mafia" of Architecture Schools. It took place at OSU's Knowlton School of Architecture and was organized in collusion with The University of Illinois — Chicago School of Architecture , The University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning , and The University of Kentucky College of Design .

The conference served as a pedagogical experiment in itself and consisted of twelve four-day workshops for students of the host institutions, and panel discussions, which were organized into four categories of "possible mediums". The conference took the same tone as the workshops: an ad-hoc experiment where foam, paint, plaster, Arduino-based robots, flocking, balloons, projections, flannel shirts and chickens were manipulated into a set of often hilarious, small-scale speculative research projects, each with its own projective theory.

These schools have an open-source, transparent cross-contamination of ideas and exchange of people, strengthening the educational capacity of each school beyond what they could offer alone. The workshop leaders — faculty — were learning along with the students, as their work is still young and evolving. Possible Mediums exposed the process in plain view, rather than simply presenting work as finished, polished projects. This produced a refreshingly lively and sincere discourse between workshop leaders.
Top and above: <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Top and above: Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Organized by Kelly Bair , the first category was titled Figural Projections , and explored architectural legibility through and in relationship to figural shapes, via riddles, stories, and games as generators of new formal concepts. In Jimenez Lai's Ambiguously Misshapen workshop, students worked to create figural objects with different postures and multiple readings, prompted by words such as "slouching", "top-heavy", and "sassy". Thomas Kelley lead Eye-con, or, How I Learned to Draw Exactly Wrong , where students productively utilized deceptive drawing conventions and purposely wrong techniques, such as thickening line-weights beyond recognition, and incorrect uses of perspective and shadow. Angela Co's workshop, Endgame , was a study in literal images, where figural animals were the basis for an exploration in the interplay between exterior, object-based legibility and volumetric interiority, or the outside and inside of a figural form ("duck"). In this first group the concept of a remix, or making the old new again, was evident.
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
The second panel, Tactile Objects , organized by Adam Fure , involved works where sensation and affect are delivered through novel material use, moving away from hi-fi, elegant forms to grotesque, bodily and otherwise off-kilter forms. Andrew Holder hosted the workshop Fat Matters , where students used balloons to coerce plaster in to obese, erotic forms that were piled, or "snuggled" together. Ellie Abrons guided Modelrama , where models were the medium of an exploratory spatial exercise involving foam, mirrors, heat guns, and airbrushes. Michael Loverich's Pet Sounds veered wildly outside the medium of architectural convention. Students in this workshop built bagpipes out of rubber, duct-tape, a flannel shirt, and plastic tubes. The bagpipes, as objects, changed drastically when deflated and inflated. This group took the "possible mediums" tagline the most literally and, physically at least, the furthest outside of architectural convention.
Architecture can look to other disciplines for formal generation, but it can also jump over the line that medium-specificity creates between insiders and outsiders, to engage broader audiences post-production
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
The third day's panels dealt less with the gathering and reorganizing of historical or material fragments, and more with the progressive possibilities of technological mediums. The Active Models panel, organized by Kyle Miller , grouped projects that explore the possibilities of emerging interactive technologies, and how they inform or are informed by architecture. Andrew Atwood implemented user experience software TouchDesigner, a program usually used for larger scale immersive environments, to map digital projections on objects, animating them with an array of colour and patterns. Andrew Gardner of IK Studio (led by Simon Kim and Mariana Ibañez) ran the Dynamic Shells workshop, where anthropomorphic plastic forms were brought to life via Arduino-run machines. Simultaneously, Jason Kelly Johnson had a team of students using Arduino to make small robots with sharpie legs, and another to produce a sound-sensing, Kool-Aid Mandala making robot.
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
The final panel, organized by Kristy Balliet and titled Excessive Volumes , focused on the tectonic and atmospheric effects of volumetric computer modelling. Here, Michael Young's workshop Depth and the Optical Vector taught students to create a painterly effect using some of the basic techniques of digital modelling. In David Freeland and Brennan Buck's Flight Patterns , students made a kite out of straws, exploring alternate space frame patterns. Justin Diles' workshop Lesson of Rome Revisited: Unforeseen Ordonnance reinterpreted Le Corbusier's primitives, buckling them with simulated digital physics, producing new and fascinating forms. The final panel consisted of the four group organizers and University of Michigan's John McMorrough, where final thoughts on the conference were given.
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
The issue of representation kept coming up, but it seems that this conference was more about going around representation, and experimenting directly with a final form. Sections and plans are not needed to understand these projects, and when implemented, drawings are usually subverted or conflated with something else. Not only are new mediums needed for formal production, but also for the broadcasting of architecture. Painting in the 1960s escaped the boundaries of the canvas, bleeding into both the 3D gallery space and into sculpture, in order to retain its cultural relevance. In other words, Possible Mediums made apparent that architecture is no longer bound to the canvas — plans and sections — but can be "represented" in sitcoms or Sears-style shopping catalogues. The conference posited that architecture is something that can cut across cultural boundaries, both pre- and post- production. It can look to other disciplines for formal generation, but it can also jump over the line that medium-specificity creates between insiders and outsiders, to engage broader audiences post-production.
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
There is a palpable lineage of past linguistic projects, including, most amusingly, a strain of subversive and sometimes sick or self-depreciating humour as architectural generator, or the joke as an abstract concept that produces forms or atmospheric effects, but in a refreshing way. This attitude provides young practitioners and educators with a critical self-awareness away from the flagrant competence that can impede honest and sincere productive discourse. As they develop their identities and projects through this open exchange, some of the unanswered philosophical and political questions about post-medium-specificity in architecture will only become clearer. Matt Shaw (@mockitecture)
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
 <em>Possible Mediums</em> four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Possible Mediums four-day summit at Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

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