Changing Fields: Relics + Reliquaries
The work of the Senior Architecture Studio
Faculty: Ronit Eisenbach, Luis Quiros, Michael Stanton, Isaac Williams
“Everything flows, nothing stands still. Nothing endures but change.”
Heraclitus (c. 535 BC - 475 BC)
In preparation for a final studio project located in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern shore – a landscape in which scientists anticipate a potential 3’ sea level rise in the next century – we began the semester with an analogous series of projects aimed to outfit the students with questions, terms and processes that they would bring to an architectural scale during the rest of the semester.
While sea level rise is admittedly a potentially devastating crisis that designers must begin to address, we chose to begin with a more general goal of increasing awareness of change as a constant condition rather than as the exception to the rule – an attitude that landscape architects embrace but architects often overlook– asking ourselves how might we as architects respond, knowing that our decisions also affect the field.
To focus the studio’s attention and consider the temporal dimension of site, students were asked to identify transformations around them and produce videos that brought a particular change to the fore. With change comes impact as well as the potential for both loss and opportunity that is often accompanied by the human desire for acknowledgement and commemoration. After analyzing their own video as well as one produced by a peer, each student created a relic – an interpretative response to the documented transformation in artifact form.
As architects we are often placed in the role of interpreter -- framing other people’s stories and artifacts – and anticipating future community events through spatial design. With this in mind, each senior was entrusted with the artifact of another. Students were required to reinterpret this object, consider its story and the video it came from, and then asked to “house” the artifact - to create a reliquary that framed and honored the relic by careful design of the spatial relationships, material choices and the ritual of discovery or protection. As a final step the students re-imagined the reliquary through drawing, in some cases as a building scale sited in a landscape, a step aimed to aid them in understanding how ideas explored in this first set of projects are transmissible to a building proposal for the communities of Cambridge and Vienna, Maryland.
"Thus from each art practiced in its time I derive a knowledge which compensates me in part for pleasures lost. I have supposed, and in my better moments think so still, that it would be possible in this manner to participate in the existence of everyone; such sympathy would be one of the lest revocable kinds of immortality. There have been moments when that comprehension tried to go beyond human experience, passing from the swimmer to the wave. But in such a realm, since there is nothing exact left to guide me, I verge upon the world of dream and metamorphosis."
Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoires of Hadrian
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