The Irrational Real: A manual for Atomistic Architecture- Cara Liberatore, Harvard GSD


One of our favorite things about architecture is its ability to take any concept, and interpret it through the lens of the built environment.  And some of the most far out concepts come from grad students, especially those at some of the top schools, and rightly so.  Check out Cara Liberatore’s project, that seeks to codify a built environment into a rational categorization, and then break that down into an irrational representation of those pieces of information.

STUDENT: Cara Liberatore
PROFESSOR: Timothy Hyde
CLASS: M. Arch Thesis
YEAR: Spring 2012

This project considers rationality both as a problematic construct and as fundamental tool for architectural reinvention. Since we construct reality as a kind of fiction rather than discover it in the world, then the true Real only occurs in the moment in which rationality ceases to function. Counterintuitively, however, in order to produce any kind of freedom from rationality, architecture must critically engage with rationality itself and attempt to dismantle rationality from within. As a second-order procedure, the irrational real has the potential to exist both as a technique of codification and as a form of architectural experimentation.

A manual for atomistic architecture provides the primary basis for an investigation of rationality as it pertains to architectural thinking and production. In order to achieve freedom from rationality, architecture must consider the world not as a set of a priori types or things, but simply as pure matter that is subject to codification. “Matter” can be defined as either an “event, affair, or circumstance” or as “physical objects, vaguely characterized”. It is understood as both an influence on behavior and structure, and use and form. Matter continually oscillates between an event and a physical limit.

If the rational real is a world of discrete constraints – building codes, geometric rules, zoning laws, and social conventions – then the irrational real might be achieved through the conflation of those rational systems. Seemingly disparate things, events, materials, behaviors and rules – or, forms of matter – are now collapsed within a single, quantitative plane of code. Specifically, the irrational real operates through the quantitative conflation of extensive and intensive constraints: extensive constraints being those restrictions on geometry, mass, measurement or volume that pertain to a particular scale, while intensive constraints, such as limits on temperature, humidity or duration, and do not pertain to any particular scale at all.

Through an architecture of the irrational real, there is the potential to undo those normative structures of reality that surreptitiously structure daily life. If one presumes that architecture not only affects behavior but also dictates it, then one may argue that there exists a degree of causality between the production of formal or typological uncertainty and a new set of social or behavioral codes. Vagueness, fragmentation and defamiliarity are all potential outcomes of an architecture that attempts to operate outside of normative preconceptions. The difficult tectonic that ultimately emerges from an architecture of the irrational real allows for the fragment, the contradiction or the improvisational event, all of which enhance one’s awareness and participation with architecture.

All images and text via SuckerPunch

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