Project 4: The Hidden Room

November 5, 2012

Foreword

In the history of architecture and design pedagogy there have been a number of eloquent problems that have emerged as projects that address such a fundamental set of questions for the practice and have therefore been repeated in many different permutations or incarnations. One well known pedagogical project – now known as the “Nine-Square” problem – developed by John Hejduk and now claimed by the Cooper Union in New York is still being used to this day.

For the final project of our studio, we will be investigating a problem originally developed at Harvard’s GSD at the beginning of this century. We have selected to “reincarnate” this problem. This decision was made not only because this project enables us to incorporate all of the capabilities we have developed throughout the duration of our studio, but also because the problem is very elegant. This problem of designing a “hidden room” taps into fundamental questions in the relationships between form and sequence. These questions are supported by a wealth of historical precedents in the discipline of architecture, but are also wide open to experimental inquiry. While the problem is highly constrained, we believe that there is an infinite number of potential outcomes and we eagerly await the results.

Introduction

The task of this project is to design a hidden room.

Aside from pragmatics of problem solving and formal investigations, this project questions the inherent rift between an embodied experience of space and the representation of space. Additionally in the act of designing a hidden room and representing a hidden room, the student is challenged to question the very definition of a “room,” the concept of enclosure, differences between visual obfuscation and physical inaccessibility, the notion of sequential movement through space, potential of discovery.

The project deals with the concept of hiding in architecture in three distinct ways: visual concealment (i.e. optical obfuscation); inaccessibility to a degree from without; the presumption of absence according to expectation or convention, but that are in fact present.

To hide a space in architecture requires a detailed formal investigation and study of surreptitious passage or circulation. This investigation will require a constant back and forth between making models and forms of representation, notably the plan and the section – which represent space that cannot be seen. The way in which an inhabitant would potentially move through the space will likely differ greatly from the way in which a critic would read a space through representations. This means that it is unlikely that there would be a single plan, section, or perspective that would be able to describe the proposed design in its entirety.

Many dualities and tensions are present in this project, whether between the obvious exposed/hidden, open/closed, within/without, public/private and should be addressed, emphasized, or negated through modes of representation.

This project is divided into two phases.
In the first phase of the project, the student will be asked to develop from historical types of producing hidden rooms (precedents listed below).

In the second phase, the student will be asked to design a group of five rooms, where one of the rooms appears to be hidden from the other four rooms.

Download project brief as a .pdf file.

Introduction: Part 1: Hidden Room Typology Study

Historically, there are many methods that have been deployed in order to produce hidden spaces. These spatial types will serve as a starting point of development for our studies.

  1. Pinwheel — Where the hidden room is situated in the middle of four translated rooms. (See the domestic works of Frank Lloyd Wright.)
  2. The Labyrinth — Establishes a coherent and complex system of communication between the rooms such that one of the five is logically excluded.
  3. Poché — The construction of thick or dense space in opposition to open space and the establishment of hierarchy and redundant passage.
  4. Progressive Transformation – where the progressive development (growth and change) of the four rooms are transformed to exclude space that contains a hidden room.

Constraints: Part 1

  1. The maximum boundaries for the entire proposal is 15 meters x 15 meters x 15 meters.
  2. The hidden hollow volume must remain exactly 8 cubic meters.
  3. There must be one and only one access the hollow volume.

Deliverables: Part 1

  1. 2 Plan drawings demonstrating how the 8 cubic meters is hidden within the selected spatial type at 1:50 scale, hand drawing with pencil.
  2. 2 Section drawings demonstrating how the 8 cubic meters is hidden within the selected spatial type at 1:50 scale, hand drawing with pencil.
  3. 1 Physical Model made out of chipboard (“Chan Oy”). The scale of the model is 1:50 scale.

Introduction: Part 2

In this part of the project, the student is asked to design a group of five rooms, where one of the rooms appears to be hidden from the other four rooms.

Constraints: Part 2

  1. There must be five rooms in the design.
  2. The exterior ground and orientation of the design may or may not be designed.
  3. The hidden room must comprise a minimum of 10 percent of the combined volumes of the five rooms.
  4. There must be two ways to access the hidden room; one from the exterior and another from another interior room.
  5. The four rooms – not the hidden room – must be accessible from two other rooms. With one exception: One room out of the four non-hidden rooms can be accessible by only one other room.
  6. If the hidden room is not adjacent to the perimeter, the passage to it from the exterior must appear to run alongside one of the four rooms, at least partially. This is to say that the hidden room and the passage to the hidden room must not be completely remote from the other four rooms.
  7. There must be a plan where no less than 75 percent of the boundaries of the four main rooms are maintained; where the four rooms remain discernibly discrete.
  8. All rooms must receive natural light.
  9. No moving parts. (i.e. no doors or mechanical devices to produce the hidden room).

Deliverables: Part 2

  1. 2 Plan drawings (minimum). Hand drawing with pencil. Paper size and type to be determined by the individual and in discussion with the group professor.
  2. 2 Section drawings (minimum). Paper size and type to be determined by the individual and in discussion with the group professor.
  3. 2 Sequential drawings (minimum). These drawings describe a sequence through the space. The type of drawing is to be determined individually and in discussion with your professor.
  4. 1 Physical Model. The materials, scale, and type of model is to be determined individually and in discussion with your professor.
  5. 250-500 word synopsis.