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.
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.
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.
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.