Relevance and Non-Authorship … Viewing Maple St. Construct
By Mike Nesbit
Kenneth Frampton on Alvar Siza house in Sintra … “What puts Siza’s plasticity into a class apart, given the fashionable parametric mode of our time, is the fact that Siza’s morphology is conceived from within and without at one and the same time. This simultaneity is something that our latter-day baroque architects aspire to but rarely, if ever, achieve, since for them the priority always falls on gratifying our insatiable appetite for the spectacular, wherein every building has to be one more exotic fish dredged from the deep and deposited on the site as an alien object… “Architects don’t invent anything, they transform reality.” Through this process of internalizing programme through drawing on the site, the project becomes inscribed within the dynamic movement of the ground so that one no longer knows exactly where the one begins and the other ends.”
I’d agree with Frampton regarding novel techniques and their direct representational attempt at new forms. Whether it’s a hyper stylized building from the late Zaha Hadid or a screen print assembly line from Warhol’s “Factory” in the mid 60’s, new techniques become quickly fetishized which in turn directly affect the representation. Now, as novelty wears off, it becomes more important regarding judgement to understand what’s relevant and what’s not. I’d argue we are in a period of Architecture, where novelty is no longer relevant within specific techniques but instead the way in which the discipline prescribes meaning to existing context is novel. The “new” is no longer new and the relevant “new” is merely how we perceive what’s already there, not a case for nostalgia but instead a disciplined attention towards existing context. We can find contemporary examples such as Rem’s gold leafing of the Fondazione Prada, or Zumthor’s Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany. However, it’s my opinion that although these projects are relevant to contemporary use of practice regarding Architecture and context they are a bit inaccessible to the broader discipline due to the authorship of the Architect. Although the representation (building) is bold and maintains a level of integrity to the context, there might be something to this idea of Non-Authorship. At a period where individual authorship is more apparent than ever, all it takes is a brief scan through any social media platform. The Non-Author or “without you” might be more provocative than ever.
5912 Maple st. sits on a two-lane road in Benson and Benson is a neighborhood within Omaha. Omaha is a city in Nebraska and Nebraska shares the Missouri river with its adjacent neighbor Iowa. Epply Airfield is roughly 1,517 miles from LAX.
5912 Maple st. was not always Maple St. Construct, but originally built as a show room for the “Model A” in the early 1900’s. By the 1980’s time and contextual displacement took a building that once housed the pinnacle of humanities resiliency for technique and representation (the automobile) to what would ironically become an antique shop. Through such collage of time and contextual re-organization, 5912 Maple St. never required anything new but just a scrapping away/ revealing of what was already there. An architecture that gracefully brings attention to the things that were long overlooked, a collage of parts that generate new meanings from old convictions. This can be seen through the layers of paint stripped away from the walls. This can be felt from the nuanced plywood seemingly placed along a haphazard floor. Only to force the inhabitant to give attention to the joints between the modular sheets. It’s those joints that reveal the original joists that once supported the physical technological weight of that once precious automobile. A space that requires such attention, to not miss the quiet almost mistakable architecture that tries to weave in and out of a built context so heavy with time that the architecture moving within it might be lost at any moment. For 5912 Maple St. has gone from an early technological showcase, to housing antiques, to its current program as Maple St. Construct. A space left void for the construction of ideas from multiple contexts via Los Angeles and the Midwest to promote discourse for design and making stuff.
anxious entry into an unknown space
immediate attention to creeks between floors
following spatial lines through material …. an extension of thread
collage of transparency, spatial elevations playfully flattened
a revealing of joists, walls forgotten and yet brought to attention
intentional non-authorship weaves a narrative of contextual mis-alignments