Open Conference Systems, National Conference on the Beginning Design Student

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Plane of Non-Agreement: Mapping Pop Culture
Brian Michael Ambroziak, Andrew McLellan

Last modified: 2016-12-09


The exercise entitled Plane of Non-Agreement: Mapping Pop Culture considers the origins of the creative process and the role of writing in search of alternative starting points in the conception of space. The process includes a series of steps that navigate between the written word and carefully assembled time-based compositions. In architectural drawing, one traditionally begins with freehand notation that evolves into precise and constructed orthographic projections — plan, section, and elevation. This methodology describes a linear, more localized, process used in the creation of a single design. For this particular assignment, the beginning design student is asked to generate brought-together elements and place them into a plane of non-agreement thereby challenging more traditional methods. These original words are culled from the most recent issue of Vogue magazine, the student scouring the pages for language that strikes them as having a strong visual and auditory component — it is by default a representation of contemporary culture with a strongly inherent bias. As such, their starting point draws not from memory but is external, negating the notion of a random process, the students consciously choosing words or phrases for a variety of reasons. One could see precedent or a site’s context as providing a similar kit of parts with which to begin a conceptual process; a kind of jump start to the creation of a truly original idea. Douglas Darden’s Condemned Building as well as Dali’s Paranoid-Critical Method (PCM) as described by Rem Koolhaas in Delirious New York, serve as valuable guides for this first assignment and stress that strategies and desires to make a fresh start are by no means a novel approach.

The first assignment requires the student to identify a series of fragments and organize them into what Max Ernst referred to as a plane of non-agreement. Such an investigation must acknowledge semiotics and the role of the sign composed of both the signifier — the form which the sign takes — and the signified — the concept it represents. The prose one generates is both a physical object that maintains its own aesthetic existence as well as a construct that conjures up as many readings as there are readers. The second part of this assignment responds to both of these possibilities. The student translates their prose into visual constructs and provides form to their newly discovered hallucinations and secret desires. Designed as a triptych, text from the first assignment is positioned on the middle panel. On the left panel, a diagram is generated, a kind of construction manual that illustrates the organizational strategy of one’s prose. The right panel consists of an image[s] that corresponds to the prose generated in the first part of the assignment. These images are not meant to infringe upon the freedom of the reader but instead expand the potential visualization of one’s written prose and “touch the viewer’s soul to some degree.” This paper will document the possibilities to the design process afforded by such an experiment as well as challenge its limitations.