Pecha Kucha Thesis

     Last week, Stage 5 students at the Mac could be seen attempting to sum up their Thesis research / thoughts since October in a series of 2 minute presentations. This experiment, based on the principles behind Pecha Kucha, was intended to challenge the traditional pin-up review format where several students present in separate rooms at the same time, without any real structure, with work that is not (at this stage) quite focused. Instead, the chosen format of 6 slides, each no longer than 20 seconds, was tested as a way to see the whole year’s work-in-progress in a concise, fast-paced and fun environment – even though the 2 minute presentations + 6 minute feedback, spread over 60+ people, still accumulated to a whole day of reviews. This ambitious experiment resulted in a very engaging and useful experience – we were finally able to see the work of all our peers, and were forced to really think about the essence of our design intentions this year. I, for one, found that it's far more difficult to break down some of the complex architectural themes into basic yet suggestive diagrams – so I tried to make that the aim of this presentation. Detailed and complex drawings will be the focus of the rest of the Thesis anyway.

The resulting 6-slide summary is a great way to show what I’ve been thinking since my last blog post, and to do it in a simple way – to cut straight to the chase: 

Journey. Intrigue. An Architecture that reveals & conceals. A Palace of Joy.

I believe that great Architecture is characterised by its ability to reinvent complex situations and turn them into elegant, seemingly effortless solutions. The external complexity appears as simplicity, revealing just a trace of how this has been done. This contradiction creates intrigue, a magical effect akin to a theater scrim which encourages further exploration and active participation. My Thesis explores this tension between complexity and simplicity, transparency and translucency, the act of revealing and concealing, the relation between the observers and the observed.

The incredibly charged, maze–like, layered station of Friedrichstraße — the major transport and culture hub of Berlin — provides a rich and stimulating context for a radical intervention that will transform and heighten the atmosphere of the area. I propose to counter the negative emotions associated with the adjacent Palace of Tears by proposing a Palace of Joy, to offset the increasing speed of travel and commute by creating a ‘Slow Travel’ alternative, to take on the negative impact of the recent developments and improve the public space performance within the area.

I propose to create a Hot Air Balloon Centre adjacent to — and suspended over — the existing train station. The balloons will serve as both the end purpose, and the inspiration for the proposed building. The Architecture will provide the feeling of wonder, joy and adventure — just like the hot air balloon journey that it serves to create.

Slide 1. The 1956 fantasy featurette directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse follows the adventures of a young boy who befriends a large red balloon with a mind of its own. The two are seen exploring the city and its various conditions, drawing inquisitive looks from adults and the envy of other children. Almost no dialogue is required to tell the story; the balloon and the backdrop of the city are enough to create a universal set of meanings and powerful emotions: joy of discovery, wonder, fascination with simple phenomena, new perspective on the mundane.

My Architectural Design Thesis will attempt to re-create similar emotions, to add some 'fun' to the heavily charged area of the Friedrichstraße station.

2. The proposal examines the benefits of 'slow travel', of getting lost, of taking the time to go on explorations rather than going from A to B in the quickest way possible — because taking your time is the only way to discover something new, and to enjoy what the city has to offer. It's an antithesis to 'fast' travel, placed in the busiest transport knot in Berlin.

3. Instead of revealing everything right away, the project uses translucency to suggest, to tease the imagination — to break the mundane experience and hint at what's possible instead of simply showing things exactly as they are. It's an architectural expression of wonder, a reason to start the journey of exploration.

4. The proposal creates a counter-balance to the Palace of Tears, and aims to cater for the opposite emotions. The architecture of the Palace of Tears is examined and abstracted, with an opposite set of architectural devices forming the base for the Palace of Joy: for example, one will move up instead of going down, etc.

5. This diagram hints at the architectural organisation of the Thesis Design — the final section will, of course, evolve throughout the year, although I suspect it will always be easy to trace it down to this original idea of a 'hovering' building that creates a new set of relationships in this complex site.

6. Finally, this photograph from the 1909 Air Show at the Grand Palais, by Léon Gimpel, demonstrates the kind of Architecture that used to host hot air balloons. Keep an eye on this blog to see what (I think) hot air balloon architecture could look like today!