Mies Immersion

Mies ImmersionThe Performance ShedMies\’s work had an essence of formlessness, amorphousness, nothingness, perversion and anxiety behind a stealth shield of serenityRem KoolhaasI am, in fact, completely opposed to the idea that a specific building should have any individual characterMies, 1960Halfway between the dominant discourse of programmatic freedom and the alleged overdetermination and futility of form-giving, this studio pursues its critical return to form. Our interest in the subject is neither aesthetic nor ideological. Contrary to the notion of shape (with which it is sometimes confused), here form is understood as a syntactic, procedural and, increasingly, technical proposition whose disciplinary autonomy parallels the study of language in the age of structuralism or the development of object-oriented programming in the contemporary software industry.Last year this studio explored the tectonic potential of the variable parametric surface, a conceptual vehicle chosen for its relentless abstraction, its resistance to traditional means of analysis and representation, and the impossibility of giving a physical form without extensive material reinterpretation three constraints that all but predate predictable questions of architectural figuration. The investigation continues- in two directions at once.Mies ApplicationsAt the near end of the spectrum, and in keeping with the line of enquiry initiated at the GSD last year with the Singapore-hosted option studio Rising Masses, we will expand the scope of our preliminary design explorations to the production of formal analytic models, initially as counter-intuitive building prototypes, later to be incorporated into pragmatic architectural proposals for downtown Chicago.At the far end of the spectrum we will scavenge history to reformulate our essentially instrumental ideas in relation to the high modernist project of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). From the recent completion of the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at IIT by OMA (and the controversy surrounding the international design competition) to the major show curated by Phyllis Lambert at CCA Montreal in 2001 (to whom our title is indebted), the ongoing rediscovery of Mies has been gathering apace. Critically Mies\’s ethos is still in some way at the root of our problems. None of the wild formalism practiced globally in 2009 would have been possible without Mies\’s original rejection of locality, programme and typological individuation, abetted by his use of seemingly totalising grids, reiterative frames, and serialised prefabrication. Mies\’s architecture is mostly restrained and orthogonal, and ours mostly exuberant and groovy, but if you disregard that detail, pound for pound the two strategies are strictly equivalent. Hence his outlook can be reassuringly familiar: you could even argue that having foretold our ambition to formulate a rootless contemporary sensibility, Mies is in need of an explicit re-actualization.The Performance Shed / Downtown ChicagoRather than looking like Mies (which is self-explanatory), or signifying like Mies (i.e. trying to affect our contemporaries as Mies\’ work impressed his own audiences in 1939-68), we will simply strive to be like him once again. Pointed studies in mathematical and sensual aesthetics will provide the basis for individual or group projects leading to the deployment of instrumentally updated prototypes in response to the material and programmatic requirements of the terrifying \”blank\” horizontal typologies at which Mies excelled. Built or merely planned, these so-called \”Performance Sheds\” include, among others, the 1950 52 IIT Crown Hall, the 1953 Convention Hall, the 1962 Berlin New National Gallery, plus countless generic proposals emanating from MvdR in the 1950s and 1960s. In their day these beautiful protomat bui