Architecture’s Exquisite Corpse: Another Kind Of Folding In Architecture

A while ago at Studio X in NYC, I ran a what was billed as a “An Evening of Psychometric Drawing Experiments, Architectural Non Sequiturs, and Free Association”.

Over the course of the evening we tried a series of drawings games. We played an invention called Architectural Consequences, a game that works just like picture consequences (or Exquisite Corpse for the more high falutin’ amongst you). Except in this case, instead of the normal head/body/legs/feet sequence, we substituted roof/upper floor/ground floor/basement. Each section drawn in secret, folded over and passed to the next person to draw the next part of the sequence. Pitched roofs, for example, perched on skyscrapers that rose out of caves that sat on burial chambers.

We then played Urban Consequences, in which the sequence ran countryside/suburb/industry/downtown. These produced equally unlikely urban plans, generated by the same kind of accidental coincidences that the Surrealists loved.

In a game of Exquisite Corpse, the normal consistant narrative – and style – of a drawing of a person is ruptured. A different hand imagines and drawing each body part on each fold of the paper. The whole image is only known at the end when the sheet is unfolded. The things we expect a body to have – to belong, say, to a consistant genome, sex, class or occupation – are all mixed up by fragmentation and multi-authorship. Applied to the logics and codes of architecture and urban planning, the same ‘impossible’ bodies emerge. But there is no transgenic impossibility to these visions. Sure, we can (yet) have a creature with a crocodiles head, a cowgirls body, a kangaroos legs and a frogmans feet, but we can, if we choose, engineer a building with exactly the same level of difference.

It would offend all of our convictions of what architecture and (especially) urban planning are supposed to be. Their qualities are, instead, anti-logical, un-visionary and revel in accident. Yet we could argue that many of the apparent logics of architecture and urban planning are simply codes of convention, and that accident and un-logic are real tools that can help us out of the self-replicating horror of contemporary architecture and urban design.

For more pictures of the evening check Studio X’s Flickr stream



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  1. Wonne Ickx says:

    Great post. We at LIGA did a similar game a while ago at the Experimental Museum El Eco inMexico City. You can see some results on http://www.liga-df.com

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