Lessons From Model Space

Lessons From Model Space

by Rekha Auguste-Nelson, Farnoosh Rafaie, and Isabel Strauss of Riff Studio

For many designers the necessary translation from digital to physical models is cumbersome. A constant effort cast between the two, designers build 3D scenes and sites to photograph physical artifacts before resolving projects as a series of 2D digestible products. For Practice Sessions No. 10 at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Riff Studio tasked students to consider translations from two to three dimensions through the production of “model space” with photography, craft, and staging. Students were challenged to create 3D model space—in all its uninhibited playfulness—for the physical world, at a 1:1 occupiable scale. We offer these images of arranged references, materials, and swatches to emphasize the underlying driver of the workshop—an embrace of process and an interest in constructed perspectives. 

“Meditations on thickness: surface and/or volume” 
from Rekha Auguste-Nelson

Consider the digital model space: completely devoid of thickness and attendant material banalities, populated only with “pure” surfaces. This mood board cites various dialogues between surface and thickness/volume, some posited through scholarly efforts and artistic expressions—as by Helge von Koch, James Dickey, Marc Chagall, Roni Horn, Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, Francisco Borromini, and Georg Dientzenhofer—and others evident in less explicitly authored built forms, including an ancient mortuary temple, an origami folding pattern, chipped paint, and a technical detail for a curtain wall assembly. How do surface and thickness coexist on paper—versus in paper? At what point does a surface thicken into volume—and a fold become a carve? These are Meditations on Thickness.

The texts cited in the list below are taped up on a white wall, forming a collage with a decorative red border imposed on the left side.
  1. Chagall, Marc, Birthday. Oil on cardboard, 31 3/4 x 39 1/4″. 1915.

The subjects are rendered in a Cubist style. The various superimposed perspectives of the figures indicate volume through multiple surfaces.

  1. Cuhadaroglu Aluminium, Detail of unitized system curtain wall MN 70 EFS. Turkey: 2022.

Structural silicone glazing is pure surface, writ large. It resembles old projector transparencies, clear and free of thickness or weight, belying the sturdy mullions that undergird the entire system.

  1. Origami lily, unfolded.

Folds in a surface (paper) nevertheless retain and manifest volume after being undone. There is no return to flat.

  1. Horn, Roni. When Dickinson Shut Her Eyes no. 863. Solid cast black plastic and aluminum, variable lengths. 1993.

Letters, words—2D concepts—are imbued with thickness and transposed into 3D objects. Volume is drop shadow.

  1. Photograph of Hatshepsut’s Temple. Dier el Bahri, Egypt: n.d.

The temple presents as folds in the landscape, like the jags in the cliffs from which it extends.

  1. von Koch, Helge. Koch curve. 1904. Drawing by Rekha Auguste-Nelson.

The fractal curve evidences the ability to fit an infinite length within a discrete area.

  1. Duchamp, Marcel. Door 11, Rue Larrey. 1927.

The door mediates between volumes (the two rooms), alternately collapsing each into a secondary character, a conspiring surface.

  1. Borromini, Francesco. S. Ivo. Rome, Italy: Built 1642–1650. Plan by Rekha Auguste-Nelson.

  2. Dientzenhofer, Georg. Kappel pilgrimage church. Near Waldsassen, Bavaria, Germany: Built 1684–? Plan by Rekha Auguste-Nelson.

Baroque church plans articulate the heft of poche, the true thickness of wall surfaces.

  1. Sketch based on quotation: “The dam at Aintry has already been started, and when it’s finished next spring the river will back up fast. This whole valley will be under water [sic]” (3). Dickey, James. Deliverance. New York, Dell: 1970. Drawing by Rekha Auguste-Nelson.

The narrator anticipates a craggy valley being dammed and filled like a vessel, reducing it to a benign surface—that of the resulting lake.

  1. Lichtenstein, Roy. “Interior with Painting of Reclining Nude (Study).” Magna and cut-and-pasted printed and painted paper on board, 40 1/8 x 60 1/2″. 1997.

Volume denoted as patterns of dots and lines of varying density (versus shading or shadow): Groupings of discrete 2D elements describe 3D realities.

  1. De Graaf, Paul. Paint chips (Netherlands), https://mymodernmet.com/graffiti-wall-of-fame/.

Chips salvaged from a wall with 30 years of built-up graffiti, resembling rock strata. Once airborne paint particles are now solid, thick, and storied—a testament to lived-in architecture and reverse weathering, wherein surfaces amass volume.

from Isabel Strauss

The kitchen, the living room, the table, the fantasy, the nightmare—the images shown here, produced by the artists Daniel Gordon, Liza Lou, Mickalene Thomas, Sandy Skoglund, Yayoi Kusama, James Casebere, and Thomas Demand, assert their surreal nature through a manipulation of scale, a near transmutation of material, or a charged dynamic between sitter, artist, and scene. In turn, this collection evokes the otherworldly in its intimate depiction of interior realms. This is a collection of Dreamscapes.

A digital collage of works from the artists cited above. Against a black background are a number of colorful images including a kitchen scene, hallways, still life's, a dining room, living rooms, and costumed people.