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Sk(in) Between

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Gavin Smyth
University of Lincoln Lincoln UK
Sk(in) between is a consequence of the current maelstrom in which architecture remains a woolly synthesis, fluctuating between primeval traditions and contemporary practice. It is an attempt to reflect on and to comprehend an architectural discourse that is becoming abstract and alienated amidst many new oscillating theories and concepts. The study hinges on 'surface' and through a process of deconstruction a number of dualities and contradictions emerge that render 'surface' an ambiguous entity. The ornamental, symbolic, iconographic and diagrammatic characteristics of various 'surfaces' constitute the need for a new, more applicable comprehension tool to help us appreciate some current architectural trends. Sk(in) emerges through a reconstructed discourse instigated by the biological associations of the term. The figurative interpretation enables an analysis of a range of contemporary architectural projects. Sk(in) becomes an intricate, multifarious and detailed entity that assumes the role of the picture or the frame.

In a study that considers influential names such as Loos, Semper and Le Corbusier alongside contemporaries like Herzog and de Meuron and Lyons Architects, it seems that sk(in) is borne out of and exists in a world of design that fluctuates between Euclidean and curvilinear concepts. In this current oscillation of box versus blob sk(in) helps us to keep in shape (at least for the time being).

Gavin Smyth

The subject matter of the dissertation goes right to the heart of the challenge presented by current experimental architectures to our ability to talk about their elements meaningfully. The seminar group, to which Gavin contributed some of the best debate, is devoted to the impact of postmodern critical thinking on architectural discourse. Rather than pushing a single methodology the aim is to sensitize the researcher to the creative possibilities for coping with complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty and contradiction. Gavin responded in his dissertation with an engaging deconstructive exploration of the critical terminology applied to a fundamental area of architectural discourse. The discussion of ‘surface’, its diverse and often ambiguous even contradictory meanings, is pursued intelligently with methodical precision and considerable panache. It draws on an impressive range of sources and utilizes example and illustration in a purposeful and systematic way. The study leads the reader to a set of critical concepts differentiated in a thoroughly justified way; as such it is an exemplary study of its type.

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