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The Dinner Address: a Venture into Architectural Absurdity

Part 2 Dissertation 2008
Tom Ngo
Carleton University Ottawa Canada
Common sense and conventional practice prohibits the evolution of architecture. Through reproducing past models for efficiency and economy, routine thinking preserves the flaws of the standard model. Using different frameworks of thought, architects can create new solutions, which rectify the faults of the norm, and distance themselves from making habitual design decisions.

Built on the foundations of Victorian Nonsense, Alfred Jarry’s ‘Pataphysics, and Absurdist Theatre, Absurdity expands the limits of human reason by presenting a paradoxical solution. By allowing solutions which would normally have been ruled out due to irrationality, absurdity provides non-linear alternatives which interrogate contemporary logic.

Thus, absurdity is a rhetorical device aimed at questioning (architectural) conventions. Architectural absurdity playfully transgresses within the rules of building formation to create valid alternative assemblages while scrutinizing regulation. The resultant architecture redefines the rituals of program and questions the notion of typology. Unbound by strict conformity to logic, the liberated architect breathes new life into architecture.

Tom Ngo


The absurdity of the everyday is often taken for granted, unobserved and invisible through habitus or distraction. In this professional Master of Architecture thesis, Tom Ngo not only welcomes the absurd into architectural theory and practice, he invites absurdity to dinner. The modes and methods of absurdity are captured, classified, sliced, and served up into a compelling and fascinating dinner tale in an impossible restaurant, formed by exacting standards in writing and drawing, done in the manner of early modern architecture. The project warrants serious consideration, for absurdity itself, when mounted as a deliberate series of irrational strategies and tactics, brings into focus the often-suppressed role of (irrational) compelling desire in architecture. This thesis is an obsessive exploration of all that is an can be absurdity - as concept, image, and event – brought to bear upon the simple challenge of the design of a local diner, in a capital city too busy to notice (or expect) thoughtful architecture. The allure of absurdity is slowly teased out into the mannered spatial and technical solutions of an architecture that is modest in appearance but ambitious in scope. In the process of writing a historiography of absurdity, Tom Ngo comes to many insights into the subversive (il)logic of modernism - as to how the absurdity which architects often seek to exclude in the pursuit of rationality – always comes back with a vengeance in the dissipation of architecture for life. The project fuses together wit, enigma, and exactitude into compelling recipes for an honest architecture that could be proud of its own absurdity.

Tutor(s)
Mr Thomas Mical
2008
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