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Commendation

Volcanic

Part 1 Project 2001
Aaron Paterson
University of Auckland Auckland New Zealand
A Volcanic Line into Architecture

Volcanic form is defined by shifting boundaries. The earth trembles and smoke billows. To order to recreate the atmospheric in a static architectural form an investigation of the use of a 'volcanic' line may prove useful.

In a tale of the birth of painting the line simultaneously captures the presence and absence of that which has moved. Seismic graphs and contour maps of the volcanic are all attempts to render diagrammatically the movement of non-static objects. The shifting line between crumbling earth and gaseous non-matter is registered by the line of the seismic graph (by temporarily measuring the violence of transition), and the line in contour maps (a trace of a former boundary). Both diagrammatically contain the presence and absence of that which they are attempting to map. The drawing of this design uses lines based on seismic graphs to build form not by contours, which contain, but by shading and weaving, which inherently contain the notion of the continuous.

Diversion: architectural form making

Robin Evans dismisses Le Corbusier's claim that the form of Ronchamp is based on the modular believing instead that it emerged from projected lines. Evans describes Corbusier's (volcanic) process as moving from an initial explosion of creativity in the form of a charcoal sketch that transforms itself into ephemeral thin wire and line, finally solidifying into a rough concrete shell. The projected line is the mediator between the volcanic line, the architectural line and the emerging mass, where free forms become solidified and contain the continuous.

The volcanic line is used to generate projected surfaces that then volcanically dissolve into the mass but are vital for their form. Firstly the line is projected onto the site. The drawing studies based on the factory footprint reveal a volcanic relationship to the site, mediated through the sedimentary process of screenprinting. The architecture follows the line of the site. Printed to its surface.

Materiality: the volcanic sublime.

"Our pleasure would be greatly diminished by the disclosure that the building material was pumice-stone, for then it would be a kind of sham building.
We should be affected in almost the same way if we were told that it was only of wood, when we had assumed it to be stone, just because this alters and shifts the relation between rigidity and gravity, and thus the significance and necessity of all the parts; for those natural forces reveal themselves much more feebly in a wooden building." A. Schopenhauer, On the Sublime in Architecture, 1812

The volcanic architecture is revealed as a moment of lightness, slipping between two large masses of pressure. It is a transformative process, a sieve between the volcanic atmosphere and the volcanic site. The volcanic design is a permeable barrier following the line of site mediating pressure.

Aaron Paterson


To write an image of architectural rejection is to follow a volcanic line into architecture. Volcanic ash thickens the air, and ground, as lava, flows. Rocks float on water as pumice and gravity explosively reverses. This design, an instance of volcanic line, is sited on White Island/Whakaari, a small active volcano off the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Both connected to and detached from New Zealand, it can be seen as a saturated condition of the generally volcanic islands of New Zealand; a miniature or volcanic detail that formally codes more general architectural conditions.

The surface condition of volcanic ground, its failings and partings, constitute a gateway to the underworld and evokes the limits of structure and interiority. Bursts of vapour, clouds of steam, that issue from crevices and cracks in the ground constitute evidence of an active underground force that operates with the half seen and the half-known. This design operates with the perforations of surface and its indeterminate contours constructing an opening and a resurfacing; acknowledging the traces of the underworld in the everyday.

The perforations of the screen with which the design drawings were printed is also a reference to the screening of samples and the sampling screens with which the matter of Whakaari White Island, sulphur and minerals, was tested. The design, programmatically a research station, is squeezed through the mesh of geometry and matter over a breach in a selected site on the island.

The design clings to a rock face, part of a residual crater ring, anchored in a momentary stability. Sliding a new surface over the old, a slip of space, a gap, is formed. Conceptually the beginning of the next layering of ash and matter the new skin makes a minimal space in which to breath, sleep, and study. Two surfaces held apart by structure and circulation in a muscular attempt to allow inhabitation on a site that actively rejects architecture.

The built architecture of the island has always been physically tentative and marginal. The first settlement, including a sulphur factory and workerís accommodation situated within the crater, was destroyed in a lahar, following volcanic activity in 1914. Ten men were killed. A second factory was built in 1928/30 in ferro-cement in an attempt at permanence although there was always concern for the effects of acidic air on materials.

The history of buildings on White Island is of temporary structures, dangerous dwellings, and annihilation in the night. It is also a history of material failure. The atmosphere of the island corrodes and corrupts; metals are eaten and objects fall apart. There is no pure water and even the first purification plant corroded. Nevertheless the landscape is represented as occupiable. It was recorded that a beach had been used as a thermally warmed sleeping place.

The new design is caught under the skin of the island. Slipped between the repeating blankets of matter, accumulating particular debris, the surface is utilized as both an expendable weather skin and as structural adhesion. Architecture constructs the site as both a persistence and as a temporary condition and the site makes the architecture internal and leaky. Architecture is constructed as a line that stands against the sites continuing inclination to the horizontal and also as a capitulation with its surface condition.

This project is premised on an understanding that architecture in New Zealand is consistently rejected and the rejection is understood as volcanic in its movements of explusion, fisson, disruption, partition, scattering and separation. Not neutral or comprehensible, but atmospheric and catastrophic, volcanic passage is characterized by a spacing apart. This design, designated a volcanic line into architecture, acknowledges that foundational security, bodily unity and material permanence are showered with the ashes of structure, scored with burning anxieties about colonial occupation and anticipates dissolution in combustion.

2001
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