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Necessity of Ruins

Part 2 Project 2008
Jesse Honsa
Rhode Island School of Design Providence USA
The ruin has always had the dual pleasure of being both a monument and an incomplete architecture. This thesis imagines a school of art as this enduring ruin reinhabited: mediating between an institution as eternal terra firma, and an unbounded, adaptive space for invention. Sited in a radically transforming Eastern European capital, the ruin is considered an extension of the “geologic” medieval town of subterranean passages.

The school is organized around three scales of activity: the civic scale of congress and movement, a topography of in-situ concrete; the hermetic, vessel-like classroom for intimate study, constructed momentarily in the ruin; and the studio, the liminal space between worlds, a space of extreme elasticity for production, critique, and exhibition. As a school of art, a place for the exchange of ideas, the ruin is considered a stratified “campus” of atria, arcades, and terraces. Taking inspiration from etchings by Giovanni Piranesi, the ruin “erodes” in its upper levels, forming cantilevering arcades that ring a central courtyard. Piranesi also informs a play of scales, as this ruin takes on a magnitude of great proportions.

The façade exemplifies the diversity within the school of art: framed by monumentally large apertures in the concrete ruin, classroom facilities are built from a variety of wood species, a corporeal, impermanent material. The process of design also sought a diversity of techniques to gain understanding, from collage to working model to orthographic projection.

Jesse Honsa

This project demonstrates an impressive range and diversity of thought processes and media to achieve a coherent and complete architectural statement. It speaks as clearly to the thesis project as open research, as painterly expression, as expression of conviction and as concrete proof of the student's preparedness to contribute to the culture of architecture outside of academia.
Beginning with the problem of defining a rapproachement to an unknown place and culture, which the student only visited after the project was largely complete, the project traces the relationship between artistic imagination and analytical ratiocination - the two intertwining processes within any architectural undertaking. In this sense, it speaks to larger issues around the creative process as much as to the concrete problem at hand. As if in analogy to the program, an art school, the building takes on light, color, and material as the means of architecture, which anchors the more global questions about process in the actual requirements of the building.
The coherence and thoroughness of the exploration, paired with an appropriate definitiveness with regard to the project's completion, make this an excellent indicator of what a student should achieve just prior to leaving the academic environment.


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