Neal Robinson – CAGEY: Buildings, Allographs & Other Sure Hesitants

As part of the “bla(n/c)k box” thematic, “Cagey” studio attempts to introduce the production of architecture as both a personal and disciplined, social proxy. Contingent, collective and never quite right, the studio advocates that spatial production should never abandon its aspirational construction(s). This premise, that architecture must not be merely derivative, asks students to risk beyond the comfortable and until now, familiar formal executions. Cagey abandons “How do I know?” and “What do I do?” in favor of projective practice. For 14 weeks, both “blankness” and the absence of autographic instruction, conspire as situational fuel.

12 studio projections, each asked to house the archive of American composer, mycologist and chance musician, John Cage, oscillate between the conceptual “Casino” and the literal “Monastery” – two formally blank, boxes of faith and guestimation, to formulate a civic response on one of two sites in downtown Chicago; one too big and one too small…on purpose.

In the spirit of John Cage, chance, co-incidence and the staging of happenstance were invited to play with each resolute proposal. Learning to “see”, value and argue for the possible alongside the willful was the primary studio practice. While orchestrated by me, the production of care-full “structure(s)” belong to the students.

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Student Work

Jordan Voogt – “Riparium”

A suspicious shade of too blue, the Chicago River and its complex urban ecology is an underappreciated character of the city’s infrastructural, “public work.” Seeking to foster a new appreciation for this performative aspect, Riparium embodies the John Cage-ian, contemporary happenstance of an all-at-once syncopation. Part conventional water treatment facility, part public quai, part urban habitat for native fish, this project stages a series of experiential “wetlands” and programs of aquatic commerce (brewery!) that invite the
public to approach the water’s edge for the first time in over a century and to reimagine their role in a productive, self-aware, civil, ecosystem.

Kay Wright – “CASSIOPEIA”

The city of Chicago is a collection of devices of atmospheric expression. The transient, architectural, corporeal and spiritual catalyze an apparatus to support the activities of a measured factory, of immeasurable pro-liferations. Here, proposed urban domestication of mycological specimens demands sensitivity to environments of production. Representations sought to study, test, and produce hybrids of memory, experience, and space … an [anti]pastoral to the work (v.) of John Cage. The work does not aim to reconstruct the establishment of “natures” or “environments” but to propose inhabitation in the unadulterated nature of the city.

Wendy Zhou – “Root-ary”

Humanizing public space with exuberant plant life is a staple of Chicago’s vigorous urban planning strategy. Supporting this cause, the Root-ary is a conservatory for the city’s “winterizing” plant-life. It is conceived as a literally transparent but perceptually “green,” research curtain along the river’s edge. Facilitating the curatorial and archival work of botanists from the Parks department, the proposal also houses a small public school for budding landscape artists. Like John Cage’s marriage of sound and botany, the “structure” supports dissonant dialog and attempts to embrace the paradoxical as both a productive and monumental lens through which to celebrate and understand the contemporary city

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