Perry kulper – Pairing Up, Doubling Down

The studio operated like a think tank with initial, and quickish, projects that unpacked the typology of a supermarket, by asking questions of it, through three framing devices. ‘Typology, Tweaked’, unraveled thoughts and spatial tactics hinged to ‘familiar strangeness’. ‘Chrono_Morphology’ challenged static notions about architecture, and the default implementation of typology as a fixed entity. And in ‘Distributed’, students poked at the typology of the supermarket by distributing ‘it’, taking ‘parts’ of a supermarket(s) into geographies beyond the figure of the big box.

The final work, ‘Pairing Up, Doubling Down’, 9 weeks, paired programs—a supermarket, or things that structure supermarkets, and programs like: a halfway house; a harvest table; urban agriculture; a new United Nations; a soup kitchen; a suburban game; or someone else’s work, for example; and asked students to consider a situation in which they would situate their work: Ann Arbor; Tiananmen Square; the ‘x, y + z’ coordinate system; in three abandoned Walmart buildings in the south, etc..

We emphasized: relational thinking/ structuring—considering the types, strengths and duration of relations; what design can contribute, generously, to cultural constructions; and setting up a discipline and scope for the work. The content for proposals was tailored per each student and included a whole range of things linked to: social equity; food as deep, cultural structure; situational thinking; accessibility; food scarcity; logistics and distribution; advertising; harvesting; perhaps the critical reframing of supermarkets; methods and techniques for working; and innovative insights about the world(s) of supermarkets, and what structures them. We tickled the ‘mechanics of engagement’—that is the choreography, or diagram, of the roles of the variables in the work, and paid attention to the techniques and means of working, ultimately producing speculative work, that reframed, and enlarged, supermarket typologies toward enhancing the cultural imaginary.

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Student Work

Chen Huang – “The Dreams of Pig Machines

Using the background of narrative constructions, this multi-intentioned project augments human connections, while rediscovering hidden values—linked to various histories, cultural practices, and food as a social construct. The project is played out through the lenses of food, its production, dissemination and consumption. The proposal is split into three distinct temporal stages: burying; excavating and distributing, played out across three different, but co-existing sites. In a single day, for example, the Pig Machine(s) navigate the three situations, including a Lithium Land, the Food Nation and onto the Urban City, reconstructing social patterns and re-discovering a range of hidden values, assumptions and practices.

In the Lithium Land, the Pig Machines recharge their energy reservoirs, equipping themselves with lithium fuel. From there, they travel to the Food Nation, where they metaphorically excavate cultural values and forms of knowledge. While in the Urban City, the benevolent Pig Machines serve as cultural agents, distributing various kinds of energy to the citizens. Despite conditions of isolation, physically and socially—and as a result of the triangulated efforts of the Pig Machines, myriad human connections and reconstructed memories are regained toward a rebirthed cultural imaginary.

Lurking in the shadows lie the trading histories of the Silk Road, and an ambition to turn the city ‘inside out’. In addition to multiple cultural, representational, and innovative program logics, these ambitions structure the work, and foreground what might be discovered through speculative scenarios, revealing hidden values, deep histories and the generosities of the medium of food, as a generative cultural construction.

Yunyan Li – “Rhapsody, Rebooting a Lost Era”

This work rethinks a crisis of social emergencies, or force majeure. A proactive, information rich, urban proposal, it reconsiders an over dependence on homogenous social patterns, ultimately pressuring single systems. It increases awareness of those dependencies, enabling a more independent, unique and creative participation by citizens, articulated by embodied interfaces with a world populated by dynamic information—through artificial intelligence, and including historical, cultural and social information, both now and then, that can be tailored according to personal needs and desires. In this spatial, indexical and information rich proposal, multiple forms of information can be transmitted, constructed, and integrated in daily experiences.

Here, people create a unique world of information ecologies, enhanced by a variety of choices and combinations, that move between simple purchases, to hidden and discoverable information, to technologically driven, and embodied experiences. By weaving varied information, cultural practices, spatial environments—from contemporary culture and the Tang Dynasty, this proposal enables the possibility for communities, of differing sizes, aspirations and social makeup, to develop small, multiplied subsystems, and self-sufficient cites. For example, the transmission, and exchange of crops amongst communities, is accompanied by changes of season and climate, that are integrated by the familiarity of supermarkets, where goods needed are displayed and exchanged. In this metaphorical and combinatory ecology of urban and domestic situations, information such as production standards, technological means and product information, generate infinite sub-systems, in a larger system, foregrounding people’s choices, diversifying single system dependencies, while enriching future opportunities for richer and more diverse lives.

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