Readymade, defined by André Breton and Paul Éluard in 1938 is "an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist". Once selected, the object is disassociated from its customary context and function by repositioning, reorientation, scaling, material substitution and other displacement strategies.
The readymade artist's most radical act was the recontextualization of the found object in the most venerated institution of cultural legitimation, the museum. There, the readymade performed an iconoclastic function. It defied authorship and the museologically based definition of art as a predominately visual work, wrought from the hands of a creative artist and imbued with the meanings and value, the distinction and originality verified by the signature.
Readymade is a concept at once seemingly compatible with and inapplicable to architecture. On the one hand, the preponderance of architecture is constituted by buildings that can be interpreted to embody the requisite ordinariness associated with found objects. Building types are composed of unauthored forms and materials that are manipulated to varying degrees of specificity or distinction. On the other hand, architecture's context, whether the city or the countryside, does not act explicitly as a venue of legitimation. Architecture is not contained within an institution against which it can launch a legible critique.
The studio will research the tropes and formal devices of the readymade in art, and will explore strategies with which to operate analogously in architecture. In lieu of iconoclasm within the museum context, is it possible for architecture to appropriate not only the devices but also the critical agency of the artistic readymade?
Students will each design several proposals for a house and a skyscraper, two building types that simultaneously produce autonomous objects and the repetitive constituents of anonymous contexts and are thus paradoxical and conducive to this inquiry. The studio will not only attend to the iconicity of the exterior, but will also interrogate the relationship of the inside to the outside as a means to displace one relative to the other and the protocols established by the program and the site.
In collaboration with Preston Scott Cohen at Harvard Graduate School of Design