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Published on Sep 14, 2011

Sequential Simultaneous City Yu-Hsuan Lu

"it is pointless trying to decide whether Zenobia is to be classified among happy cities or among the unhappy. It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, but rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give their form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it."

-Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino, 1974 At first glance, the yin and yang symbol, which is representative of an age-old philosophy in China, brings to mind the imagery of opposites. However, upon further consideration, one realizes that the symbol does not only signify the contrasts between them. It also embodies the relationship between these two elements and how they complement one another. Yin is defined by yang and vice versa. Applying this thought in vision, famous figure/ground image 'Old Lady/ Young Lady' illusion represents two ladies in one body simultaneously. Even in present day, this complementary relationship of opposites can be found throughout society -- old and new, freedom and self-discipline, etc. These couplings, in turn, create a third entity -- the system in balance. Through an analysis of Chinese landscape painting, one discovers that it is the painting's 'blank-leaving' structure that first lends itself to the perception of its beauty, between the sky and the earth, the mountain and the stream, etc. The same strategy is used in Chinese residential garden design as well. The idea of opposing and complementary structures is also applied in architecture. Giambattista Nolli's Map of Rome (1748) is an example of how public (void) and private (mass) space can successfully co-exist in a city, thereby creating a system in balance. In this digital era, advances in technology have drastically altered our cognition (perception) of space and time. Memories are rapidly erased and totally replaced, with fantastical elements often surfacing. Nowadays, in an age of globalization, it also appears that architects take measures to either erase the memories of a city or freeze them into freezer, rather than allowing them to intertwine with the present. This project takes on the idea of opposing and complementary forces as a means to restructuring a city. In this way, the buildings and the earth, the figure and ground, the positive and negative, the public and private space, the old and the new, all cooperate with each other in this stage.

The site of this project does not focus on one building or a whole city, but rather one block in the "Historic Core District" of Downtown Los Angeles. This thesis aims to alter the perception of buildings and their surrounding urban environment through a reconfiguration of negative (public) space. Through perceptual ambience of the spatial sequences in public space from Camillo Sitte's modern city planning (1889), scenery from Gordon Cullen's townscapes (1961), and a series of 'building cuts' works from Gordon Matta Clark (1970s), this project will explore the different possibilities of creating vivid public space to draw people back into the city, and furthermore, to give a city a chance to give form to desires once again.

The system exists, the memory remains, and above all, the city continues giving their form to desire.


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