Architecture answers the basic needs of people and manifests the characters of society. It connects our consciousness to the reality settings that interplays with the presence and the transience. The image of it suggests the daily matters that evidences the passage of time. It is the background of our narratives of life. To most extent, practising architecture is a journey of self-recognition.
The thesis examines the philosophical meanings of architecture. It explores the translation of perception and experience to spatial settings, through design and curation, to reveal the meaning of the space. It defines architecture as the monument of the present which amplifies the current conditions of the neighbourhoods to address interacting social activities.
The study explores a narrative technique, parallel narrative, into spatial design theory. It transforms the background of daily matters: incidents, encounters, and the transiences that define our memories and identities as the foreground to reveal the notion of presence and self-awareness.
This thesis also explores disconnect in society with a critique of consumerism in order to propose a parasitic response, providing an opportunity to address the underlying mental health issues which avert us from meaningful social encounters. The centre of many UK cities now favour commercialisation, a new universal need that motivates the human desires and behaviour. When one or more of our core needs go unmet, a state of psychological discomfort and insecurity ensues. Materialism represents a pervasive value in contemporary society, a common route to reduce this psychological angst is to assuage our insecurities through material objects. As our lives are being filled with meaningless objects we begin to lose the ability to extract meaning and memories implanted within the things that truly mean something and define who we are and not who we are trying to be.
This thesis is not an attempt to reduce consumerism, but to create a discussion of memories and stories within an isolated society, allowing us to extract meaningful information from objects, in an attempt to bridge social relationships through a mutual aid of commonly shared memories and realisation that imperfection is accepted.
Firstly Matt could you give us an introduction about yourself, where you have studied, what stage you are in your architectural career/degree and also any of your interests or specialities?
I am a stage 5 postgraduate student of Mackintosh School of Architecture, The Glasgow School of Art. I completed my undergraduate in the same school and decided to stay for further study in architecture. The semantics of architectural settings and the element of time have always been my interests to explore in the field of architecture. The narratives and encounters within a city; and the meaning of memory, identity and self-consciousness are the primary direction of study in my final year of academic life.
Film-making is where I spent my time besides architecture. To explore the meaning of visual compositions, the sequence of narrative and incidents, and delivery of ambience has suggested me a distinct perspective in spatial thinking.
Your project aims to explore philosophical meanings within architecture, what inspired you to explore this topic?
The project starts with the interests of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that to question the ultimate goal of practising architecture. The development is then further inspired by Christopher Nolan's early work, 'Following' and ' Memento'; through architecture to reveal the relationship of constructive memory, spatial context and self-consciousness, will lead to the exploration of 'self-esteem'.
Why do you feel exploring architecture in this philosophical manner is an important aspect of architectural design?
The study of the philosophical meaning of architecture is a journey of self-recognition which directs us to answer the actual needs of ourselves and the society. It suggests a distinct perspective for our city development. Maybe it is time to reconsider what we want ourselves and our cities to become in the further.
How does your design address this experiential and spatial narrative and did exploring your project in this manner change the way you developed your architecture?
There have been some discussions about the 'script' idea that the incidents within a city are not planned. The way I see this project is more like a script, a portal, that to allow the accessibility to others narratives of lives. Instead of a top-down decision, it is more like a place-making mindset. The backgrounds of the daily matters inform the direction and content of design. When there are no people, there will be no stories to address.
The findings have benefited me with a new perspective towards our urban regenerations. The fundamental drive of development might be the same; for example to improve the living quality, and to cultivate our urban environment. The exploration of the narratives with a city will allow a better understanding of ourselves and the needs of the society.
In the description of your project you quote Bernard Tscuhmi, what influence has his architectural work had on you as an architect and also on this particular project?
Tschumi's theory of programmatic sequence and his idea about the relationship of space, event and movement, has reshaped the mindset of spatial connections and the use of architectural language in this project. The use of storyboard in architectural design allows us to direct something more than physical incidents within our architecture, yet the ambience, perception and emotion that it inhabits.
Your artistic style combines that of collages, axonometric drawings and atmospheric renderings, what persuaded you to portray your design in this fashion?
Has there been anything or anybody who has had an influence on your drawing style?
The way I see drawing in communicating architectural ideas is instead a drawing for design than a picture of the design. The elements within the canvas allow the reader, even myself, to follow the artistic mindset and the rationale of the development for discussion and critical reflection.
My drawing style is fundamentally from the Glasgow School of Art. Besides, it also refers to the illustrators such as Marie-Laure Cruschi and David Doran's graphic styles. It is convenient in particularly to tells my interpretations and concepts in a rather direct manner. It presents the aesthetics and the rational analyses of the project in a frame. To allow the drawings to speak for themselves is essential as a designer.
You also produced a short film as part of the project, was there a particular reason you explored film as a presentation method?
The inspiration is from Spike Jonze's early work, 'Being John Malkovich', that the concept of a portal for people to see the world from my eyes. The thesis project starts with an encounter that leads to a series of interviews around the city. The experience fosters a notion of familiarity to the city that is more than the visual context. In this case, I try to deliver the first-person experience to the reader and audience.
Besides, English is my second language. I need a more direct media to present this complex feeling and idea for people to understand the drive of this project.
Could you provide our readers with an insight into your drawing process, do you use a particular software to produce your drawings?
I usually start with a picture in my mind and then process through hand sketching to examine the draft outcome and composition. After having the brief idea, the process then moves onto modelling in rhino which I will also examine the outcome of design, such as the form and ratio between architectural elements. In term of composing drawings, I enjoy overlaying rendering image with line drawings. It gives a quality of drawing which differentiates the image from a photo. The final part is some touchup work through Photoshop and Illustrator such as colour, context and other atmospheric elements.
If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?
Good architecture is always more than a good drawing of it. A decent idea may not from a moment of sudden inspiration but is accumulated through the development and curiosity.
Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?
This project will soon be available in full on my Instagram @mattcf_chan where I also share my other architectural works and filming events. For my previous filming projects or anyone who is interested to get involved please visit our film-making Facebook page, facebook.com/4LeeHK/ or subscripe to our youtube channel, 4Lee. Thank you.