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A Forensic Laboratory

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Misako Mitchell
UNITEC Institute of Technology Auckland New Zealand
Through the examination of an existing building typology, the forensic laboratory provided a tangible starting point from which to begin critically thinking about the design processes that define built form in today’s modern city.

My response, aided by the medium of design, originates with the nature of forensic research, its methods of processing information (the physical) and unveiling connections to interpret events of the past (the conceptual). As forensic science is primarily concerned with linking people with places, so too, the dynamic nature of the city recalls a similar echo. As our actions mark the urban landscape and become recognisable as traces, they simultaneously become urban characteristics. But when dealing with the city, we (as designers) face a condition that resists design as a closed system. Instead it is proposed that the city is not the product of a ‘creative subject’ and the place of the architect as such is eliminated.
Alternatively, the architect’s role could be likened to that of the detective’s as a ‘reader’, reading the city from different positions and systems. In turn, architecture could be seen as a field of differences. Yet how do we represent those ‘differences’, and how do these representations and translations change, add or remove meaning from the process of design?

As the architect’s medium is not buildings but drawings, to think about architecture is to consider both the question of space and the question of representation. Although traditionally architecture is considered an object, bound and unified as opposed to a subject that suggests an existence independent of its form, the investigation of ‘trace’ through the medium of representation suggests there exists a shifting distance between the once clearly defined boundaries.

The following text is rather an attempt to reconsider this traditional object space, its limits and extensions with regard to the urban cityscape. To follow certain traces, some leads, but as a process, to suggest new ways of viewing the city, to position oneself in a way that allows for the investigation of assumed boundaries, to draw attention to the way in which these investigations leave traces on design outcomes.

Misako Mitchell

This dissertation is a project for a forensic laboratory. It explores the issue of research by (as against research for, or research about) design. The process of researching and designing the project is treated as a searching for clue leads, and it demonstrates that in some ways every design is a forensic exercise. This becomes acute with the issue of site, which is analysed in fine detail. Thus every item discovered and every move made by the researcher/ designer is treated as potentially significant. The result is an immaculately researched and poetically presented piece of work.

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