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Deep Suface by Chloe Young

Part 2 Dissertation 2004
Chloe Young
Edinburgh College of Art | UK

Why surface? My initial fascination was sparked by an article that investigated Alberti’s concept of the Vitruvian hut in parallel with the fabric analogies of Gottfried Semper, and the 4 surface conceptions of the philosopher Avrum Stroll.

Alberti’s thinking regarding the origins of architecture are well known, but I was intrigued by this second theoretical notion; that our cultural understanding is informed by the architectural surfaces that we encounter.

Stroll’s book, ‘Surfaces’ gave me a philosophical insight into different possibilities of surface perceptions, physical and abstract. In the architectural field, Semper’s ideas described how our cultural perception of surface is an instrument that architects should employ. He believed that architecture originated in the woven surface. This was the reason he placed emphasis on the skin and surface above all else.
Like Stroll, Semper views the surface as the point at which we interact with our surroundings. His architectural thinking and practice were driven by the key idea that the architectural skin could and should represent the internal life of the building.

I was inspired by the work of the Boyle Family. I drew connections between the ideas of Semper and the physical nature of the Boyles work. In both there is a concern with the potential representational nature of the surface, specifically after the means of production is erased. This is one of the key strands that I draw through my investigations; the concept that the architect must master the materials in order to allow their true symbolic nature to be expressed.

Having studied these ideas, I wanted to see if they held any influence over the way in which contemporary architects worked. To do this I followed the line that Semper’s ideas took, through the Modern Movement and the Viennese School and into current architectural discourse. Ultimately I found that Semper’s fabric analogies have survived under the surface of architectural theory and are being reinterpreted in contemporary practice, through the investigative application of new digital and plastic technologies.
These technologies hold the potential to reveal far more than simple materiality, allowing the modern architectural surface to become deep.

Chloe Young

Chloe embarked on an outstandingly intellectual journey into the deep surface architecture as was inspired by the philosophy and work of Semper. While architects and architectural theorists have engaged us with thoughts on the role of structure, technology and many other aspects, this dissertation draws on rather unfamiliar source of architectural theory, that is the role of surface.
Chloe is a very bright writer and thinker. Through her dissertation she demonstrates a remarkable ability in handling highly sophisticated arguments employing a clear and well-structured approach.

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