Personal Occupancy Device
From a lecture at University North Carolina Charlotte
College of Architecture
On issues of domesticity….
This project began as a study of the Personal Occupancy Device, the P.-O.-D., or now the the “pod”, [which is completely unrelated and prior to that “other” cool white pod device]. We were commissioned by another architect to head up a design team for an urban design competition, dealing with issues of housing density in for the year 2020 and beyond. This small vessel, a dwelling for one, was a result of the collapse of the
“Work/live/play” triangle, where one might download mp3’s at work…adjusts a spreadsheet at home… and eats lunch in front of the computer at the office. This became the conceptual, but not the formal, basis for the project. Some of us do this blurring of urban life tasks already, and this was a response to the future issues of dense overcrowding in the Southern California megalopolis.
It evolved past the small, compact form of spatial density of the future, into a current study of the idea of a dwelling for one. This is not a project that attempts to solve the anti-social issues of privacy-branding that a dwelling may issue forth within the context of “the city”.
It assumes the position that privacy is desired within the dwelling…
… and that sense of privacy protection is heightened within a context of unknown passersby, of unsolicited free-radicals that roam the immediate adjacency. A single-cell within a multiple-cell environment. It accepts its role as a social informant, a receptacle for the present condition of privacy control, a membrane for reflection of observation.
It attempts to solve no social oddity. I have purposefully left these images in their “unrefined-presentation” graphics format, from within Sketchup, as opposed to porting them over to a high-end, flavor-of-the-month rendering engine, to show the project in its true, current state- Which is nothing more than a series of conceptual sketches, the modern-day trace-paper equivalent. This project changes hourly, like so many layers of paper that keep getting redrawn and massaged over and over again…
The “anti-welcome mat”, though a somewhat misleading description, suggests a condition that the dwellers do not offer their home as a constant open-condition, but rather one that is open only upon identification and invitation. Perhaps it’s more about the mat with the familiar inscription written in code, so that the unaware, the unenlightened, never recognize the message, while those that are invited have the symbolic translation to realize the opening of the home to outsiders.
The construct deals with “dwelling” as a function for the individual in excess. Singular occupancy does not mean in this case “small”, efficient, or compact. The compact-ness of intimacy comes from the compression of typical horizontality of the average domestic condition- where wider is usually better… Here, the zone of outdoor space in the “private” rear zone is equally important as the square footage inside the dwelling…
The denotations of “wall” as both a primary architectural form, as well as the ultimate manifestation of overall expression are evident in its organization. Since the “wall” or plane is, in my opinion, a quintessential condition of both space and form, it becomes interesting to have that same type of representation or exploration of the “cell to the whole”.
In relation to digital theory and the nature of cellular logic, or the representation of parts to a whole, and what it is you are ACTUALLY looking at when examining pixels and digital information, it springs to mind that one might represent a condition of epigenetic expression of the cell to the whole, the one to the many, the individual to the masses.
Ideas concerning “horizontal walls” emerge, defying traditional usage or designation…
It is a representative of the individual to the collective. This also relates to the insertion of the original “whole”, the dwelling, into an urban context, or the “new whole”. Very fractal in its replication and reflective nature, the wall becomes house,
becomes urban object, or the plane of articulation within the city grid. There is a blurring of the identity of “figure” to “ground”, where “surface behavior” becomes a qualifying description more than “location” or “orientation”.
It attempts to acknowledge the issue of the “corridor effect” – or the condition of the “walls” of the generic fabric eventspace of the repetitive grid of blocks that maximize street frontage. The POD continues the gesture with its monolithic street membrane [which breaks down and opens up to the private area in the back of the site]. These
gestures are seen as channels or tunnels of traffic and movement.
The slight breaks or moments of view that occur within the façade membrane
of the POD are reflections of both the patterns inherent in the ground level of
most of the city. But these additionally speak of the moments of pause that occur within the urban matrix, either from a traffic light, an encounter with another pedestrian, or a pause to view the actual cells of the skin/membrane itself.
Ideas of public and private designations and transformations within the nature of the architecture are now brought forth. The edge of the street; the sidewalk; the fence; the gate; the front yard; the façade; the front door… These are all symbolic layers that address issues of the transition or the segregation of public into private. Is privacy more desired in the urban setting than within the dwelling itself?
Segregation by spatial folding and compression…
In this scenario, the POD becomes its own fence, its own gate, its own compressed layering device of separation of itself from its adjacencies. Not just moving the gate and preventative façade layer into a singular gesture, but the house itself becoming a device for its own removal, and its own inclusion. In the sub-urban setting, there exists an openness and permeability of neighborhood and the symbolic “welcome mat”…
But in an urban condition, where the neighborhood fluxutaes on an hourly basis, where neighbors are distant, and foreign pedestrians CLOSELY occupy the zone near the private, the welcome mat is often not a condition… the idea is in fact to keep out, to filter. This is not a project that attempts to correct that social splinter- it is one that
acknowledges the very real condition in a manner reflective of the issues.
The POD additionally explores the very basic idea of the function of a wall itself- to separate, and to possibly classify distinction of possibility and purpose on either side. InSIDE vs. outSIDE;
this side vs. that side;
function A on the right, function B on the left, and so on.
In my current residence, a wall separates my bathroom from the master bedroom, a typical condition. A singular wall, which is stripped of the typical ornamentation and complexity of grouping.
It is a simple plane.
Drywall finished on both sides, this single plane separates quite different functions within the house. The privacy of the toilet enclosure, contrasted with the very open nature of the master bedroom.
Thought the paint colors are different on each side of this plane, the chemical composition of the paint is almost certainly identical. My point? That the most common architectural element we have to denote enclosure as the role of a spatial delineator is achieved by simply being a divider. Such is the nature of the POD. It delineates the private zone of “dwelling” from the public zone of “context”.
If we could go back and view my bathroom wall as a free floating element that we so often love to render as a system unto itself, we would see the simplicity condition
We are often more concerned with the articulation of the plane than we are the immediate functions it attempts to separate and define. And this is no different.
But place it back into its context, and the wall looses its autonomy, unless we sheath it in a unique material.