Tom Wiscombe began his lecture at Yale last Thursday with a quote by Dean Robert A.M. Stern who said at the end of his 2006 lecture, “Your lecture is everything that is wrong with your generation.” The way I would alter his quote today is: “Tom Wiscombe is everything that my generation is captivated by.” He produces extremely appealing images and renderings that articulate new systems and technologies which are also integrated exhaustively into the forms in his architecture, forcing just about anyone to get excited about the future. He was clear in presentation, “cool” even, and he was even clever enough to include some historical references that would give him a tiny bit of street cred with the historicists in the room. But, for the rest of us, we just oogled and ogled at his super graphics, excuse me, “tattooed” architecture and embraced his overuse of architecture jargon.
Throughout the lecture, I found myself wiggling at the edge of my seat, both intrigued by the effect of his architecture, but tickled by some of his unfounded design decisions. He showed that he was no stranger to this type of accusation in the way that he reiterated where his intentions lay and what he is trying to achieve - which is an effect. He is investigating a mode of architecture which focuses on visual stimuli. He is not concerned with the ‘how’ but the simple presence of visual stimulation as a means of experience; whereas, architects in the past have looked to other academic fields for inspiration for space-making, ie math, science, philosophy. His intellectual outlet, relatively new to the field, is technology, and the use of computer programs as a primary tool for form-making. His work involves computation as means of testing and developing formal gestures that challenge our preconceived notions of interior and exterior spaces. He also uses computation to create something he calls “tattoos” on his architecture which speak to the identity and/or function of the project in the same way human tattoos may articulate a muscle group or draw attention to a particular feature.
An example of tattooing is at Busan Opera House (above), where you can see that the black marking delineates apertures and emphasizes the curvature of the structure’s surface. There is an expressive quality to his work which is extremely captivating. But for me, what is more apparent are the highly insensitive and uncomfortable situations in his architecture. For example, this project has no relationship to the ground or context. It could be anywhere. Having a dialogue with a site is a critical component and opportunity. But, his choice to consistently avoid that relationship is a sign of negligence. However, I do understand that he is simply exploring an area of architecture that I am not pursuing. While it is based on superficiality, it does intrigue me, and does make me wonder how I can develop a way of expressing my ideas in architecture in an equally provocative way. I would like to actually visit one of his projects, but the only built piece of work in his lecture and online is his PS1 pop-up, built in 2003 (below). All his other projects are under construction, and only exist in rendering form – probably the most effective form.