As cities fill with gigantic paperweights and desks are cluttered by tiny skyscrapers, it can be said that the problem of scale today belongs to computational media. Digital objects have no scale: they are merely projections of forms that swivel from size to size. They could just as easily sit on a desk or within a city. Initially a triumph of architecture’s independence from the real world, today the ability to be of any size is a defeat. Reduced to a tendency, it is a surrender of disciplinary mastery to the biases of computational media.
In the digital scenario, engineering formalizes scale. The habitual implementation of structural, technological, and environmental conventions bring the digital object towards a size. This is outside the realm of architecture’s working space. Architecture is found in the drawing; its mark of scale occurs through plan articulations, inflections of geometry, and formal proportions. Paperweight seeks to formalize the inscription of scale in contemporary media. It denotes scale’s signs and markings as an architectural problem rather than an engineering solution. Ratios, proportions, drawing notations, and tectonic registers imprint the architectural drawing with scale. Therefore Paperweight generates a form, marks its tectonic and drawing systems, and then specifies a size.
If the column was the primary site of architectural exploration, then the five orders were surely the initial inscription of measure onto a set of forms. Their proportions, ornament, and decorum indicated the prominence and size of architecture in the city: Doric for a house or Corinthian for a palace, for instance. Paperweight begins with the idea of the column: the revolution of a proportioned profile into a cylinder. Grids and proportions regulate the revolution and, much like a chess piece, produce a clear figure. Unlike the chess piece or the column, however, Paperweight builds upon contemporary notions of asymmetrical geometry and awkward posture to produce an unstable figure. Like the signification of the five orders, Paperweight develops five sizes of forms: XS, S, M, L, and XL. Each drawing or model’s actual size determines annotation, tectonic systems, and ratios, suggesting an uncertainty between the representation of one size from the next. By establishing a measure for each size, Paperweight imprints the heaviness of scaled representation into the form of architecture.
To form each Order of Paperweight, only a single profile is needed. Using a proportional apparatus,four deviant profiles are rotated into one another towards a clear figure.This near-cylinder builds upon contemporary notions of asymmetrical geometry and awkward posture to produce an unstable figure.
Imaging the Elevation
Paperweight’s elevation does not register to a drawing plane. It must instead be photographed.The orientation of the elevation does not matter - there is no clear up or down.There are many possible options and any will do. Simply remember to print a model, photograph it, and adjust its resolution accordingly.
Constructing a Plan
The most definitive of all its drawings, the plan of Paperweight formalizes annotation. Centers, edges, and proportions are figured into a tectonic mark.The plan leaves out any resemblance of size - there are no doors, stairs, or even habitable space.The plan is pure construction.
To offer an equalizing presence across each member of the Order, the plan size remains consistent.The plan for S, for instance, is drawn at the same size as the plan for L. Each drawing or model of Paperweight’s plan is authored with the same amount of detail. Although each Order may have the same regulating lines, defining centers, and grid structures, these similar roots are rendered into different tectonic figures.The broken screw in XS appears as a solid room in M and seems to be a house without doors in XL.
Such a simple equalization may seem mundane, but for S to be drawn at the same size as XL, a radical departure from actual size is performed. S is no longer associated with the small and notional, but is only read as a figure: it is simply a letter. And so the drawings and models of S, or any of the Orders, are just drawings. To construct the plan of Paperweight, all you need is a scaled working medium and a printer.
The Detail Model's Detail
To consider a detail of Paperweight, we must draw how a tectonic figure intersects a drawing annotation. How do you materialize the virtual and abstract the real? Paperweight details how a screw intersects a measurement and how a radius overlaps an idea. In Paperweight, the only reaal detail is drawing detail. Since all drawings are drawn to equal size, all drawings are also of equal parts. Flattening differences across the Orders ensures that architecture’s size is rendered moot.
Paperweight is a 2013 SCI-Arc Graduate Thesis advised by Anna Neimark.